WaPo Fact Checker Defends Controversial Tim Scott Piece in Softball Interview on Taxpayer-Funded NPR

May 3, 2021

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, who was widely criticized last week for his racially charged investigation into the family history of Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.), defended himself during a softball interview on NPR, a taxpayer-funded media corporation.

NPR host Michel Martin offered Kessler an opportunity to rebut his critics—including Scott, who called out the Post during his inspiring response to President Joe Biden's address to Congress last week. Scott, who is black, blasted the paper for having "suggested my family's poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time."

Martin introduced Kessler as a journalist who "looked into Senator Scott's so-called origin story" about his illiterate grandfather who dropped out of school to pick cotton and seemed puzzled as to why Kessler's piece was so controversial. Having a great-grandfather who owned land "might be something to be proud of," she suggested.

Kessler agreed, arguing that being related to a black farmer who owned land in South Carolina during the Great Depression undermined Scott's claim that he has come "from virtually nothing." Scott's account of being "raised largely by a single mother in poor circumstances," Kessler said, was therefore "a bit too tidy for popular consumption." Scott's claim that his grandfather was illiterate was plagued by "inconsistencies," Kessler argued, because he found evidence that Scott's great-grandfather knew how to sign his name.

Martin pointed out that even some Democrats, including former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, criticized the piece, but she immediately took Kessler's side. "Like, why would that be considered shocking or shameful or, you know, upsetting?" she asked. "I mean, these genealogy shows, which are quite popular, often do the very same thing, and people find things out that they did not know."

Kessler, ignoring the bipartisan nature of the criticism, dismissed the negative reaction as "just politics" and proceeded to blame Fox News. His intent was not to argue that Scott's ancestors "lived a privileged life" but rather to point out there was "more to" Scott's personal story than "just being raised by a single mother in poverty." What that means, exactly, remains unclear. The implication, however, is rather sinister.

Perhaps Clarence Thomas, the only black justice on the Supreme Court, will be Kessler's next target.