Opinion: Washington Post Columnist Plays Race Card

On Saturday, Washington Post writer Colby King published a column decrying the role of race in the At-Large D.C. Council special election.

Ironically, and infuriatingly, King played a race card in doing so.

King misrepresented a remark made by Patrick Mara, a front running candidate.

Before the column was published, Mara’s campaign explained to King the precise meaning of the remark.

It was simple. Mara had told an audience, “don’t split the vote.” He was referring to past elections that included multiple, reform-minded candidates. Votes were split between the candidates, resulting in victory for an old-guard politician.

[I wrote about vote-splitting last week. In the same column, I said I'm voting for Mara.]

It is preposterous for King to interpret Mara’s remarks as alluding to race; one of the elections in which the dynamic played out featured African-American, Latino and white candidates among whom the vote was split.


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After Mara’s campaign explained this well-known dynamic to King, the columnist told the campaign in an email, “I'll make sure your view is reflected.”

Nonetheless, King went on to write the column and insinuate that Mara’s remark had racial overtones.

King did not mention a single word of Mara’s explanation.

King did not “make sure your view is reflected” as he had promised.

This is journalistic dereliction.

In fact, King must not read his own paper. Mara’s remark was explained in the Post five days before the King column was published.

On Saturday morning, Mara’s campaign wrote to me. I have had previous conversations with Mara about the race, as I have with several other candidates.

Mara's campaign manager provided me with a copy of an email exchange he'd had with King.

I wrote to King. I asked him specifically why he told the Mara campaign, “I'll make sure your view is reflected,” but then ignored his own promise.

King replied, “I’ll have more to say in a future column.”

I immediately replied to King. I reminded King that his column could influence voters a mere ten days before Election Day. I also reminded King that he would not tolerate a candidate who was dodging questions in the waning moments of a campaign.

No reply.

King’s column appeared in the print edition of Saturday’s newspaper. Later that same day, when Internet traffic is at its lowest, King published an apology to the Mara campaign.

Of course, the damage was already done and few people will ever see King’s half-hearted apology.

This saga merits a recap: Colby King wrote a column titled “Race doesn’t belong in D.C. Council election.” In that same column he knowingly twisted the words of Patrick Mara to imply that Mara was playing race games.

In my book, King has lost all credibility.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East , China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on twitter @ChuckThies.

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