My last post touched only tangentially on a recent Salon article, because it was about Ben going over the falls, not some 2nd-rate so-called news organization.
But I thought it would be fun to make some observations about the Salon article, which you can find here. Let Fisking Commence:
Three former college football teammates of Sen. George Allen say that the Virginia Republican repeatedly used an inflammatory racial epithet and demonstrated racist attitudes toward blacks during the early 1970s.
That is actually the beginning and the end of the facts of the story. Salon found three white people to say Allen used a "racial epithet". And only one of them will identify themselves so we can judge their veracity.
"It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used," the teammate said.
This was one of the anonymous people. Note he claims it was "so common" among Allen's "white friends". That's important, because if true we'd expect everybody to at least agree they heard him say this. Instead, from a little later in the article, the paragraph that would have been the lead in a serious newspaper:
Over the past week, Salon has interviewed 19 former teammates and college friends of Allen from the University of Virginia. In addition to the three who said Allen used the word "(n-word)," two others who were contacted said they remember being bothered by Allen's displaying the Confederate flag in college, but said they do not remember him acting in an overtly racist manner. Seven others said they did not know Allen well outside the football team, but do not remember Allen demonstrating any racist feelings. A separate seven teammates and friends said they knew Allen well and did not believe he held racist views. "I don't believe he was insensitive," said Paul Ryczek, who played center in Allen's year before joining the Atlanta Falcons. "He had no prejudices, biases or anything else."
So we have three people who say he WAS racist, one of whom says it was "so common" -- but 16 others don't have any recollection of any racist or racial actions. You have to presume they were also asked about the n-word, and that they said they didn't remember him saying it -- or else Salon would have told you. But being a left-wing attack piece, the journalist hides that information from us.
But there's more from these 16 teammates:
In the interviews, old teammates generally spoke of him highly, as a good friend, a bright and ambitious student, and a colorful character who embraced Southern culture, listened to country music, and attracted the nickname "Neck," as in redneck. "If a black guy dropped a pass, he would say something to him," said Gerard Mullins, who played defensive back in Allen's year. "If it was a white guy, same thing. It really didn't matter where you were from, who you were, or anything."
For Salon, that's it for the 16 people who disproved their thesis. Back to the three men who claim Allen was overtly racist, apparently while at the same time hiding it from 16 people who considered him a good friend and a nice guy:
The three former teammates, however, painted a very different picture of Allen when he was around his white friends. Shelton said he feels a personal responsibility to tell what he knows about Allen's past, especially now that Allen has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. "I got to know Allen a little too well," Shelton said, adding that he does not believe Allen should hold elective office. "He had prejudices that were deep-seated."
Getting back to Ken Shelton, who at least had the decency to identify himself:
At one point, Shelton says, Allen nicknamed him "Wizard," after United Klans imperial wizard Robert Shelton. "He asked me if I was related at all," Shelton remembers. "I knew of that name, and I said absolutely not." Several former teammates confirmed that Shelton's team nickname was "Wizard," though no one contacted by Salon could confirm firsthand knowledge of the handle's origin.
We have to start wondering about this Ken Shelton. He claims he was given the nickname "wizard" refering to a KKK leader. This was his team nickname. But he didn't tell anybody else where the nickname came from. Was he proud to be named after an imperial wizard? We don't know, but I'm sure that if someone said to me they were giving me a KKK nickname, I would have objected, and I certainly would have let my teammates know. The story simply doesn't sound plausible unless Shelton was the one who had deep-seated racist tendencies. I'm not saying he did, I'm saying this doesn't make sense.
BTW, After the vague anonymous comments by two people that Allen said the n-word, the entire article was based on stuff from Ken Shelton:
The radiologist said he decided earlier this year that he would go public with his concerns about Allen if a reporter ever called. About four months ago, when he heard that Allen was a possible candidate for president in 2008, Shelton began to write down some of the negative memories of his former teammate. He provided Salon excerpts of those notes last week.
I had friends in college in the 70s, and I can't imagine I'd be able to accurately "recollect" their racial inclinations, much less feel like I had to spend months writing down negative memories. But these notes are the entire factual basis for this article. There is no 2nd source for any of the allegations. COntinuing with the deer incident, and a possible explanation for why Shelton "came forward" NOW, and not, say last year:
Shelton said he also remembers a disturbing deer hunting trip with Allen on land that was owned by the family of Billy Lanahan, a wide receiver on the team. After they had killed a deer, Shelton said he remembers Allen asking Lanahan where the local black residents lived. Shelton said Allen then drove the three of them to that neighborhood with the severed head of the deer. "He proceeded to take the doe's head and stuff it into a mailbox," Shelton said.
Some Webb supporters have suggested this might have been a crime, and could still be punishable. If so, I expect to see the police rounding up Shelton soon, since he has confessed to the "crime". Skipping for a minute what a "deer head" would mean in racial terms, or how you would fit a deer head into a 70s-style mailbox, let's find out what Lanaham says about this in way of confirming or denying the story:
Lanahan, a former resident of Richmond, Va., died this year at the age of 53, said his aunt Martha Belle Chisholm of Richmond. In an interview on Thursday, Chisholm said that she remembered Lanahan speaking highly of Allen. "Bill was very complimentary of George Allen," she said. "He said he was just one of the boys."
Darn, that's just bad luck, isn't it, that the only NAME provided by Shelton to vouch for his story just happened to have died RIGHT BEFORE Shelton has an attack of conscience and decides to confess to hate crimes. Since I presume Salon asked Chisolm if Bill was a racist or ever said anything about Allen being a racist, I assume she said NO, so that's actually a 17th person who didn't vouch for the Salon story. And means that still the only CONFIRMED racist in the story seems to be this Ken Shelton guy, who claims to have had no objection to sticking dead deer heads in a mailbox.
I presume Salon went to that neighborhood and asked if anybody ever found a deer head in their mailbox around the time Allen was at college. I would assume that if a deer head ended up in a mailbox in a close-knit black neighborhood, everybody would know it, and it would be a story passed down and embellished over time. So since Salon seems to have found NOBODY who could remember it, that casts a pretty large doubt on the veracity of this tale.
BTW, Salon really wants to LOOK like they are fact-checking and confirming stuff, so they include this useless piece of information:
Chisholm also confirmed that the Lanahan family owned hunting land near Bumpass, Va., about 50 miles east of the University of Virginia campus.
As if the fact that Lanaham had hunting land somehow lends credence to the deer story -- although if they had found otherwise, THAT would have been pretty damning evidence against Shelton, it seems reasonable that if you are going to tell a deer hunting story, you might have actually done deer hunting with the people you are calling racists.
Ok, earlier I said Salon would drop the 16 exculpatory statements, but they come back to identify another Allen supporter from those days:
Several of Allen's teammates remember him arriving at the University of Virginia in 1971 with long sandy blond hair and surfer stories of the Pacific Ocean. "He was a Californian," remembers Craig Critchley, a family doctor in Ohio who played linebacker in Allen's year, and did not remember the senator displaying racial views. "It was like, 'Wow, man, yeah.'"
Shelton provides a parting shot, again with no evidence:
For Shelton, the memories of Allen's behavior during his football days raise clear questions about the senator's fitness for office. "I just think that someone who attains that level of higher office needs to have higher standards," Shelton said. "He has deep-seated core values that are hard to reverse despite what he says."
I would love to hear how he feels about Robert Byrd, former REAL KKK leader, whom the democrats embrace as a senior senator, and who a few years ago, while sitting 4th in line for the presidency, used the n-word in a public speech.
Stepping back, we have a boy raised by a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity, and a solidly Christian father who was a respected NFL coach. He grew up in California, and somehow when he shows up in Virginia he is a die-hard racist who nicknames teammates after KKK leaders, has deep-seated racist core values that he somehow hid from most of his teammates, and at least once took two obviously racist teammates with him to put a dead deer head in a black family's mailbox, an act which remained an apparent mystery to the entire community, and which one has to assume there is NO POLICE RECORD of a report, since Salon doesn't mention it.
None of these people ever thought to mention this during Allen's long public career, but now, in a campaign where his opponent's campaign is leveling baseless charges of racism and anti-semitism, attacking his mother and calling his grandfather a Nazi collaborator, in a race driven by the DailyKos scorched-earth team, and with a clear eye toward stopping a good man from having a chance to run for President, we suddenly have one named person making a serious of unsubstantiated claims, and they are published without any factual confirmation, and in the face of massive evidence to the contrary.
About what I expect from Salon. It's not that they are left-wing, it's that they are an embarrasment.