I mentioned this in an update last Friday but today Vox and National Review are both addressing it so I might as well do likewise. Last week on the 5th anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, two leading Democratic candidates for tweeted that Brown had been “murdered.”
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 9, 2019
Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 9, 2019
Billionaire candidate Tom Steyer used the same language.
The worst part about Michael Brown’s death, five years later? His killer still walks free.
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) August 9, 2019
Rev. Al Sharpton chimed in Saturday. Though he apparently didn’t use the word “murdered” on his show, he did in a tweet promoting the segment:
I closed out #PoliticsNation talking about the 5 year mark of the murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MI, the murder of Eric Garner in NY, and the continued pursuit of justice in this country. pic.twitter.com/gDavDQQMsY
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) August 10, 2019
Other far-left outlets joined the chorus:
— theGrio.com (@theGrio) August 9, 2019
This is an inflammatory lie by people who should know better. Vox did a story on the claims by Harris and Warren but managed to avoid using the l-word. Author German Lopez’s description of the shooting is written very oddly:
After Wilson stopped Brown for walking in the middle of the street, the officer reportedly realized Brown was a robbery suspect who stole cigarillos from a nearby convenience store. Wilson attempted to stop Brown, and both men had a physical altercation at the officer’s SUV. Wilson then opened fire from his vehicle. Brown ran, turned around, and Wilson fired more shots, supposedly out of fear that Brown was charging at him.
He’s left out all the important details, starting with the fact that Wilson was trapped his car by Brown and that Brown was punching Wilson in the face.
Brown died about 150 feet from Wilson’s vehicle. He was shot six times. No gunshot was confirmed to hit Brown from behind.
What an odd way to say that the autopsy report supported Wilson’s claim that he never fired while Brown was running away from him, only after Brown turned and began charging back toward him.
The physical evidence suggested that Brown reached into Wilson’s car during their physical altercation and, very likely, attempted to grab the officer’s gun. The most credible witnesses agreed that Brown moved toward Wilson before the officer fired his final shots — and there simply wasn’t enough evidence, especially given the struggle at the car, that Wilson wasn’t justified in fearing for his life when he fired the shots that killed Brown.
Again, this is written as if evidence of Wilson’s guilt is sadly lacking. Actually, the DOJ report was pretty clear that the most reliable witnesses and the physical evidence matched Wilson’s account of what happened, including that Brown did not raise his hands in surrender and that Wilson was backpedaling and shouting at Brown to stop before he fired the fatal shot. Vox’s Lopez does get the bottom line right: “In other words, this wasn’t a murder or a federal civil rights violation, based on the evidence we have.” And at least Vox bothered to cover the story. As of this morning, the same couldn’t be said for the Washington Post or the NY Times:
National Review’s David French offered a more straightforward take on the candidate’s tweets. His piece is headlined, “On Ferguson, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris Told a Terrible Lie.” After a much more accurate description of the incident, French concludes:
Indeed, while we must of course remember the DOJ’s report exonerating Darren Wilson, we should also remember that there was a second DOJ report in 2015 that found systematic misconduct at the Ferguson Police Department, misconduct that disproportionately affected Ferguson’s black citizens. I urge you to read both reports, and if you read the second report with an open mind, you’ll almost certainly come to believe that Ferguson’s black residents possessed legitimate grievances against their police department.
That’s the complicated nation we inhabit, but the complexity does not mean there aren’t simple obligations that attach to every politician, activist, and member of the media. And the simplest of those obligations is a commitment to the truth. We know that lies and falsehoods can cause riots. They can cause city blocks to burn. They can destroy a man’s life. At the very least, they can further embitter an already toxic public discourse. When issues are most fraught, the obligation of courageous, honest leadership is most imperative.
What we were told about the Michael Brown shooting by activists and the media, as was also the case with the Trayvon Martin shooting, was a lie. The fact that major Democratic candidates for President are still telling that lie five years later ought to be a much bigger story.