More than a week has gone by since the original incident involving actress Daniele Watts (and the nearly immediate blow-back) which we discussed at great length here, and the story has taken more than a few byzantine twists. But perhaps the real story here is not what you are hearing in the media, but what is going unsaid.
As we’ve already seen, Watts’ original story, rife with claims of racial profiling and baseless accusations of prostitution, has essentially fallen apart. Civil rights leaders have called on her to recant and apologize, saying that stories such as hers detract from legitimate claims of official misconduct by police. Some in the media – though precious few- took notice of the disparity.
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) September 17, 2014
Yet Watts is apparently sticking to her story and doesn’t plan on apologizing for a thing.
An actress who was detained by Los Angeles police is refusing to apologize for claiming race played a role in the incident, despite calls from local civil rights leaders.
Daniele Watts issued a statement late Friday through her publicist after civil rights activists demanded that she apologize for suggesting she was handcuffed for kissing her white boyfriend in public.
Given the somewhat unhinged (as opposed to unchained) interviews which Watts has provided, an apology was probably a bit much to expect. But what about the media who so gleefully covered the story, serving the actress up as yet another example of how awful and racist all the police are? Remember when Gina Merlino, writing for Daily Digest News, published the unambiguous title, Actress Daniele Watts Mistaken for Prostitute? Was there any follow-up to that? Not that I could find.
Over at Reason there were a pair of equally hyperbolic ledes. Brian Doherty, a senior editor there, blared out, Black Actress Daniele Watts Handcuffed, Detained in Studio City for Kissing her Husband in Public [UPDATE: With Links to Audio!]. In a more heart rending story, Elizabeth Nolan Brown describes the bleak state of affairs with American police departments and describes how she too might have been mistaken for a hooker were it not for her lighter skin color. ( Daniele Watts and a Tale of Two Acts of Non-Prostitution) But by now, one might assume that Reason would have updated their readers on the situation. And yet, since September 14th, a search of the site for any articles related to Daniele Watts produces nada.
The Huffpo jumped all over the racism angle of the story originally, but later, to their credit, sent out Kimberly Cooper to describe this as the story of the girl who cried wolf. They seem to be the exception to the rule, however. Like most of us who write about the news for a living, I spend far too much of my time each day following several cable television news outlets. And with the exception of Fox (obviously), this story has essentially dropped off the face of the digital planet. It’s as if the original telling of the tale served some greater media purpose, but once the truth came out it was no longer worth mentioning, so down the memory hole it went.
But if nothing else, something good may have come from this event. I was on the Mike Gallagher show earlier this week to discuss the story, and we weren’t focusing on Watts and her tale of woe. We talked instead about technology and how important it has become in such highly charged stories as this. In the wake of the Michael Brown story, many activists were calling for all police to have not only cameras running in their cruisers, but to wear body cameras as well. The Daniele Watts story should get everyone on board with this idea. It’s true that police are only human, and once in a while you’re going to run across a bad one. In cases where actual misconduct takes place we need to be able to document exactly what happened. But we also live in an era where both the media and certain activist groups have turned the practice of trying to bring down and tarnish the nation’s first responders into something of a blood sport. When the cops are doing their jobs properly, this same technology can prevent a miscarriage of justice, as the officers in the Watts case have learned.
Sgt. Parker insists his recording will prove the police officers did nothing wrong, adding, “She had no idea I was recording. So I asked her, ‘Why are you in handcuffs? He’s (Lucas) been here this whole time not in handcuffs. Tell me if someone has been disrespectful’.
“Police officers can record surreptitiously without consent. The other officers also had their recording on. It helps the police department. (Without it) the three of us (police officers) would be relieved of duty right now.”
All three of the officers are still on duty, the investigation doesn’t look like it’s going to go against them, and the publicist for Watts is now saying that they don’t plan any further action. This personal recording technology is a sword that cuts both ways. And when the facts are on the side of justice, you’re going to need incontrovertible proof of that or the media will simply make up a story which best suits the narrative of the day.