NYT Finds Excuses For Ferguson Violence, Treats Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon Like A Republican

Posted on Wed 11/26/2014 by


By Clay Waters ~

Ferguson_car_tippingNew York Times reporters Monica Davey and Julie Bosman covered in (mostly) fair fashion the grand jury announcement from Ferguson, Missouri announcing that no charges would be brought against the white police officer who shot black teenager Michael Brown, as well as the violent protests and looting that ensued. But a racially charged profile of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s response to the controvery was so hostile, you’d think he was a Republican.

Those Times reporters should have read their own paper’s coverage before questioning the prosecutor’s decision to make the grand jury announcement at night:

Yet many here questioned why the authorities would announce the decision in the evening, rather than waiting for daylight hours. Furious, sometimes violent, demonstrations and tense clashes with the police took place late into the night for several weeks in August, and some law enforcement officers had urged a daytime announcement.

Yet just a day before, a front-page Times story had quoted local school superintendents urging prosecutors not to make the announcement during the day, “citing concerns that demonstrations might affect travel routes to and from school.”

An accompanying story on Tuesday’s front page by John Eligon and Manny Fernandez, “From Plains to Both Coasts, Fury Boils Over,” seemed taken aback by the violence but still found excuses for it.

Months of anger and frustration, in the end, led only to more anger and frustration.

Shops were looted and burned on Ferguson’s main street. There were smoke bombs, tear gas, thrown rocks and random gunshots. In Ferguson, the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown was almost as bitter and hollow as his killing itself.

Brien Redmon, 31, stood in the cold watching a burning police car and sporadic looting after the announcement that there would be no indictments for Mr. Brown’s death at 18.

“This is not about vandalizing,” he said. “This is about fighting a police organization that doesn’t care about the lives they serve.”


Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the country — from Los Angeles to Atlanta to New York — to protest the grand jury’s decision, and in most places the demonstrations were peaceful.

The Times must have missed the paint assault on New York Police Commissioner William Bratton.

But in Ferguson, the destruction that erupted in fits and starts after the announcement was part of a scene of seething anger, frustration and grief that ebbed and flowed all day before the announcement and after it.

Times reporters acted surprised at the outbreak of looting, given the protesters had “stewed peacefully” for an entire hour.

The looting was a remarkable change in tone after what had been a mostly somber response to the news that Officer Wilson would not be charged. Officers initially stayed behind a skirmish line outside the Ferguson police station, and many demonstrators stewed peacefully in the street for roughly an hour.

But slowly, tension built and people began running north away from the police. Officers did not initially pursue them, and the first widespread looting occurred at that point.

To its credit, the Times account was crammed with unflattering violent details of looting and rioting.

A Little Caesars Pizza shop was in flames. There were shattered windows at a UMB Bank branch. Thick smoke poured from the busted front entrance of a Walgreens pharmacy. Men stepped in but quickly stepped out, complaining that it was too difficult to see anything because of the smoke. The sound of gunfire occasionally rang out in the distance, and the acidic smell and aftertaste of tear gas filled the air. One man exited the Walgreens store and jokingly asked aloud if anyone wanted cigarettes.

Still, the reporters found a need to put the violence and property destruction into a left-wing context of understandable outrage at the system, allowing an observer to compare it to Martin Luther King and the civil rights marches.

As day turned to night on Monday and the prosecutor’s announcement got closer, the frustration had swelled on the streets in the heart of Ferguson, setting the stage for an outburst that had been months in the making.

Many demonstrators, long resigned to the notion that they would not get the outcome they wanted, seemed to respond spontaneously, from raw emotion. How they would express their outrage, and how far law enforcement would allow them to go, came with no easy answers. What was certain was that people felt they were part of something larger.

“I only saw this stuff in school,” said Courtney Ford, 30, an educator who is black and who lives in St. Louis. He left work to observe the protesters holding court across the street from the Ferguson Police Department.

“The Selma marches, and Martin Luther King, and the civil rights activists,” he continued. “But now, this is life. This is history. I’m just out here really as a witness.”

But most galling was Campbell Robertson and John Eligon’s hit piece on Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat guilty of both missteps in Ferguson and of being born in a “largely white” county in Missouri: “Missouri Governor, Trying to Keep Balance on Ferguson, Finds It’s Easy to Slip.”

From the very first days of the protests over the police shooting of an unarmed black man here, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri has been accused of hitting the wrong notes at the wrong times.

He was criticized for waiting too long to get involved when the protests began in August and more recently for jumping the gun with a state of emergency declaration. Protest groups were put off by his insistence on zero tolerance for illegal disruptions, which seemed to ignore the widespread criticism of heavy-handed police tactics. Still others were stunned by his recent rambling, noncommittal response to a question about where, exactly, the buck stopped in the handling of law enforcement duties.


Even the Justice Department expressed frustration with his recent actions, with a senior aide to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. calling Mr. Nixon’s office to criticize his decision to deploy the National Guard as more likely to rouse than to calm.

(So why did a subsequent Times story on Tuesday, co-written by Eligon himself, relay criticism complaining Nixon was too slow in calling out the Guard? “The governor also meet with law enforcement and National Guard officials as he came under criticism from the mayor of Ferguson, Mayor James Knowles III, for not deploying the Guard quick enough to save some of the businesses that burned.”)

So hostile was the paper’s introduction of Nixon that jaded readers might be surprised to learn Missouri’s governor is in fact not a Republican, the Times is just treating him like one. Perhaps they thought he was related to Richard Nixon?

Mr. Nixon was born and raised in largely white and rural Jefferson County, now part of exurban St. Louis. He admitted in a recent news conference that racial division was the primary dynamic he knew growing up.

“I was born in a small town in Jefferson County where railroad tracks divided the town,” he said. “On one side lived folks of color, and on the other side whites.”

One began to suspect why the Times is being so hard on this particular Democrat:

He rose to power as an anti-abortion, pro-death penalty Democrat, socially conservative with a center-left approach to economic issues. He has always been a staunch law-and-order man, even dispensing with the Thanksgiving Day turkey pardon when he became governor.

Clay Waters was the director of Times Watch a project of the Media Research Center .

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