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Profile: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a participant or observer in the following events:
New York Herald Tribune masthead, from 1941. [Source: Andrew Cusack]In the days and weeks after the Peekskill riots (see August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949, and After), many newspapers condemn the violence that marred the two concerts. The New York Herald Tribune writes that “true Americans must feel deep shame and concern for the quality of citizenship that believes it is defending its country by catcalls and boos and rocks thrown at passing automobiles.” The New York Times writes, “Civil rights are rarely threatened except when those who claim them hold views hateful to the majority.” The New York Sun blames local law enforcement officials: “The local and county police clearly let the demonstration against the concert degenerate into a riot.” The New York Post calls the rioters “hoodlums” who “proclaim[ed their] contempt for democratic process, inflicting violence on real and alleged Communists and innocent bystanders with fine and frenzied impartiality.” The Christian Science Monitor says the rioters used the same tactics used by “Fascist[s]” and the “Ku Klux Klan.” Speaking of the main target of opprobrium, singer, avowed Communist, and African-American Paul Robeson, the Fort Wayne News Sentinel observes, “Whether or not Mr. Robeson follows the Kremlin manual is of less concern than that Americans shall not forget the First Amendment to the Constitution.” The Des Moines Register states: “Those who gathered at Peekskill to hear Robeson were entirely within the law in doing so. Those who provoked the violence repudiated the Constitution, the government, and those things which Americans have long prided themselves on—fairness and freedom.” And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, “Veterans’ organizations in Westchester County, New York, lowered themselves to the level of the Ku Klux Klan.” [Fast, 1951]
Six people, including a local reporter, are arrested outside a public forum called by Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) at a middle school gymnasium outside of St. Louis. The forum, planned to allow constituents to discuss aging issues with Carnahan, quickly becomes contentious, with an overflow crowd denied entrance to the gymnasium and left to protest and wave signs in the parking lot. Many of the protesters are from a local anti-tax and anti-health care reform “tea party” organization. Local Democratic organizations counter with their supporters.
Altercations in Parking Lot - Verbal, and later physical, altercations erupt between reform supporters and opponents. Six people are arrested outside the gym, including St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman, for interference after he refuses to stop taking pictures of the altercations. One of those arrested, reform supporter Brian Matthews, calls the situation outside the gym “a bull rush,” and adds, “It all came from behind.” After the forum, Matthews and a friend, Javonne Spitz, attempt to photograph a man who appears as if he has been assaulted. The police object, and, as Matthews tells it, several officers “charge” them “from behind.” The police push Matthews to the ground and arrest him for interference; Spitz is pepper-sprayed “after she was subdued by the police,” Matthews says, causing her to vomit as they are taken into custody. A woman is arrested for assault and destruction of property for pushing a woman who is recording the events on her cell phone, then taking the phone from her and breaking it. A man is arrested for refusing to leave a circle of people surrounding Matthews’s pepper-sprayed friend. A police spokesman later says: “You’ve got to understand—we’re at a very volatile situation, we’ve got 800 people and we’ve got to maintain order. [The police] did what they had to do.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009]
Kenneth Gladney - Conservative activist Kenneth Gladney claims to have been attacked by several of those arrested as he attempts to hand out yellow flags with “Don’t Tread on Me” printed on them; police later confirm that two men were arrested for assaulting someone attempting to hand out flags and fliers. A reporter interviews Gladney as he awaits treatment at a local emergency room for injuries he says he suffered to his knee, back, shoulder, elbow, and face. Gladney, an African-American, says one of his assailants used a racial slur against him. “It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he says. Gladney later affirms that he had been hired by the St. Louis Tea Party organization to hand out flags, and adds, “I was attacked for something I believe in.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009] He appears on several conservative TV and radio shows, including those hosted by Laura Ingraham and Bill O’Reilly, where he tells his interviewers that he was punched in the face by three different people and kicked by a fourth. Unfortunately for his claim, he appears in perfect health on the broadcasts, with no indication of swelling or bruising. [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009] Tim Tagaris, the new media director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), later sends an e-mail and links to photos taken during the altercation which contradict Gladney’s tale. According to Tagaris, the photos show an SEIU member getting off the ground holding his shoulder. Gladney is identified as an African-American male in a khaki (or gray) shirt “walking around just fine after the altercation.” Tagaris says it is only after he begins appearing on talk shows that he takes to a wheelchair (see August 8, 2009). [Daily Kos, 8/9/2009]
Loud Attempts to Protest Health Care Reform - Inside the gym, protesters attempt to turn the discussion from the topic of the elderly to health care, an issue they apparently wish to shout down. “This isn’t even close to civil,” one audience member says after the forum. “The rudeness was beyond compare.” An elderly audience member calls the forum “a complete waste of time.” After the meeting, Carnahan says: “Sadly we’ve seen stories about disrupters around the country, and we have a handful of them here in Missouri. Instead of participating in a civil debate, they have mobilized with special interests in Washington who have lined their pockets by overcharging Americans for a broken health care system.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009] The next day, Carnahan says: “Sadly, they got out of control on both sides. That’s not helpful, and I condemn that activity.… Let’s have a spirited debate, a debate worthy of our country.” A member of the St. Louis Tea Party who attended another forum, local radio show host Dana Loesch, says: “Last night, it was a whole different scene. That’s not what this should be about.” Defending her colleagues, she adds: “I can’t blame them for being frustrated, but there are ways to handle this without calling these people mobs. This isn’t an angry mob.” SEIU spokeswoman Ramona Oliver says her union has no intention of confronting angry protesters. “The members didn’t come to talk to the angry mob outside, they came to talk to the congresspeople inside,” she says. “All our members want is to have a civil discussion. There is no campaign to confront the tea baggers.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Javonne Spitz, Brian Matthews, Dana Loesch, Kenneth Gladney, Jake Wagman, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly, Tim Tagaris, Russ Carnahan, Service Employees International Union, St. Louis Tea Party, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
Betty Anne McCaskill watches as her daughter Claire McCaskill addresses the audience. [Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch]Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) brings an effective ally to a potentially contentious health care reform discussion at Jefferson College in Missouri: her aging and ill, but outspoken, mother. Betsy Anne McCaskill, an octogenarian who suffers from diabetes and heart problems, calls herself “Exhibit No. 1” in the debate over reform. She interrupts the forum early on to give her daughter advice: “As Harry Truman said, give ‘em hell.”
Winning Over the Crowd - The McCaskills are interrupted at the outset by shouts and boos, but as the event continues, they win over the bulk of the crowd—some 2,000 strong, held in the campus field house—with what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later calls their “mix of frank talk and tough love.” Senator McCaskill says after the event: “I just hope that the word goes out that every member of Congress can and should have these kind of meetings. I don’t think we should shy away from public discourse just because it gets a little rocky.”
Confusion over Contents of Bill - She fields a number of tough questions, and assures that the reform plans will neither fund abortions nor require citizens to change their health care plans or insurance providers. After the forum, many tell reporters that they aren’t sure McCaskill was entirely honest with them. One expresses a concern that many seem to share: confusion over exactly what is and what is not in the bill. “It doesn’t seem to be as transparent as [President] Obama promised. It seems to be a hurry-up-and-get-it-done attitude.” A Tea Party protester says he appreciated McCaskill’s openness and candor. “She’s got a lot of guts to be here,” he says. “I have to give her a lot of credit.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009]
One Arrest over Racial Confrontation - One man is arrested when he tears a sign from the grip of veteran Democratic activist Maxine Johnson. The sign is not about health care, but is a poster of famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, depicted on the poster as the “First Lady of Civil Rights.” As posters and signs are not allowed in the hall, Johnson and several friends, who brought similar posters, had rolled them up once entering the venue and being “booed and berated” by the crowd, according to one reporter. A journalist asks Johnson to show her the poster; when she does, anti-reform protester James Winfrey rips it from her hands and begins crumpling it up. An angry Johnson is escorted from the building, but Winfrey is later charged with third-degree assault. One witness later says that Winfrey just “came over and grabbed” the poster from Johnson’s hand. Watching the brief conflict, McCaskill says from the podium, “I’ll bet you a dollar that’s all they show on the news tonight.” During the conflict, a security officer asks McCaskill if she wants to exit the forum for her own safety. She responds, “Not on your life.” [Talking Points Memo, 8/11/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009; Huffington Post, 8/12/2009] According to liberal blogger Pam Spaulding, the apparent racism evidenced by Winfrey is not an isolated incident at the venue. One African-American woman is accosted by a white woman who tells her how tired she is of “n_ggers” and “baby killers,” and President Obama is depicted in signs, pamphlets, and posters outside the hall as, Spaulding writes, “some sort of Nazi, socialist, foreign born, communist, Muslim, euthanasia enthusiast, fascist who wants to tyrannically impose new environmental standards to perpetuate the dangerous myth of global warming all the while teaching the wee little babies about birth control in pre-school and plotting to knock off Grandma.” [Pam Spaulding, 8/12/2009]
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch corrects a statement made to its reporters by Roy Blunt (R-MO), the chairman of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. Recently, Blunt told Post-Dispatch reporters and editors that he couldn’t get hip replacement surgery in Canada or Great Britain—two havens of socialized medicine—because of his age. “I’m 59,” Blunt said. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.” The Post-Dispatch checked his claim, and found: “At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.” Blunt promises to modify his rhetoric when confronted by the Post-Dispatch’s findings. “I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air,” he says. The figure came from testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Health by, Blunt notes, “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.” He adds: “I had been given that example. I was told that 59 is the cutoff. I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.” The Post-Dispatch writes that it takes Blunt at his word, but notes that he is “not the only Republican leader who has his facts wrong about British and Canadian health care. And some of his colleagues are a bit less contrite” (see August 5, 2009). Blunt has made other false claims, including the assertion that an uninsured American could get a hip replacement through emergency care: “If they go to the emergency room, I think they can get that done.” The Post-Dispatch corrects him, writing: “Emergency rooms don’t do hip replacements, which require both hospital care and weeks of rehabilitation. They do emergency surgery, necessary to save a life. St. Louis hospitals offer discounts to patients who are poor and uninsured. But patients often are asked to make substantial down payments before surgery; they don’t hobble through the ER door and get them done for free.” Blunt has also made untenable claims about the number of Americans without health insurance by falsely saying that nearly 12 million of the 45 million uninsured Americans are illegal immigrants, a claim disproven by research by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which, according to the Post-Dispatch, “puts the number of uninsured who are immigrants—both legal and illegal—at about 9 million.” Blunt later reduces the number of illegal immigrants in his claims, though the Post-Dispatch notes he still inflates his figures. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/16/2009; Plum Line, 8/17/2009]
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