A fact check of Michael Harriot’s “Mayor Pete’s Invisible Black Police”, as it was published by The Root on January 8, 2020.
Michael Harriot, turns out, is a lying MF’er. Receipts included.
Right after Thanksgiving last year, Michael Harriot, a blogger at The Root, penned a post titled Pete Buttigieg Is a Lying Motherfucker. Yay! Holidays! The entirety of Harriot’s critique was based on a singular, out of context quote from Buttigieg about the multitude of things that hold back black kids in education. The quote, from over eight years ago when Buttigieg was campaigning for Mayor of South Bend, compromises about 15 seconds of a near 20 minute dialog on solutions for education in South Bend offered in a round table discussion of old white, straight dudes and Buttigieg. You can watch it in its entirety here. Harriot never really gave his readers any context and didn’t seem too interested in much more than his own offense at this selected statement. Despite this lack of context or critical examination — by Harriot’s own account, he is most definitely not an investigative journalist — Harriot’s readers loved it. As of this writing and according to the Roots fire indicator, at least 1.7 million people just loved Harriot’s hit. Loved it! Just what they needed to hear, apparently.
Of course, Pete Buttigieg being obnoxiously Pete Buttigieg, called up Harriot who seemed more than surprised and somewhat despondent about having to talk on the phone. Really, really, despondent. The two had a chat. Harriot gave his account of the conversation here, which concluded that Harriot hates phone calls, that Harriot and Buttigieg agreed on pretty much all of the reasons for the set back of black kids in education, and of the two, Buttigieg is more optimistic about what can be done to lift these kids up. Optimistic meaning Buttigieg thinks there are actually things that can be done. Harriot’s “not sure that anyone — a mayor, a governor or even a president — could fix them,” which, of course, is depressing as fuck. In his defense, he does eventually note that he and Buttigieg actually agree on Buttigieg’s argument that things can be done.
At some point, Buttigieg and Harriot also sat down for a one on one as well; you can watch that super cozy chat here and there a couple transcribed sections below. The interview is not conversational — its mostly a series of varyingly informed gotcha questions from Harriot about South Bend’s education and economic development programs specific to black people. Buttigieg, who was the Mayor of the South Bend at time of their chat, had an unsurprising command of these issues in his city and pretty much parries the entirety of Harriot’s gotchas. Take this exchange, for example:
So what do you say to some of your supports and people nationwide who say you were right, who believe that black parents, or lack of role models are responsible for education disparities?
Well, here’s the part that I do think we need to talk about. There is gross under representation for example among teachers of black professionals. We know that when a black student has a black teacher or many black teachers, they are more likely to succeed. We know that that’s an issue. I also think that because of institutional racism the kind of quiet assurance or confidence that white middle class folks sometimes have that going through the steps that are laid out for them is going to work out is not always there for black and brown students. So I think that part deserves to be taken seriously.
I think what you pointed out was that I was… first of all, I may not have elegantly pointed to that issue in that way. But also, that’s only part of the story. We’re also talking about that we’re one of the few countries where when you kids in more economic need, where they are disproportionately black and brown, they would get fewer resources. Most countries got an area where their students need more, they’re going to get a higher spending per pupil. That’s an issue. The fact that a lot of school segregation is the consequence of neighborhood segregation, which we treat as de facto without acknowledging that there were policy decisions, not just long ago, very distant things but within living memory like FDR era policy decisions that took neighborhoods that actually were relatively integrated at the beginning of the 20th century for the simple reason that people had to walk to factories where black and white people worked side by side and contributed to their segregation because of how federal housing funding worked.
Truth. MF tells no lies, turns out. No wonder Harriot didn’t ask Buttigieg to comment on the original quip prior to going to print with his hit Lying MF piece.
As the interview continues, Harriot seems indifferent at times to Buttigieg’s answers and at times to vacillate between happy and set back that Buttigieg seems to give the right answers. Regardless, Harriot’s pretty obviously telegraphing here — he’s not going to give up until he’s got something on Buttigieg.
While we’re talking about segregation, you recently said you didn’t realize how segregated South Bend schools are. And I know that you attended a school that was a private school, now the average tuition there is $8000. And I think those kinds of choices are what white parents and middle class parents get to have. And you know South Bend schools are still disproportionately black What do you say to the people who say well south bend schools are still segregated and how can a person who couldn’t fix the schools in the city where he was mayor, fix the schools nationwide?
So the point I’m making there is that South Bend schools are desegregated by court order, but if you are only looking at the law or you are only working within the boundaries of the city, then you are missing the consequences of the way the districts were drawn. Now, schools are the most important thing that a mayor don’t control, but I didn’t take that sitting down and just ignore opportunities to encourage and support public school students both with partnering with the public school system directly where we could, but also trying to tackle some of these underlying issues. We know what so much a kid is up against is what happens before they go through the doors of the school and after they leave. And that we knew we could do a lot about. So if you look at things like the programming the city runs out of the MLK JR recreational center for example that provides the kind mentorship and wraparound that maybe there hasn’t always been the resources for in the school building but we know is going to benefit public school students. We supported that.
Nationwide, African American students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended and the same is true for the South Bend School Corporation. 62% of the out of school suspensions were for black and brown kids despite the schools being made up of 32% black kids… Again, there are people who wonder how you attack those problems in a country when those problems haven’t been fixed in a city where you’ve been mayor?
So, I think the question is are we asking for somebody that has ended racism and segregation and disparities in a city or anywhere in anywhere in the country and if so, then I would like to meet them. Or are we talking about the work that we’ve done, side by side, not to end any of these problems but to dramatically improve them. I’m proud of the fact that black poverty fell by more than half on my watch, faster than the state and faster than the country. Without pretending that that makes me a miracle worker…
The City of South Bend’s Mayor has zero control over the school system, yet Harriot puts the blame for its problems specific to race squarely on Buttigieg, despite Buttigieg’s efforts to try and address those issues in innovative ways outside of traditional constrictions in South Bend. Harriot hears all of this and then immediately launches into another question blaming poor student achievement on Buttigieg.
The interview continues similarly, demonstrating, again, Buttigieg’s unsurprising command of the issues facing black people in his city, South Bend, but also, possibly surprisingly, possibly not, that Michael Harriot’s critical interest in Pete Buttigieg goes well beyond a singular quote and that he’s probably going to keep trying.
In September of this last year, before Harriot’s quick quip hit piece and his Buttigieg phone and video chats, The Young Turks began pushing a salacious piece targeting Buttigieg’s early administration and its handling of a wiretapping scandal in the South Bend Police Department. That piece was ridiculous as it was titled, Documents: Police Used Buttigieg Donors to Get Him to Fire Black Chief, relying entirely on the word of allegedly racist and homophobic cops sourced in a very iffy, second hand account of the allegedly racist and homophobic cops talking about Buttiegieg and their Chief of Police at the time, Darryl Boykins. The premise of the article is that somehow Pete Buttigieg was conspiring with these racist cops through someone that gave money to Buttigieg’s campaign, in order to get rid of the black Chief of Police.
First rule of observing dumb fucking white people club, racists and homophobes chapter: They’re always full of shit. Don’t cite them, you’ll look like a tool.
If you are unfamiliar with The Young Turks, this is the ardent Bernie Sanders supporting group that would sell their grandmothers into sex slavery in order to get Sanders the Democratic Party nomination. They are so toxic that Bernie Sanders has had to distance himself from them by retracting an endorsement he gave the head bro down at The Young Turks HQ, Cenk Uyger. Yes, the Bernie Sanders who has no problem bro hugging the daylights out of ‘black neighborhoods remind me of the planet of the apes’ Joe Rogan, has distanced himself and his campaign from The Young Turks. They are that bad.
The quotes from the racist cops that The Young Turks think everyone should just believe are sourced in an unverified copy of a deposition from a wrongful employment lawsuit. The actual deposition is partially confidential per court adjudicated settlement. The Young Turks version was so unverified that no one except for The Young Turks says its real and they won’t reveal where they got it. But they standby their ‘reporting’. Needless to say, they couldn’t seem to get any bites on their we-believe-the-secondhand-word-of-bigoted-cops-and-so-should-you hit piece outside of their immediate bubble of an audience in September, bro.
Apparently, Michael Harriot is part of that audience and at some point, The Young Turks and Harriot decided to collaborate, assuming they hadn’t been this whole time. Who knows. Divining the machinations of bloggers, sensationalists and propagandists is beyond the scope of this particular fact check but somewhere there was sausage making and on January 8th of this year, about three weeks ago as of this writing, Michael Harriot produced another piece title Pete Buttigieg’s Invisible Black Police, with a byline of sorts.
Editor’s note: This story was written by Michael Harriot and reported in collaboration with Jonathan Larsen, managing editor for The Young Turks.
Michael Harriot is a better writer than pretty much the entirety of The Young Turks writing bench, combined, times 10. The story he tells about Buttigieg is masterfully crafted and as you’ve probably guessed, held together, in a significant way, by the unverified propaganda produced by the Young Turks that they couldn’t get any traction on back in September. This is giant omission on Harriot’s part. One of many as he crafts his new(ish) narrative about Buttigieg. Nowhere in his entire blog post does Harriot disclose the dubious origins of the document he heavily references throughout the entire first half of this post on policing. Not once. The connection to the Young Turks September hit piece is buried in the small print citation on the cloud pdf link that Harriot includes with comment and you’ll only make that connection if you’ve checked both piece’s references. What’s worse, Harriot proceeds as if this document is gospel truth, unquestioned. Which was and remains far from true. The document, again, is the same unverified, universally denied deposition with re-imagined redactions The Young Turks couldn’t get any bites on back in September. And like the failed September piece, Harriot also projects a sense of we-believe-the-secondhand-word-of-bigoted-cops-and-so-should-you.
In Harriot’s defense, he’s adamant that he is not an investigative journalist (see previous reference). Warning or disclaimer, you decide. Regardless, Harriot has a story to tell about Pete Buttigieg, one he’s tried to start a few times but like The Young Turks’ first go, Harriot’s hasn’t entirely caught fire with the narrative he’s intent on.
Remember these keywords: racism, invisible
Harriot begins Mayor Pete’s Invisible Black Police describing the oftentimes hidden or invisible nature of racism, noting, in particular, “In America, racism doesn’t always present itself in the bold attire of venomous hate. Most often, white supremacy is cloaked in a suit and tie.” He’s not wrong here. Racism is insidious and ever present in the United States. But this isn’t necessarily a piece about racism, its a piece about the police force in South Bend, Indiana while Pete Buttigieg was mayor. Oh, wait. Who wears a suit and tie again? This guy:
In January 2012, Pete Buttigieg stepped into the South Bend, Ind., mayor’s office after winning the city’s first open mayoral election in 24 years. South Bend had three African Americans in visible high level and public leadership positions: Mayor’s Assistant Lynn Coleman; Fire Chief Howard Buchanon and Police Chief Darryl Boykins.
Within three months, all three would be gone.
If you weren’t certain about Harriot’s agenda before, then you are now. The implication here is that Buttigieg, through some vaguely racist (remember, suit and tie, keyword: invisible), nefarious scheme, got rid of these black leaders in South Bend’s government. If you’re part of that The Young Turks audience that relies on the secondhand word of racist cops, then you are nodding along right with Harriot already. Regardless, what Harriot is implying couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, Fire Chief Buchanon was reappointed to Fire Chief by Buttigieg, but instead chose to retire after nearly 40 years at the fire department and gave notice before Buttigieg even began his term. Buttigieg was at his retirement party. Lynn Coleman served in an entirely political role — an assistant to the previous Mayor. As is typical, Buttigieg brought in his own direct reports. There’s nothing unusual or nefarious about executive transitions and direct report support staff changes. Harriot conveniently leaves those facts out and pretends that an assistant to the mayor is anything other than an assistant to the mayor. And while that doesn’t mean he’s told a textbook lie, it does mean he wants you to believe something that isn’t true, which is the same damn thing. KellyAnne, are you ghost writing for Michael Harriot? Moonlighter.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 1, Buttigieg: 0
Chief Boykins was reappointed by Buttigieg and sworn in. Out of these three, his is the only case which involves actual action by Buttigieg that can be considered atypical and the issue is complicated. But that runs counter to the notion that the villain Buttigieg was out for all the fine black folk of South Bends municipal government, doesn’t it? One out of three is just too… not-absolute when painting a certain picture of racism.
Specific to Chief Boykins’ story, Harriot summarizes from his already demonstrably biased perspective, in part:
Boykins had served as a police officer in South Bend for 27 years before he was appointed as the city’s first (and to date, only) black police chief in 2007. In 2011, after the city’s police telephone recording system crashed, SBPD Communications Director Karen DePaepe discovered recordings of white officers allegedly using racist rhetoric and concocting a way to get rid of Boykins with the help of top donors to Buttigieg’s then-ongoing mayoral campaign. DePaepe made five cassette tapes of the most egregious remarks and described them in legal documents the city has had for years. One officer allegedly said: “It will be a fun time when all white people are in charge.”
Soon after Buttigieg took office, word got out about the tapes and the officers complained that the recordings violated the Federal Wiretap Act. Even though the recording system had been in place for more than a decade, its existence somehow became the black guy’s fault.
Here’s another lie and boy its a big one. It’s a lie that the disciplinary issue surrounding Boykins’ behavior was the existence of a recording system. A complete and total lie.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 2, Buttigieg: 0
In reality, it was upon discovery of this system and its apparent inadvertent recording of the officers in question, that Boykins was informed and chose not to stop the recording activity. Conversations were being recorded by mistake until Boykins became aware of the recordings and did nothing to prevent the continued recording of his officers. The recordings continued when the Chief of Police should have stopped them. They certainly should have been stopped ethically, quite possibly legally. Further, Boykins later instructed DePaepe, the person who had discovered the recordings, to make copies for his use.
No one, not Boykins or DePaepe have ever, in any public record, denied that the recordings continued after the mistake was discovered. Harriot, and previously The Young Turks, are the only ones claiming something else happened. Which is yet another, egregious lie.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 3, Buttigieg: 0
Boykins and Depaepe were demoted and let go, respectively, for knowingly recording officers without their express permission (also known as wiretapping). Depaepe, in her deposition (redacted version released by the City of South Bend) and in subsequent media interviews, hinted, but did not explicitly state that the recordings continued because the officers had made comments that were suspect and bigoted (possibly towards both Boykins and Buttigieg). Regardless, recording subordinates in a work situation without their knowledge is generally considered a tremendous invasion of privacy, especially in progressive politics. In most ethically constrained and governed situations, anyone would have been fired for such activity in a municipal government, regardless of what was recorded. Michael Harriot knows this and his bros at The Young Turks know this as well.
Harriot takes particular issue with the reasoning that Buttigieg has repeatedly used to justify his demotion of Boykins, that Boykins was the “subject” or “target” of an FBI investigation. Harriot claims that its not true that Boykins was the “subject” or “target” of an FBI investigation and therefore, “no one knows why Buttigieg… demoted [Boykins]”:
Buttigieg repeatedly says he demoted Boykins because Boykins was the “subject” or “target” of an FBI investigation — but the U.S. attorney has never confirmed that Boykins was the “subject” or “target” of their investigation. Pete’s chief of staff confirmed that the U.S. attorney never said it in a deposition.
He also insists that Boykins’ demotion had nothing to do with race and he has yet to comment publicly on the fact that DePaepe’s secret legal documents quote police as saying he agreed to get rid of Boykins before he even became mayor.
No one knows why Buttigieg pressured Boykins to resign and subsequently demoted him. The only thing we know is Buttigieg’s explanation that Boykins was the target of a federal investigation is not true. It was never true. Still, Buttigieg — or proxies from his campaign — continue to repeat it.
Turns out, US Attorneys and the FBI are two separate things. Again, we aren’t talking about a work of investigative journalism here. Luckily for all those interested in the truth, the Associated Press is on it and managed to get the actual FBI report on this case. A report titled REDACTED, South Bend Police Department, Intercepted Wire Communication, Sensitive Investigative Matter. The investigative report contains the following determination:
Investigation determined that approximately two years ago, recording of the Captain of the Detective Bureau’s telephone line was mistakenly initiated instead of the Chief of the Detective Bureau’s telephone line. Even after the SBPD Chief [Boykins] and Director of Communications [Dapaepe] were made aware of this error, the recordings continued. During maintenance of the phone logger system, the Director of Communications heard some recorded conversations which she brought to the Chief’s attention.
This particular report is a page and a half and its subject is entirely the activity of Boykins and DePaepe. It’s a lie that Boykins wasn’t a subject of an FBI investigation and therefore also a lie that “no one knows why” Buttigieg demoted Boykins. That’s two giant lies, that when revealed, completely undercut Harriot’s implied notion that Buttigieg is out to get these people for some unknown (but highly likely racist) reason. Not that it should matter, but for perspective’s sake: DePaepe, the one actually fired for the incident, she’s white.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 5, Buttigieg: 0
In case anyone is curious, the legality of the recordings, despite Harriot implying that they were just all fine and dandy, is still being adjudicated.
In his retelling of the Chief Boykins saga, Harriot wants his readers to believe three fundamental things, things that really call into question Buttigieg’s honesty and make him out to be racist in action, right from the beginning of his mayoralty. First, Harriot wants his readers to believe that Buttigieg is out for the good black folks in city government. Its why Harriot implies that the three most senior black people in South Bend government were removed in some fashion by Buttigieg. Which is, of course, a lie. One retirement, one assistant replaced with Buttigieg’s actual assistant and one police chief demoted for, at a minimum, unethically recording his subordinates. Next, Harriot wants his readers to believe that Buttigieg didn’t have a legitimate reason to demote Boykins. Harriot, as shown, lies about this. Boykins wrongly recorded his subordinates and no one denies that the recordings took place. Third, Harriot wants his readers to believe that Buttigieg willfully lied about his reason for demoting Boykins — Buttigieg based his decision on the fact that the FBI was investigating the matter and Boykins was a subject of that investigation. Harriot has lied, demonstrably. The AP provided the FBI receipts for all to see. All three of these fundamental claims by Harriot were and remain lies and without this bullshit narrative, it is much more difficult for Harriot to do what he attempts next: lie about Buttigieg’s role in the supposed ghosting of black police officer discrimination complaints in the immediate aftermath of the Boykins scandal and Buttigieg’s role in the City of South Bend’s struggle to recruit black and minority police.
This would not be the last time Buttigieg and the city of South Bend would be accused of discriminating against a black police officer.
Over the course of the last month, The Root and The Young Turks have received internal documents, examined formal complaints, and interviewed former officers who outlined a pattern of racial discrimination against black police officers in South Bend. The alleged discrimination spanned the course of multiple police chiefs, captains, and supervisors. The only common denominator is that every black complainant mentions one name:
If you’ve bought into the lies Harriot just told you, then at this point its just singing to the choir. Harriot really is that good of a writer. From here, Harriot proceeds to detail the various complaints, internal documents and interviews substantiating his and TYT’s very serious claim. The new internal documents and the multiple police officer interview transcripts are outlined here:
Haha, JK. The vast majority of the documents linked to in the second portion of Harriot’s piece are documents previously examined by The Young Turks in their failed bid to paint Buttigieg as a racist with their own, atrocious writing. What appears to be the partial text of one email one officer might have sent to Buttigieg is included, but without the original or any sourcing or really any indication that it truly is an email sent. A quite important document, a police inspection report summary of sorts is bizarrely, biasedly re-summarized by Harriot. Harriot claims he and the Young Turks have possession of this particular document, but the document is not shared. The entire second act of what is quite obvious by now Harriot’s ‘Pete Buttigieg is a racist’ blog post is comprised of references to documentation not provided and summations of documents already dragged around by The Young Turks.
But, of course, substantiation of their stories is not Harriot’s mission. Remember, this is a blog post about Pete Buttigieg and two keywords: invisible, racism. In his second section, Harriot describes two incidents that are verifiable through internet searches and some of the official complaint documents released by the City of South Bend. Outside of Harriot’s narrative that Pete Buttigieg is a racist, these two stories are pretty poor reflections on the state of police force that Buttigieg’s administration inherited and the difficulties it experienced following the the Boykins wiretapping scandal. In general, taken without the critique that has been noted to be fairly impossible without real documentation or direct contact with the officers involved, they appear to be tremendous indictments of the Police Chief hired to replace Boykins, Chief Teachman.
The first of these stories involves a black police officer, David Newton, who filed an official complaint against the Chief of Police in South Bend for not backing him up. This is how the local news station, WSBT, reported the incident:
Lieutenant David Newton is the officer Teachman’s accused of not backing up during the fight.
“I got on my radio, called out, said I needed cars to come back me up,” Newton recalled. “Then I just started yelling for people to leave. I just wanted them to leave because I had about 60 children behind me playing on the playground then, about 40 people playing basketball on the courts.”
Even he’s not sure about whether Teachman did or did not back him up.
“I really don’t know because I was busy. I was out there concentrating on what I was doing. I did not make an issue of it at the time because the incident was over,” Newton said.
Harriot’s primary problem with Buttigieg’s involvement in this incident seems to stem from Buttigieg not releasing the incident report, which is in a private personnel file. Basically, Harriot is advocating the violation of one officers privacy in order to substantiate the claim of another, despite all of it being adjudicated through official channels. Harriot claims that he and The Young Turks have obtained some sort of version of this incident report, but Harriot doesn’t provide it. Got that? Harriot’s problem with Buttigieg’s handling of this incident is based, in large part, on Buttigieg’s unwillingness to violate an officer’s privacy and hand over a personnel file document. But Harriot supposedly has a version of the document but doesn’t produce it. Seriously. Instead he provides an unsubstantiated summation in oddly biased couching. The very first line of the supposed reports summation:
Teachman used the excuse that he didn’t back up Newton because he had to pee.
There’s about a negative five percent chance that a police incident report is couched so ridiculously. And remember, Harriot claims to actually have this document, but doesn’t actually provide it. It’s because he’s lying. He doesn’t have the document or he doesn’t like what it says. Either way, he’s dropping in what he wants people to believe it says. It’s egregious and at this point, it should be embarrassing. But he has a story to tell, let’s continue.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 6, Buttigieg: 0
The second story Harriot relates is about two black officers, Nathan Cannon and Marcus Wright, who were denied promotions. This story seems to be relayed entirely second hand, through the documentation of events in court and settlement documents (Harriot actually links to these: Wright, Cannon) and two letters (Board of Public Safety, Common Council) written by an officer, but not the officers involved here (these letters are linked and addressed later in this fact check). Neither of the two officers focused on in this story are quoted in Harriot’s blog post and it is uncertain whether Harriot even talked to either of them. Both officers eventually sued the city. One lost his case in court and the other opted to settle out of court with the City. Harriot doesn’t actually mention any specific role Buttigieg played in this other than to intimate: invisible, racism:
In his defense, Pete for America also explained to The Root that Buttigieg only became aware of the concerns of black officers after some of the officers filed EEOC complaints which, the campaign notes, were ultimately dismissed.
Pete Buttigieg is a lying…
Maybe Pete Buttigieg can’t see. Perhaps the black officers were not loud enough for Buttigieg to hear. Or maybe he’s deaf. There is ample evidence proving the black cops complained loudly about racism on the force before anyone filed an EEOC complaint. TYT and The Root have examined a slew of court records, memos, and emails, which revealed that the SBPD’s dwindling supply of black cops alerted every available resource to them of the discrimination in Mayor Pete’s police force.
Harriot has absolutely no grounds with which to claim Buttigieg is lying about anything here, let alone when Buttigieg did or did not hear about these complaints. Harriot’s assertion here relies entirely on the narrative he’s worked tirelessly to establish. If you believe the lies he’s told thus far, then this just makes sense. Of course Buttigieg is lying! And despite Harriot’s insinuation that Buttigieg needs to be a mind reader, the EEOC complaints for Cannon and Wright did come before any communication with the Mayor’s office because there is no evidence they reached out to Buttigieg prior to filing their claims. Harriot offers no evidence that either officer engaged the Mayor’s office directly. Michael Harriot, it turns out, is a motherfucking liar.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 7, Buttigieg: 0
What’s more insidious, however, is Harriot’s use of these narratives to insinuate that Buttigieg chose to ignore officer complaints (remember: invisible, racism). Harriot implies a choice, by ridiculing reality. This is all a choice Buttigieg has made because he is racist. Scratch that — because black cops are invisible to him. Harriot:
Not only is there a mountain of evidence showing that the city’s black officers felt marginalized, but we could not find a single black complainant who said Buttigieg responded to their concerns personally or in writing.
When The Root asked Buttigieg if he was aware black officers had raised issues of racism and discrimination, his campaign would only say that Buttigieg was aware “that some officers had filed complaints with the EEOC, and those were ultimately dismissed.” They also claimed they couldn’t respond because “doing so in the middle of a legal process would’ve been inappropriate.”
To be fair, maybe the black cops were invisible to Mayor Pete.
The dismissal of municipal processes here is ingenuously bizarre and completely insincere. Harriot insists, through insinuation, that somehow, in some superhuman fashion, Pete Buttigieg is supposed to be able to entirely circumvent the legal and ethical processes and institutions of a city in order to respond to specific individual complaints. He would basically be the only mayor in the entire United States with that ability. Just like he insists that Buttigieg is supposed to violate one officer’s personnel file in order to satisfy another person’s want to see that file, Harriot wants Buttigieg to have interjected and intervened in a process that is setup to protect people and ensure the ethical provision of justice. And the harsh reality is that for a city mayor, anywhere, to engage in communication with people suing the city or filing EEOC complaints, outside of official channels (i.e., city lawyers and EEOC process) is abnormal and would probably be stopped or interfered with by any city attorney worth their pay. Welcome to America, Michael Harriot — land of the litigious. Harriot knows all of this, but this doesn’t fit the invisible, racism theme he is intent upon.
At what appears to be the sort of climax of the awful Chief Teachman saga (he took the job in 2012 and resigned in 2015), Harriot relates a story of what is supposedly a group of black officers, estimated by Harriot to represent half of the black employees of the police department, who sent a letter to the City’s Common Council (where the Mayor is represented), demanding action on Teachman’s shittiness as a Chief of Police. According to Harriot, the officers were ignored, no one responded. Here’s the first sentence of that letter that was ‘sent’:
We are here today for several important reasons.
That letter was not sent to Common Council, it was delivered in a Common Council meeting and read into the Council’s minutes as public comment. You can see for yourself right here.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 8, Buttigieg: 0
Harriot claims that,
They sent a third letter to Deputy Mayor Mark Neal (at the time, Buttigieg was serving in Afghanistan) and the city’s human resources department.
These were actually CCs of the same letter that was read into the minutes of Common Council, addressed to Common Council. You can see a copy right here, receipt stamps and all. Yet, Harriot continues to note, that they “did not get a response.” The letter doesn’t ask Buttigieg for a response and it was merely cc’d to his office. Plus, it was read aloud by a single officer in the presence of the very same Mayor’s Deputy that received the carbon copy. Not his Afghanistan office (where he was at the time), but his South Bend office. But remember, Harriot wants you to know that these officers are invisible to the racist Buttigieg.
Yeah, you read that right, Buttigieg wasn’t even in the damn country when this letter (singular) writing campaign was being undertaken. Harriot just sort of glazes over that fact. Surprised? There’s a theme here: Michael Harriot is still a motherfucking liar and it gets worse.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 9, Buttigieg: 0
What Harriot is leaving out entirely from the narrative he’s woven with lie after lie is the likely origins of an outsized portion of the inquiring-minds-want-to-know part of this second half of his story, the two stories about the awful Chief Teachman as well as the letter writing campaign. Pretty much the entirety of this narrative can be found in the letters linked above, written and in one instance delivered alone to Common Council (recorded in minutes), by former South Bend police officer Theodore Robert.
Harriot implies that a good many officers were involved in the letter writing effort, but Robert’s signature is the only one visible on the letters as linked by Harriot and despite claims of interviewS, Harriot only provides contemporary quotes from one officer (more on this below). Robert was apparently the only officer present at the Common Council meeting where the letter was read into minutes, by Robert in June of 2014. So, what’s so special about Officer Robert? Well, in 2010 he beat up a handcuffed man in his custody and in 2015 plead guilty to federal felony charges after an obviously lengthy investigation and indictment. Robert was suspended the May preceding this letter writing campaign and resigned the October after, almost certain to be dismissed.The letters Robert wrote, while under quite serious federal investigation himself, are the core source of Harriot’s entire second act in his Buttigieg’s-a-racist epic (its over 5000 words, in case you were wondering). Robert used these letters and his campaign to file a discrimination suit at the same time he was indicted on felony charges. His discrimination suit was ultimately dismissed with prejudice after he plead guilty to felony battery charges. So, to recap: a very bad cop, who plead guilty to being a very bad cop and effectively ran a discrimination charade for a potential defense to felony charges, is Harriot’s big source. Secondarily, to boot, because it doesn’t look like anything Harriot wrote about or relayed from Robert is contemporary. Harriot derived everything from the letters Robert put together in an attempt to build a defense against charges he would ultimately plead guilty to (Robert beating the man in his custody is on video, btw. It won’t be linked here, you can google it). Here’s how Harriot disclosed all of this:
Theodore Robert, later resigned from the force after being demoted and suspended for use of excessive force.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 10, Buttigieg: 0
Harriot doesn’t appear to provide any input from officers on record (save one that will be addressed momentarily) because he didn’t talk to any and if he did, what they told him didn’t fit his narrative. If he talked to them and it was good, there would be quotes. The three officers discussed in the two stories about the awful Teachman? Not quoted, so probably not talked to and if they were interviewed, they didn’t say what Harriot wanted them to say. Any of the letter signers? Nope, not a one. And again, not even a contemporary quote from Robert, the very bad cop who wrote the letters.
As mentioned, there’s one exception to this complete lack of on-record engagement with actual officers from South Bend and boy is it an extraordinary one: former South Bend police officer Davin Hackett. Harriot actually quotes Hackett on three separate occasions, with enough distance between each so that it might appear the story has contemporary on-record comments from multiple officers. It does not. It’s just Hackett. Here’s one of Hackett’s quotes:
“South Bend is like an onion — the more layers you peel away, the more you want to cry.”
How poetic, its like a goddamn Greek tragedy. So who is this officer Hackett? Well, first its former officer Hackett, to be absolutely clear. He hasn’t been with the force for at least a couple of years. Most recently, he ran for Common Council in South Bend and lost. As a Trump Republican. Against one of Pete Buttigieg’s South Bend political allies. That’s right, the one and the only officer that Harriot could get on record for a hit piece making Buttigieg out to be a racist, that former officer is also a Trump Republican who had just lost an election to Pete Buttigieg’s pal, Filipino-American Councilwoman Rachael Thomas Morgan.
To recap: in over 5,000 words of innuendo, lies and rapt storytelling, the only black officer, former or current, that Harriot could get to go on record is a Trump Republican who just lost an election to Pete Buttigieg’s political ally. Did Harriot disclose this little inconvenience? Absolutely not, because Michael Harriot wants you to believe something else and Michael Harriot, turns out, is a lying MF.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 11, Buttigieg: 0
The last argument Harriot makes that he really wants you to believe is that the shrinking representation of black officers on the South Bend Police force is Pete Buttigieg’s fault, because racist. Sorry, because invisible. Yes, its as exhausting as it sounds.
At this point in the narrative, Harriot has told all of his lies except for this final, vapid insinuation that entirely neglects, well, the entire reality of the United States in the last decade or so. Nearly every police department in the United States has struggled to recruit diverse police officers. Apparently, Michael Harriot has missed the news for a while. Police work is not on the top of black and brown kids’ lists of dream jobs. Here is what Captain Mattie Taylor, a South Bend police officer and black woman had to say about diversity recruitment when the task fell to her (while Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend):
Well-qualified minorities also find themselves in high demand and can choose lucrative and glamorous careers in the private sector or federal agencies such as the FBI or CIA. And while South Bend has a significant minority population, there is simply a much larger pool of white candidate.
And here, from one of her recruitment predecessors in South Bend:
Recruiting African-Americans — good luck. It’s probably gotten worse, especially looking at what’s happening across the country.
Buttigieg and South Bend tried and failed to build a diverse police force. And that fact sucks. Pete Buttigieg agrees that he failed on this point and that it sucks. Everyone agrees. It also seems that South Bend is not unique in the failure, in these times. Here’s some more input from Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, referencing diversity focused recruitment in policing everywhere:
Honestly, the narrative has not been good for the police the last five years and, especially in the minority community, it has been affected by local and national incidents. The relationship between the community and police has been strained, especially in the African-American community.
Pete Buttigieg is not superhuman and he’s not a magic homo. He’s also not racist because he couldn’t stop a national tide from the Mayor’s Office in South Bend, Indiana. Its stupid to suggest otherwise and only a lying MF would do so.
LYING MF TRACKER: Harriot 12, Buttigieg: 0
It’s impossible to know if Michael Harriot actually believes Pete Buttigieg is racist. What is known, however, is that Harriot wants you to believe that Pete Buttigieg is racist and that Michael Harriot is quite willing to tell multiple lies fundamental to his case in order to get what he wants.
But for what reason? What exactly does Michael Harriot or The Root have to gain from attempting to make the first LGBTQ+ candidate for President of the United States into some sort of racist? The alliance with The Young Turks is probably a pretty decent indication about what’s up, but that would make Harriot not only a lying MF, but the worst kind of cynical MF as well. Maybe it’s the over one and a half million reads on a blog post, a pretty significant get, but is it worth the lying? Worth the loss of reputation? Worth the damage caused to the societal mission of equality? Seriously, WTF?
Mr. Harriot, want to tell a story? That’s nice. Get a decent editor, please.
Harriot told a lot of well crafted lies in a lengthy blog post, which has made this fact check even longer. Focusing only on the most egregious lies has aided an attempt at brevity, but didn’t make brevity a reality. Apologies. There are quite a few other fudges and dodges and various bullshit in his piece(s), smaller in impact, that were left out of this fact check. And speaking of editing, this piece is not (aside from the self editing). It’s a labor of love and also not a salacious accusation of racism, just a record correction. So, if you see a missing link, broken link, misspelling, have any other edit recommendation or feedback, please feel free to reach out or comment.