WaPo: Four Pinocchios to Harris, Warren over Ferguson murder claim

Vox tried teeing this up yesterday while distancing themselves from the truth, but the Washington Post delivers on its fact-check against Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Both Democratic presidential candidates campaigned last week on the need to solve the “murder” of Michael Brown in Ferguson five years ago. Chief fact-checker Glenn Kessler calls them both out for their “galling” refusal to acknowledge that the Department of Justice found plenty of witnesses to contradict the charge that Brown had been “murdered”:

Witness 102, a 27-year-old biracial man: “Brown was ‘wrestling’ through the window, but he was unable to see what Wilson was doing. After a few seconds, Witness 102 heard a gunshot. … Witness 102 thought that he had just witnessed the murder of a police officer because a few seconds passed before Wilson emerged from the SUV.”

(Brown had tried to grab Wilson’s gun but ended up getting shot in one of his hands, the report said: “Autopsy results and bullet trajectory, skin from Brown’s palm on the outside of the SUV door as well as Brown’s DNA on the inside of the driver’s door corroborate Wilson’s account that during the struggle, Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson’s gun.”)

Witness 103, a 58-year-old black man: The witness “saw Brown punching Wilson at least three times in the facial area, through the open driver’s window of the SUV. Witness 103 described Wilson and Brown as having hold of each other’s shirts, but Brown was ‘getting in a couple of blows.’ Wilson was leaning back toward the passenger seat with his forearm up, in an effort to block the blows. Then Witness 103 heard a gunshot and Brown took off running.”

Witness 104, a 26-year-old biracial woman: The witness “heard two gunshots. She looked out the front window and saw Brown at the driver’s window of Wilson’s SUV. Witness 104 knew that Brown’s arms were inside the SUV, but she could not see what Brown and Wilson were doing because Brown’s body was blocking her view. Witness 104 saw Brown run from the SUV, followed by Wilson, who ‘hopped’ out of the SUV and ran after him while yelling, ‘stop, stop, stop.’ ”

Witness 102: “Wilson then chased Brown with his gun drawn, but not pointed at Brown, until Brown abruptly turned around at a nearby driveway. Witness 102 explained that it made no sense to him why Brown turned around. Brown did not get on the ground or put his hands up in surrender. … Brown made some type of movement similar to pulling his pants up or a shoulder shrug, and then ‘charged’ at Wilson.”

It took an independent DoJ investigation to dispel a false narrative that had developed immediately after the shooting — that Brown had been trying to surrender. Multiple news outlets gave credence to reports that Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him, turning “hands up don’t shoot” into a protest chant. Only much later did that get proven to be false, but by that time the lie had spread so far and activists had so much investment in it that the truth no longer mattered.

In fact, Brown had committed a strong-arm robbery just before this confrontation. When Wilson attempted to detain Brown, Brown attacked Wilson in the car and began beating him, which is when Brown got shot the first times. When Brown retreated, Wilson came out of the car to arrest him, only to have Brown turn around and charge him. That’s when Wilson killed Brown — head on in a charge, not with hands up to surrender. That was the finding by the same DoJ that also accused the Ferguson PD of having serious issues with discriminatory policing.

Kessler finds the resurrection of the false narrative by Democratic presidential candidates “galling” for good reason. He awards them four Pinocchios while noting that neither candidate nor their campaigns bothered to respond to his inquiries about their claims:

Harris and Warren have ignored the findings of the Justice Department to accuse Wilson of murder, even though the Justice Department found no credible evidence to support that claim.

Instead, the Justice Department found that the popular narrative was wrong, according to witnesses deemed to be credible, some of whom testified reluctantly because of fear of reprisal. The department produced a comprehensive report to determine what happened, making the senators’ dismissal of it even more galling. Harris and Warren both earn Four Pinocchios.

Indeed. Not only was the claim a lie, it’s been a long-exposed lie, which means there’s no excuse for backsliding on it. Kudos to Kessler, who’s generally the best in class for fact-checking.

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