Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Guardian's god-awful American political coverage

I don't remember who, but I read somewhat recently someone saying that the British press' coverage of American politics is hilariously bad. Ever since then, I've tried to read it more attentively, and it's paid off. Today, the most prominent story on is called "The next president of America?" and it's about Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ. Here are some choice quotes:

In 2002 he was approached to run for the Senate - a move that, had he won, would have made him the first African American there, two years ahead of Obama.

False. First of all, the first black US senator was Hiram Rhodes Revels, voted into the US Senate by the Mississippi State Senate (because that's how they did it back then). The first black senator voted into office by popular vote under the modern rules was Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts. Perhaps what they meant to say was that he would have been the only black senator in that legislative session?

Booker is a light-skinned black man with blue-grey eyes and a serial Ivy League education (Stanford, Oxford, Yale)

First of all, almost all blacks in America are "light-skinned" in the sense of being of mixed African and European heritage (with some Native American thrown in for good measure) – I don't know how it is in England, but I don't think that being light-skinned really means anything in America. You're still seen by everyone as "black."

As for a "serial Ivy League education," only Yale is an Ivy League school.

While Newark's poor reputation would seem to position it as an exceptional city, to see it as unusual is to miss the point. It has been home to many historical moments that make it an American landmark: George Washington's army slept in one of its parks; Abraham Lincoln stopped to give an address here on the way to his inauguration; Booker T Washington's doctor founded a hospital in Newark to treat African Americans.


Not everyone was ready for Booker when he came to power - not the drug dealers who threatened his life, nor the old-guard residents who were unused to such eloquence in a leader.

I'm sorry, but when did drug dealers threaten the life of Cory Booker?? Surely not when he was younger, since he grew up in the white suburbs and then spent the next ten years studying. And probably not since he's become a prominent politician, or Google would know about it. Did you...make that up?

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