The Washington Post admitted Wednesday it was wrong to do a knee-jerk defense of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s latest remark about racist highways and bridges.
“We should be more careful to double-check on the latest views of historians,” Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote.
It began Monday when Buttigieg expressed dismay that folks don’t perceive how roads and bridges could be racist.
“I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a White and a Black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach, or that would’ve been, in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” Buttigieg stated throughout a White House briefing.
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Buttigieg was swiftly mocked on social media by critics who objected to the comments, whereas others known as for Kessler to chime in.
Kessler obliged, tweeting a defense of Buttigieg’s remark that claimed the tidbit was from Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning e-book, “The Power Broker.”
Washington Post nationwide correspondent Phillip Bump additionally rushed to Buttigieg’s defense, writing an evaluation mirroring Kessler’s tweets headlined, “And this is why it’s useful to talk about historical examples of institutionalized racism,” which claimed the transportation secretary’s comment “served as an opportunity not only to elevate the specific story to which he was referring but the utility of educating Americans about a complicated history of systemic racism.”
Bump reiterated that Buttigieg was referring to a narrative from Caro’s e-book, which described a decades-old plan to cease Black folks from visiting a seashore in New York by making it troublesome for buses to entry the parkways.
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Bump complained Buttigieg was mocked for his comment and enlisted left-wing historian Kevin Kruse to clarify that many American highways have been designed to maintain Black and White neighborhoods separated. Bump even boasted that Kruse’s work was half of The New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project,” and Kessler added Bump’s article to his Twitter thread defending Buttigieg.
But Kessler obtained chilly toes, publishing a narrative on Wednesday declaring he jumped the gun after a number of historians reached out to him.
“Well, our knee jerked,” he wrote, noting that affiliate professor of historical past at Case Western University Peter Shulman knowledgeable the Post the story from Caro’s e-book was “largely debunked.”
Kessler then determined to “dig a little bit deeper” and get to the underside of the story he beforehand defended. The Post’s fact-checker went right into a prolonged historical past of Robert Moses, the famed builder who spent most of the 1900s creating the infrastructure of New York City and its surrounding areas who’s the important thing determine in Caro’s e-book.
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Kessler discovered the one supply used within the 1974 e-book for the story parroted by Buttigieg 47 years later died two years earlier than the e-book was even printed and plenty of specialists really feel the declare was exaggerated.
“There has been some revisionism and Moses’s achievements are now viewed in a better light. In particular, the anecdote about the parkway bridges has been increasingly questioned, along with other details in Caro’s book,” Kessler wrote.
One historian advised the Post that “Moses did nothing different on Long Island from any parks commissioner in the country” as a result of all parkways had low bridges on the time.
“Caro is wrong,” a separate historian emailed to the Post, noting anybody might entry the seashore.
Other historians disagree within the polarizing story, however the Post’s in-house fact-checker feels “The Bottom Line” is that the liberal newspaper shouldn’t have been so fast to defend Buttigieg.
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“Obviously this cannot be easily resolved. Caro quotes one of Moses’s top aides as saying the height of the bridges was done for racist reasons, but increasingly that story has been questioned as not credible,” Kessler wrote. “Buttigieg should tailor his remarks to reflect what is historically unimpeachable — and we should be more careful to double-check on the latest views of historians. Even a Pulitzer Prize-winning book is not always the last word on a subject.”