One of the big pieces of “news” that dominated this weekend was a New York Times report on Officer Darren Wilson’s account of the Michael Brown killing that was only slightly more fair and credible than right-wing radio host Dana Loesch’s August interview with an anonymous “friend” of Wilson’s. At least Loesh got a first name, “Josie,” out of her source. Citing only “government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter,” the Times published a self-serving and incomplete account by Wilson:
The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.
The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.
The report goes on to point out that those sources did not say why Wilson continued to fire at Mike Brown as he fled, and surrendered, but they offer no explanation for that omission. While the source of the story was not “the Ferguson Police Department or from officials whose activities are being investigated as part of the civil rights inquiry,” it seems pretty clear that the leak cones from people with a vested interest in backstopping Wilson’s story. For example:
“The officials briefed on the case said the forensic evidence gathered in the car lent credence to Officer Wilson’s version of events.”
“The officials said that while the federal investigation was continuing, the evidence so far did not support civil rights charges against Officer Wilson.”
This is an obvious PR leak from a biased source, and seems to be designed to soften the blow if Wilson is not indicted. At a minimum, the Times should have insisted on tighter attribution (for example, it would make a big difference to readers if those sources were, say, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office than, say, the census Bureau), and probably should have refused to print it without a complete accounting of Wilson’s testimony. Granted, the leakers could have found a taker elsewhere, but not one with the prestige and credibility of the New York Times, prestige and credibility which such a refusal would have enhanced.
Instead, they printed this one-sided account, and it became fodder for cable news all weekend, along with reports of scuffles between protesters and Rams fans outside the Edward Jones Dome following the team’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Prosecutor Bob McDonough has shown little interest in securing an indictment against Wilson, and even if the grand jury miraculously indicts Michael Brown’s killer, it won’t be easy to find a jury that isn’t just as panicked by unarmed black men. Wilson doesn’t need The New York Times’ help. and shouldn’t be getting it.
RELATED: Chez Pazienza gets his eyes spiced up by cops in Ferguson, Ferguson’s police chief starts the self-serving leak ball rolling, and how to get pulled over by the cops and still get shot, but not killed, by doing exactly what they tell you.