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The Washington Post’s gratuitous smear of Katherine Kersten.
In August, a reporter from the Washington Post contacted us, asking to interview Katherine Kersten for an article she was writing that broadly addressed pushes toward “equity” in various local government units around the country. The reporter said that she 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 conservative view after the fact.
Kathy didn’t do an interview, but we provided a statement that mirrored writing she has done on the collapse of student discipline in certain schools. It said:
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.
The Post reporter ignored Kathy’s statement and her multiple columns on this topic, and instead wrote:
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.”
In response, our Communications Director Katie Fulkerson emailed the Post, pointing out that its description of Kersten’s work was false, and demanded a correction. Fulkerson continued by stating that Kersten has never written that a “push to investigate biases in student discipline records” produces increased violence, or anything similar.
That got the attention of the Post’s local government and politics editor, who made after-the-fact changes to the Post’s story but did not issue a correction. She wrote to 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.”
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 were inadequate for two reasons. First, they came too late. The Post’s print edition included the original language, and the story went out to the Post’s many subscribers, an unknown number of which had already reprinted the article.
Second, the revised language still misstated what Kersten wrote. She has written on school discipline quotas several times, but she has never written that an unspecified, generic “push to address perceived biases in student discipline” has led, or will lead, to increased violence. Rather, she has written that a failure to discipline unruly or violent students due to imposition of racial quotas has led to violence in the classroom, as in St. Paul.
Why wouldn’t the Post stop misrepresenting Kersten’s work and issue a correction to its false article? Because if it acknowledged what she 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 some school districts.
It would be great if the Post would actually address the question of what happens in the classroom when schools impose discipline quotas that result in lowered standards of conduct. Of course, the Post has no interest in taking that issue seriously. Instead, it was content to smear a conservative journalist by misrepresenting her work and quoting a left-wing activist to the effect that Kersten is a “racist.”
The Post never did respond to our request for a correction. This experience illustrates why the public’s regard for news sources like the Washington Post has fallen to an all-time low.