ANATOMY OF A HIT PIECE: HOW TRUE THE VOTE SKEWS THE
By William Boardman Email address removed
The headline was a grabber -- "BREAKING: NAACP Takes Over Houston Polling Station, Advocates for President Obama"
The report that followed was certainly alarming: on November 2, it said, people in NAACP shirts brought bottled water to voters at a polling place, then they moved some voters to the front of the line, spoke out for President Obama, and "basically ran" a Houston, Texas, polling place while poll workers did nothing -- according to Katie Pavlich in Townhall.com on November 3.
The bias, inaccuracy, and speed with which this story spread on the internet is a case study of dishonest journalism.
Pavlich had not observed the reported event or interviewed any of the participants. She based her story on the written "incident report" of an interested party, Eve Rockford, reportedly a poll watcher for the judicial campaign of attorney Don Self. Rockford was trained by True The Vote, a self-proclaimed voter fraud watchdog based in Houston. Pavlich provided no other confirmation of the story and did not respond to a request to do so two days later.
By that time Pavlich's story had been picked up and repeated, often verbatim, by the Drudge Report and dozens of partisan Republican internet sites, including GOPUSA on November 5, with the headline: "NAACP Takes Over Polling Location." GOPUSA is a private company whose mission is to spread the conservative message throughout America, according to its website.
Houston Chronicle Makes Stab At Getting Story Right
That same day, the Houston Chronicle started to outline a more credible account in a brief story by Mike Morris , that began: "A disturbance at the busy Acres Homes early voting location Friday night was related to representatives of the NAACP protesting long wait times for disabled voters, county officials said Sunday."
Pavlich hadn't mentioned that there were disabled voters, or that those were the voters who were being moved to the front of the line. Eve Rockford hadn't mentioned disabled people in her affidavit, which provided an altogether imprecise and unclear account of what may have happened.
Doing basic due diligence, Morris called county officials, although it's not clear from his reporting which, if any of them were present for the "disturbance."
Asked about the initial story, Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray confirmed that NAACP representatives were complaining about the long waiting time for disabled people and trying to move them to the front of the line. But Ray told Morris: "It wasn't like they were taking control of the place. It wasn't like we did nothing about it. That's just not true at all."
As "Disturbances" Go, Not That Disturbing
Ray acknowledged that when poll officials intervened with the NAACP representatives, the scene grew heated, but that officials were able to calm it down and restore proper procedures in relatively short order. There were no arrests. The police were not even called.
That Friday, November 2, in Houston was the last day of early voting at 37 early voting precincts where long lines outside the polling place were common. The temperature was in the eighties, with a high of 87, under partly cloudy skies with a light southerly wind. At the Home Acres Multi-Service Center, where the disturbance occurred, more than 2,500 voters voted that day, with polls remaining open till 10 pm across the city.
As Eve Rockford's affidavit described that Friday afternoon: "At 2:25 the NAACP 3 representatives arrived with probably 50 cases of bottled water and began loading them on dollies handing them out to people standing in line."