Media should keep pushing on Crowley

Even many of us who think the Cambridge Police overreacted by arresting Henry Louis Gates in his own home have assumed — for the sake of argument if nothing else — that Sgt. James Crowley’s report was accurate.

I’ve contended from the beginning that Crowley’s mistake was in failing to recognize why Gates would think he’d been racially profiled. Friend of Media Nation Harvey Silverglate and Slate columnist Christopher Hitchens have both written that the issue wasn’t race, but Gates’ constitutional right to throw a nutty in his own home. I agree.

But with Crowley, Gates and President Obama settling in for an awkward beer later today, let’s not forget that there is an enormous discrepancy between Crowley’s report and the statements of Lucia Whalen, the woman who called 911 and then waited at the scene until police had arrived.

Using very specific, descriptive language, Crowley wrote that Whalen told him she’d seen “two black males with backpacks on the porch.” And when the Boston Herald pointed out the discrepancy to Crowley, he replied, “Obviously, I stand behind everything that’s in the police report. It wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t true.”

Yet Whalen, at first through her lawyer, Wendy Murphy, and yesterday in her own appearance before the media (Boston Globe story here; Herald story here; Cambridge Chronicle story here), has insisted that she and Crowley never spoke.

The media need to keep pushing. If Crowley’s report turns out to be wrong in some fundamental way, then it calls everything else into question as well.

Creative Commons photo (cc) via Wikimedia.

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