April 29, 2008
Rev. Lawson responds to the Chron

In my overview of the DA race, I noted that the Chron took former HPD Chief Bradford to task for the 2002 K-Mart raid. That prompted a response from the Rev. William Lawson, who saw a double standard in how the editorial board holds law enforcement leadership responsible for the actions of its employees. I'm reproducing an unedited version of that letter below:

I am deeply concerned about a recent editorial apparently opposing former Police Chief C. O. Bradford, who is a candidate for District Attorney. Let's say for a moment that, as the Chronicle implies, Chief Bradford was entirely responsible for the officers' behavior at the scene of the street racing raid. Fine. Chief Bradford knows where the buck stops. He took steps to remedy the situation and made the difficult decision to fire the officers who had created the problem on the scene.

Contrast that with Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas and the Chronicle's evaluation of his performance. In June 2004, the Chronicle editorialized about several questionable shootings by Harris County deputies. The Chronicle reported that Sheriff's deputies had shot 19 unarmed citizens over a period of time, six of whom were teenagers. They further reported that sheriff's deputies numbered fewer than half the officers of HPD and produced almost twice as many such shootings over the same period. One person shot was described by the Chronicle not as a violent suspect but as an "erratic driver."

According to the Chronicle: "Burt Springer, a lawyer for the Harris County Deputies' Organization, had this to say about an innocent passenger paralyzed by a deputy's bullet while riding with a suspected car burglar: 'If you lay down with dogs you get fleas.' Such scant regard for the innocent is seldom stated so baldly."

Just a few months after reporting on these problems with the Sheriff's office, the Chronicle turned around and actually endorsed Sheriff Thomas writing, "The professionalism of the department's investigators and deputies is in evidence." With its knowledge of all of these problems-problems that cost Harris County residents their lives-the Chronicle endorsed Sheriff Thomas and praised his professionalism, as well as that of his deputies.

The Houston Chronicle must explain why multiple shootings of unarmed teenagers by Sheriff Thomas' deputies should be endorsed, while a good African American public servant like Chief Bradford should be demonized for his efforts to make the city safer.

I would hate to think it is because Bradford is African American, or because the Chronicle wants him out of the way so that the paper can endorse another candidate. James Campbell would never do that. It is painfully clear that the Chronicle has set two separate but unequal standards for our public officials. Those of us in the black community will be waiting for the Chronicle's explanation-not Chief Bradford's.

-- Rev. William Lawson, Pastor Emeritus, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church

Pretty strong stuff. I will say, as I said before, that it boggles my mind how the Chron could be calling for New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation the day after the news of his prostitution habit hit the news, and yet they never once made any call for Chuck Rosenthal to step down, even after everyone from Quanell X to Ed Emmett had done so. I don't know what standards they have in these situations, but whatever they are, they're pretty unfathomable. A little consistency would be nice.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2008 to Election 2008

** Pretty strong stuff. **

It is.

Whatever their significant shortcomings though, I don't think know that the Editorial LiveJournalists are racist -- certainly criticism of a former bumbling police chief or stating that he needs to answer questions about his past bumbling doesn't lead me to that conclusion. Do you agree with Rev. Lawson that this amounts to racism?

I hope that criticism of the former bumbling police chief isn't going to get the race card from Rev. Lawson the rest of this campaign, or there are going to be quite a few of those labels thrown out (irresponsibly).

Posted by: Kevin Whited on April 29, 2008 7:58 AM

I believe there was a different standard applied to Sheriff Thomas than there was to Chief Bradford. Do you agree with that?

I personally would not call it racism - there are other plausible explanations to me for this puzzling inconsistency - but I'm not going to tell Rev. Lawson that he can't call it that.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2008 9:06 AM

In the letter, Reverend Lawson does allow for other explanations besides racism. He points out that the Chronicle may simply have already, prematurely and based on bad reasoning, picked their candidate to endorse.

But the failure to ask Rosenthal to step down does bring up questions of race. Why did the editorial board get so upset about Spitzer, but they apparently did not think that a DA who sends around emails of a black man overdosing on fried chicken and watermelon probably should not be in charge of charging a large population of African Americans with crimes?

Maybe it was a partisan political decision by the Chronicle instead of a racist decision. Or maybe, as the Chronicle did with their Enron coverage, they just didn't want to rock the boat. But the appearance of racism does exist and it is at least one legitimate conclusion. It cannot be so easily dismissed because it makes some people uncomfortable.

Posted by: Mike on April 29, 2008 10:27 AM

Off point, I know, but the Chron has a dazzling record of inconsistency on their editorial page. Exhibit 1 is their endorsement, twice, of George W. Bush for the presidency, followed by a series of editorials critical of virtually every action and policy taken by the Bush administration. Makes no sense to me.

A Chron reporter told me it was all about appealing to their core base of Harris County Republican readers and advertisers. Makes as much sense as any other reason.

Posted by: Dennis on April 30, 2008 5:42 AM

Looks like the Chron removed the White article.

Posted by: Matt on May 5, 2008 3:43 PM
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