September 14, 2018

THE NEW YORK TIMES GETS IT JUST PLAIN WRONG: I posted on Wednesday about the claim that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ new voting rights report was adopted “unanimously.” The claim was made in the Commission’s press release and in the Chair’s transmission letter to President Trump. But as I wrote in the post:

This is technically true, but highly misleading. My mother died about an hour before the telephonic meeting at which the vote was taken, so I was unable to call in. As I wrote in my Commissioner Statement, if I had been present, “I would have voted no.” I believe the same is true of my colleague Peter Kirsanow, who was stuck in a deposition at the time. Only Commissioners appointed by Democrats voted to approve the report.

The New York Times story parrots the claim of unanimity. But it does so in a way that is not even technically true. Under the headline, Protection of Voting Rights for Minorities Has Fallen Sharply, a New Report Finds, it states that the report’s “key recommendations were unanimously supported by the commission’s eight members—six Democrats and two Republicans.” That is just plain false.

For the reasons stated above, I didn’t have sufficient time to take on the report point by point (and, to be fair, not everything in the long report is bad). But I managed to discuss some of the issues raised in the report (and make a few historical points) in my Statement, which I have now posted as a separate document on SSRN.

UPDATE: EVEN THE NEW YORK TIMES CORRECTION NEEDS CORRECTING: The NYT’s story now states: “In a foreword to the commission’s latest report, Ms. Lhamon wrote that the panel unanimously supported the report’s key recommendations, a claim that some conservative advocacy groups said was untrue. A publicist for the commission, Vincent Eng, later said that the panel’s six Democratic members all approved the recommendations, but that its two Republican members either did not attend the session at which the vote was taken or left the room during the vote.”

This is deliberately misleading. The New York Times reporter for this article was informed via Twitter by my special assistant of the truth. She is not an advocacy group. I have no idea who Vincent Eng is, but he doesn’t work at the Commission, and when Eng’s statement was drawn to the Staff Director’s attention by my assistant, he denied that we even have a publicist. In any event, nobody “left the room” when the vote came up. Indeed, there was no room. The vote was taken on the telephone.  And by the way, I’m not a Republican. I was appointed by a Republican.

UPDATE TO UPDATE:  The Staff Director now admits that he hired Eng as a “media consultant,” which in his view is not a publicist.