National Public Radio (NPR) gave Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler eight minutes to explain why he wrote a widely criticized fact-check of Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) claims about his family history.
Kessler has said he decided to write the piece because Scott’s claim that his family “went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime” seemed “a little too tidy for political consumption.”
In his piece, Kessler noted that Scott’s “great-great-grandfather, Lawrence Ware, once owned 900 acres in South Carolina” and that Scott’s grandfather, Artis Ware, worked on the family farm.
“Our research reveals a more complex story than what Scott tells audiences. Scott’s grandfather’s father was also a substantial landowner — and Scott’s grandfather, Artis Ware, worked on that farm,” Kessler wrote in a piece titled “Tim Scott often talks about his grandfather and cotton. There’s more to that tale.”
The Washington Post published the article about 12 hours after it was announced Scott, the only African American Republican in the Senate, would deliver the rebuttal to President Biden’s address to Congress.
Kessler ultimately acknowledged that the land was family-owned and did not give Scott any “Pinocchios” because his claims were accurate.
In his interview with the NPR, Kessler defended his piece and insisted Scott’s version of the story is misleading, claiming critics “twisted” the arguments in his fact-check.
“The article acknowledges that Sen. Scott may not have known his full family history and that the census records regarding the lives of Black Americans can be inconsistent,” Kessler told NPR.
“But some critics have twisted that appropriate caution to suggest that all of the documentation in the article is suspect. I also obtained property and other records that expanded on information in the census, and those records are not in dispute. And those property records show how much land his great-grandfather purchased. And he appears to have been one of the biggest landowners, white or Black, in Aiken County at the time.”
NPR host Michel Martin asked: “So – but why would a story about your ancestors being successful, especially at a time when the odds were so stacked against them, be viewed as a negative thing? I mean, you point that out in your piece. You point out that this was a remarkable achievement.”
Kessler maintained Scott distorted the story that he came from “virtually nothing to the heights of the Senate.”
He said the “inconsistencies” in Scott’s story likely made the South Carolina senator “uncomfortable.”
Scott rebuked the WaPo in his rebuttal address last week, saying: “I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the n-word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested that my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time.”
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Author: Damjan Tutarkov
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