Bench Memos

No, Washington Post, Jeff Sessions Didn’t “Trash” A Law Protecting Disabled Kids

In case anyone still has doubts that some journalists have resolved to do everything possible to sink Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has proven the point on one of the Post’s blogs, and in the process, falls far below its standards for reporting. Indeed, she’s apparently competing with Huffington Post’s Jason Cherkis to receive the prize for “Worst Journalism of 2016.” But Cherkis’s earlier attempt to smear Sessions with the same poorly-conceived hit failed miserably, and Strauss’s fares little better.

She doesn’t even bother to hide her bias. In the first paragraph, she describes the speech (excerpted at length in my earlier post) as “trash[ing] a federal law that was passed to ensure students with disabilities have a free and appropriate public education.” She also says he “attacked” the law and then cites a bunch of unrelated statistics and insults from an education advocate’s personal blog to prove . . . what, exactly?  And since when did rants on random personal blogs become worthy of quotation by a mainstream news outlet? 

Earth to Strauss: he didn’t “trash” the law and he supports it. He is a lawmaker, and he wants to solve a minor problem with a law about which he had been hearing complaints from educators and constituents. Is it really newsworthy that a legislator might want to amend existing law, especially when the Senate ends up voting 95-3 to fix the problem Sessions complained about? Come to think of it, there are some familiar far-left names in the “yea” column, including Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Joe Biden (D-DE), and Harry Reid (D-NV).

One might be inclined to give Strauss credit for including all of Sessions’ speech at the end of the piece, but she mischaracterizes the speech’s contents so badly that readers are unlikely to bother reading it after skipping over the irrelevant garbage that precedes it. In short, Strauss’s tack is very similar to Cherkis’s: misstate Sessions’ argument, ignore evidence favorable to Sessions, and then hope readers don’t try to check the facts for themselves. This kind of “journalism” we can do without.

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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