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The Washington Post Smears the Center’s Katherine Kersten

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post, Rebecca Tan, emailed the Center’s Katherine Kersten, asking to interview her for an article Tan was writing. Per our usual practice, our communications director, Katie Fulkerson, called Ms. Tan to see what it was all about.

According to our recording of the conversation, Tan said that she was writing an article about local governments across the country who are taking on “racial equity initiatives.” Tan said that she already had submitted “a final draft to my editor” but was trying to “add a couple of perspectives before we move forward with it.” In other words, she had written her article and now was looking for a contrary view after the fact.

Katherine Kersten has written extensively on the baleful effects of race quotas in school discipline. We have seen such effects here in the Twin Cities: in one infamous case, a St. Paul public school teacher was attacked in his classroom by a young man who should have been suspended, and suffered traumatic brain damage as a result of the beating he sustained. Such instances, of which there have been many, if mostly not so severe, have understandably been of concern to Twin Cities residents. Kathy’s longest piece on this subject was published in City Journal.

Katie Fulkerson told Rebecca Tan that Katherine Kersten was not available for an interview, but provided this statement by Kathy:

In the St. Paul public schools, racial discipline quotas and an anti-suspension behavior modification program led to a dramatic increase in student violence. In 2015, a veteran teacher was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury after being choked and body-slammed by a student. Teachers told the local newspaper the constant threats and chaos they experience made them fearful for their safety. Administrators must discipline violent students, or they jeopardize the environment that makes learning possible for every other student. Race shouldn’t be a factor at all in those decisions.

Tan completely ignored that statement, as well as Kathy’s writing on the subject generally. She produced an article for the Post (available to subscribers only) that is now popping up in newspapers around the country.
The article is general and anodyne: it consists mostly of descriptions of cities that have enacted “equity” policies, and acknowledges that such policies have usually not come to much. Along the way, it dropped in this reference to Katherine Kersten:

Equity efforts have also sparked explicit backlash in some places, including Minnesota, where conservative writer Katherine Kersten wrote that a push to investigate biases in student discipline records will bring “increased violence” to classrooms. The state education commissioner called Kersten’s arguments “flat-out racist.”

This is a lie. Kathy has never written that “a push to investigate biases in student discipline records will bring ‘increased violence’ to classrooms.” She has written that imposition of race quotas in student discipline, resulting in students who should have been suspended roving the halls of public schools, has resulted in “increased violence”–a statement that is 100% correct.

When our Communications Director saw the Post piece with its attack on Kathy as a “racist,” she fired off a heated response to reporter Tan and her editors:

Rebecca,

I demand an immediate correction to the news story here in which you took my colleague’s statement below completely out of context. Worse, you asked Minnesota’s education commissioner to comment on the out-of-context statement, which led her to call my colleague racist.

Here’s your paragraph:

Equity efforts have also sparked explicit backlash in some places, including Minnesota, where conservative writer Katherine Kersten wrote that a push to investigate biases in student discipline records will bring “increased violence” to classrooms. The state education commissioner called Kersten’s arguments “flat-out racist.”

Here’s Kersten’s statement:

In the St. Paul public schools, racial discipline quotas and an anti-suspension behavior modification program led to a dramatic increase in student violence. In 2015, a veteran teacher was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury after being choked and body-slammed by a student. Teachers told the local newspaper the constant threats and chaos they experience made them fearful for their safety. Administrators must discipline violent students, or they jeopardize the environment that makes learning possible for every other student. Race shouldn’t be a factor at all in those decisions.

Kersten said nothing about “a push to investigate biases” and whether or not that would be a bad thing. She referred to a specific policy in a specific school that had already been implemented and reported on the effect of that policy.

Kersten did NOT say such a push to investigate biases would “bring increased violence” to classrooms. Again, she referred to a specific policy in a specific school and provided examples showing that the policy led to increased violence.

Kersten provided a very specific example and you not only left out important context to her comments, but recklessly broadened them.

You quoted Kersten incorrectly. Nowhere in the statement, or in the piece she wrote previously, does she say the phrase “increased violence.”

You left out the point Kersten was making, which is that “violent students jeopardize the environment that makes learning possible for every other student. Race shouldn’t be a factor at all in those decisions.”

This is horrible, biased reporting.

Again, I demand an immediate correction, or take the reference to Kersten out of the story altogether.

Katie later talked at length with one of the Post’s editors, who expressed the view that, because Kersten once used the phrase “increased violence” in a Star Tribune op-ed, the quote was appropriate.

This is profoundly stupid, but consistent with what we expect from low-grade rags like the Post. Kathy did indeed use the phrase “increased violence,” but it was in reference to race quotas in school discipline, not “a push to investigate biases.” In fact, Rebecca Tan’s article has nothing to do with racial quotas in school discipline, and never mentions such quotas or the effects thereof. So importing Kathy’s “increased violence” phrase is utterly indefensible. It is as though I wrote, years ago, that “Afghanistan is experiencing increased violence,” and the Post wrote, “John Hinderaker wrote that electing Democrats leads to ‘increased violence.'”

So the bottom line is that the Washington Post reached out to Katherine Kersten for a comment for its article. They got a comment, but didn’t print a word of it. Instead, the Post took a whopping two words from a column Kathy wrote a year and a half ago, on a topic that was not the subject of the Post’s article. To add insult to injury, it added a quote from a far-left activist who called Kathy a “flat-out racist.”

I would say the Post’s reporting is a flat-out lie. I think Kathy may have a good lawsuit for defamation, given the Post’s blatant misreporting of her words. At a minimum, the Post owes her a correction. I will write to the Post’s “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, and demand a fact check and an apology.

Mostly, though, this incident is a good reminder of why no one takes far-left “news” outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times seriously. They lie. Consistently, every day.

That was written last night. This morning, I added this, discussing changes that the Post made to Rebecca Tan’s article after Katie Fulkerson’s complaint.

In last night’s post, I reproduced the email that the Center’s Communications Director wrote to the Post, pointing out that its description of Kersten’s work was false, and demanding a correction. That drew a response from the Post’s local government and politics editor, Debbi Wilgoren, who made after-the-fact changes to the Post’s story but did not issue a correction. Wilgoren wrote to Communications Director Katie Fulkerson:

We have updated the story to make clear that Ms. Kersten’s quote came from an op-ed and referred to a push to address perceived biases, rather than the original language, which was “a push to investigate biases.”

The article now says (changes in bold and highlighted):

Equity efforts have also sparked explicit backlash in some places, including Minnesota, where conservative writer Katherine Kersten wrote in an op-ed that a push to address perceived biases in student discipline records will would bring “increased violence” to classrooms. The state education commissioner wrote in response that Kersten’s arguments were “flat-out racist.”

We also attached the following editor’s note at the bottom of the story, to explain those changes:

This story has been updated since its initial publication to more clearly convey Katherine Kersten’s argument against policies that aim to address racial disparities in student discipline.

The Post’s after-the-fact tweaks are inadequate for two reasons. First, they come too late. The Post’s print edition yesterday included the original language, and the story went out to the Post’s subscribers, an unknown number of which have already printed the Rebecca Tan article.

Second, the revised language still misstates what Kersten wrote. Kathy has written on school discipline quotas several times, but the piece relied on by the Post was this Star Tribune op-ed, where she wrote that imposition of racial quotas in school discipline that “[lower] behavior expectations and [remove] meaningful penalties for student misconduct” have caused “increased violence” in the St. Paul public schools, including one incident where a teacher was attacked in his classroom by a student who should have been suspended, and suffered brain damage. Kathy has never written that an unspecified, generic “push to address perceived biases in student discipline” has led, or will lead, to increased violence.

Why won’t the Post stop misrepresenting Kersten’s work, and issue a correction to its false article? Because if it acknowledged what Kathy actually wrote, it would be obvious that its reference to her was a gratuitous smear that had no proper place in the Post’s story at all. The Post’s story was about general efforts to promote “equity” in local government, not lowered standards of conduct for students in public schools as a result of race quotas, and the disastrous results therefrom in school districts like St. Paul’s.

It would be great if the Post would actually address the question of what happens in the classroom when schools impose racial discipline quotas that result in lowered standards of conduct. Of course, the Post has no interest in taking that issue seriously, and is instead content to smear a conservative journalist by misrepresenting her work and quoting a left-wing activist to the effect that she is a “racist.”

We renew our demand for a correction.

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