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It's not debatable: Sheriff's spokesman said Atlanta shooter had "really bad day"
So why did a New York Times reporter lead a partisan crusade against another journalist for reporting it?
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Last week there was a lot of well-placed anger when Cherokee County sheriff’s spokesman Jay Baker described the Atlanta spa shooter as having a “really bad day.”
This was compounded by an anti-Asian racist Facebook posting found on Baker’s page. Baker was removed from the case. And Sheriff Frank Reynolds apologized for the comments, saying Baker didn’t intend “disrespect” for the victims nor “empathy or sympathy for the suspect.”
But over the weekend, a curious thing happened: Right-wing Twitter went into overdrive targeting and vilifying one particular journalist among the many journalists who reported on Baker’s comments last week, Aaron Rupar, associate editor of Vox and a viral video powerhouse. Rupar’s name soon began trending because of the trollish attacks. But the attackers appeared to have been triggered and spurred on by New York Times political reporter Ken Vogel, who tweeted out — then deleted, then tweeted again — that Rupar had not “framed” Baker’s comment properly.
First, let’s be clear: Baker wasn’t paraphrasing the shooter, as the right-wing Twitter troll army claimed in attacking anyone, including me, who defended Rupar, but was rather offering a subjective description. That’s clear from watching the full video.
So, Baker tells us that investigators spoke with the suspect who told them about “what he considers a sex addiction” that drove him to target those he believed presented the “temptation.” That is a paraphrase. But then Baker tells us: "He was pretty much fed up, kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
That is not a paraphrase — and if it was meant to be, it wasn’t stated as such. Baker didn’t say the suspect said he was “fed up” and having a “really bad day.” Rather, Baker described it that way himself.
Whether or not Baker was consciously apologizing for the suspect, it was jaw-dropping. As many pointed out, a Black or brown suspect would not be treated the same way. Add to that the racist Facebook post that was found on Baker’s page — showing t-shirts with the words “Covid-19: Imported Virus from Chy-na” — and it becomes harder for Baker to defend his comment as misunderstood.
Rupar did nothing to distort what Baker said — he simply reported it, like scores of other journalists who reported on a statement that millions of people watched.
Rupar is a Twitter phenomenon, with viral videos that have broken down every sick Donald Trump speech and all the other bigoted blather from right-wing politicians and Fox News. So it’s not a shock that, as a bane of Trumpworld’s existence, he would come under assault. The trolls perpetrated the truly bizarre idea that Rupar was responsible for all of the media’s framing of the quote — as if we all didn’t see it ourselves — and that it was all a distortion, when it was not.
And they simply ignored the racist Facebook post or dismissed it. One of the critics responded to me by saying the t-shirts bore a “minor China reference.”
The goal seemed to be to change the subject from racism against Asians and Asian-Americans fueled by Trump — and racism as a motive for the shootings —and turn the sheriff’s spokesman into the true victim. It’s a classic tactic among the Trumpists.
But it was Vogel, a New York Times political reporter, who helped lead the charge — and who then was used by the right-wingers in tweet after tweet to make their case. (There were others, like writer and Vox co-founder Matt Yglesias, who had a falling out with Vox and left, who also pushed the same ridiculous line, giving ammunition to the trolls. But Vogel’s comments appear to have been what helped supercharge this.)
This is the same Ken Vogel who wrote a controversial piece in 2017 back when he was at Politico, which sensationally ramped up the Hunter Biden/Ukraine conspiracies — and was used by the Trump team for their now debunked claims — and who blocks anyone (myself included) on Twitter who even remotely criticizes him and his work. Even over the weekend, as I responded to the attacks on Rupar, people responded with their notifications of having been blocked by Vogel.
All of this raises more questions about Vogel, his agenda and why The New York Times — which recently fired an editor for tweeting about her relief that Joe Biden took office (after right-wingers attacked her for not being objective) — allows its journalists to engage in smears of others and help change the subject for conservatives, while censoring critics.