The Washington Post and biased reporting

Ever since he announced that he was running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) has been the target of our friends on the left, including the professional media. From The Washington Post:


Rick Perry holds the record on executions

By Robert Barnes, Published: August 23

Texas Gov. Rick Perry brings to the presidential race a law-and-order credential that none of his competitors can match — even if they wanted to.

In his nearly 11 years as the state’s chief executive, Perry, now running for the Republican presidential nomination, has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history: 234 and counting. That’s more than the combined total in the next two states — Oklahoma and Virginia — since the death penalty was restored 35 years ago.

Note the phraseology: Governor Perry “has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history.” To “oversee” means “to watch over and direct; supervise.” If you stopped reading the article at the point at which I ceased quoting, and you understood the definition of the word “oversee,” you would believe that Governor Perry had somehow scheduled and directed the 234 executions which have occurred in the Lone Star State since he took office eleven years ago.

But, if you read further, ten paragraphs further — something Patterico has referred to as The Power of the Jump™¹ — you’ll learn:

Texans and their representatives give governors little room to slow down the process.

Decisions to seek the death penalty are made by local prosecutors. Unlike in some states, the governor does not sign death warrants or set execution dates. The state constitution prohibits the governor from calling a moratorium on executions and allows clemency only when the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it, which is rarely.

Emphasis mine. I wonder: just how does an official who has no authority to schedule executions, and no authority to stop them (he does have the power to issue a single thirty-day stay) actually “oversee” executions?

The Post story accurately noted that Governor Perry supports capital punishment, as do all of his “main competitors,” including President Obama, and that his support has been active, vetoing a bill which would have made mentally retarded murderers ineligible for capital punishment,² and sharply criticizing Roper v Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles were not eligible for the death penalty.

And the Post also noted the execution of Cameron Todd Wil­lingham, in 2004. There is a lot of speculation that Mr Willingham was innocent of the murders for which he was convicted, and executed, with the claim being that very faulty forensic evidence was used in his trial to convict him. In the month prior to his execution, appeals for clemency and a new trial were received and reviewed by Governor Perry, the Texas Court of Criminal appeals and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, and none saw any reason, from what they had in the appeals they received, to delay Mr Willingham’s execution. But, if your only source of information on the case was the story in The Washington Post, you wouldn’t know that the Court of Criminal Appeals or Board of Pardons and Parole had reviewed the case, only that Mr Perry had an unspecified “role in the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Wil­lingham.”

Do you like the chart at the right? That is also from the Post, accessible from the sidebar to the main story linked, under the following headline and blurb:


Executions in Texas

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any other governor in the nation since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Of the five governors who have overseen the most executions, three are from Texas.

Yup, there’s the loaded, but wholly inaccurate, verb, “overseen,” again. Who knows, maybe Governor Perry wishes that he had more authority in the execution process and really could claim that he has “overseen” 234 executions, but it doesn’t matter if he wishes it or not: he does not have it. If the good citizens of Texas elected the Pope to be their next Governor, it still wouldn’t matter: capital punishment would proceed in Texas anyway. The editors of The Washington Post know that, yet still chose to use inaccurate words and descriptions to slant the article.

Why did I write this article? It’s simple: I already knew that the Governor of Texas did not have the power to grant pardons or commute sentences on his own, and I knew that death warrants in Texas were signed by judges, not the Governor. Yet I’ve seen several references to Governor Perry “signing a death warrant,” the most recent one in a comment on the Delaware Liberal, and I realized that we cannot count on fairness or unbiased reporting from the professional media on this subject.

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¹ – “‘The Power of the Jump’™ is a semi-regular feature of this site, documenting examples of the Los Angeles Times’s use of its back pages to hide information that its editors don’t want you to see.” With this Patterico is referring to editing which reports facts which are inconvenient to the liberal mindset on the second page of the story, rather than with the headlined section.
² – Atkins v Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), held that executions of mentally retarded criminals are “cruel and unusual punishments” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
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Cross Posted on Truth Before Dishonor.

36 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Washington Post and biased reporting « Truth Before Dishonor

  2. Of course, being the longest-serving governor in Texas, it’s quite logical that he would have “overseen” more executions.

  3. It doesn’t hurt that, aside from the wackadoodle Liberal California which wouldn’t find it in themselves to execute Pol Pot, Texas is by far the most populous state either.

    As Ron White said (approvingly, I might add), Texas added an express lane. I only wish more states would add an express lane.

  4. “o·ver·see (vr-s)
    tr.v. o·ver·saw (-sô), o·ver·seen (-sn), o·ver·see·ing, o·ver·sees
    1. To watch over and direct; supervise. See Synonyms at supervise.
    2. To subject to scrutiny; examine or inspect.

    Why did I write this article? It’s simple:

    Because you’re a lo0n who conflates his own ignorance and inability to check a simple definition into a grievance against his own paranoid fantasies.

  5. “Note the phraseology: Governor Perry “has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history.” To “oversee” means “to watch over and direct; supervise.” If you stopped reading the article at the point at which I ceased quoting, and you understood the definition of the word “oversee,” you would believe that Governor Perry had somehow scheduled and directed the 234 executions which have occurred in the Lone Star State since he took office eleven years ago.”

    I am picking up on the same point as PiaToR. You are stretching here, Dana. Even though Rick Perry does not have the power to stay an execution, by TX law, he has the authority to perform an oversight function, which he has in fact done, as in the case of Mr. Willingham, which you cited. Governor Perry chose not to object to the execution, so the NYT coverage was accurate, if not complete.

    Moreover, it is extraordinary to me that TX, under Mr. Perry as well, has such a high rate of executions; and, it is evidence to me of a barbaric state of mind among those in TX, Mr. Perry included, for permitting their state sponsored premeditated murder to occur in the civilized society which we pretend to be!

    The TX Conference of Churches in 1998 has it right:

    “Resolution Opposing the Death Penalty: Adopted unanimously by the General Assembly of the Texas Conference of Churches
    February 24, 1998

    WHEREAS the Texas Conference of Churches, in 1973 and 1977, and many of the churches and judicatories belonging to the Texas Conference of Churches have made clear statements in opposition to and calling for the abolition of the death penalty; and

    WHEREAS the Bible does authorize every government to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4) and the governments and nations of this world are also called upon to care for “the least of these brothers and sisters” of Christ (Matt. 25:40) thus imposing upon each government and nation the obligation to respond to human situations and crises with justice and mercy; and

    WHEREAS Jesus clearly rejected any ideas of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” (Matt 5:28-39), and the God of Israel insisted that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” (Deut. 32:35; and

    WHEREAS in our modern society we have means of keeping an offender from harming others. Although in previous times people of faith have employed capital punishment, today we have the ability to realize better the principles of mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love for all people as evoked in the Hebrew Scriptures by the Prophet Ezekiel: “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back from your evil ways.” (Ez. 33:11)* and

    WHEREAS the evidence is overwhelming that racism, classism and economics are governing factors in administering the death penalty; and that greater numbers of people of color are executed than is reflected in the general population; that mentally incapacitated people and far too many poor and uneducated people have been executed – thus demonstrating the injustice of the current practice of exercising the death penalty; and

    WHEREAS we believe that the compassionate example of Christ calls us to respect the God-given image found even in hardened criminals, and we stand in solidarity with the profound pain of the victims of brutal crime,* therefore be it

    RESOLVED that the Texas Conference of Churches in Assembly in San Antonio, February 24, 1998, calls on the State of Texas to put an end to the practice of exercising the death penalty and reaffirms its previous resolutions in 1973 and 1977 in opposition to the death penalty; and be it further

    RESOLVED that all judicatories, churches, members and caring citizens acknowledge our complicity in the continuing use of and support of the death penalty. When we are silent in the face of injustice, cruelty or oppression, our silence becomes our assent; and be it further

    RESOLVED that we call upon all judicatories, churches, members and caring citizens to work in every way possible to oppose the death penalty and to work to create a humane, just and decent society; ….”

    Mr. Perry is out of touch and out of step with the basic concept of the sanctity of life. One would think that his claim of being Christian would compel him to exert the oversight of which he is empowered by TX law. He has not done so! The New York Times is correct to focus on this issue.

  6. it is evidence to me of a barbaric state of mind among those in TX, Mr. Perry included, for permitting their state sponsored premeditated murder to occur in the civilized society which we pretend to be!

    Mr. Perry is out of touch and out of step with the basic concept of the sanctity of life.

    Since you insist on calling abortion by its “proper name,” it is NOT “state sponsored premeditated murder” but “execution.” Further, your outrageous hypocrisy is on display again as you whine and moan about such executions, but believe you have NO say in a woman terminating the life of her unborn child.

    YOU are out of step, Herr Censor. With the basic concept of the sanctity of life … and basic rationality.

  7. “Moreover, it is extraordinary to me that TX, under Mr. Perry as well, has such a high rate of executions; and, it is evidence to me of a barbaric state of mind among those in TX, Mr. Perry included, for permitting their state sponsored premeditated murder to occur in the civilized society which we pretend to be!”

    And there you go again Perry. Someone (or in this case an entire state) disagrees with you and simply stating your disagreement isn’t enough. You must somehow smear them. In this case because you don’t like Texas’ approach to crime and punishment they are “barbarians” and of course, so is Gov. Perry. But even that’s not a big enough smear, no, no. They must further be called “premeditated murderers”.

    Can’t you say something like: I live in Delaware and under the Tenth Ammendment we approach our crime and punishment this way…blah….blah? I disagree with the approach in Texas and do not believe in capital punishment? Why do you find it neccessary to demean those who you don’t agree with using “barbarian”, “murderer”, “wicked” etc, etc? It must be something in the DNA of you guys. Look at Pho’s entry above. Just pointing out where he thinks Dana erred isn’t good enough, he has to start out with “Because you’re a loon”, then follows up with calling Dana ignorant. Four entries ahead of mine and not one snide remark till we go to Pho, then you jumped in also.

  8. “…, but believe you have NO say in a woman terminating the life of her unborn child.”

    On the contrary, Hube, I have said that I do have a “say”, which is to state my opinion against abortion, and/or to counsel a woman not to have an abortion. Do you recall that?

    In the eyes of the law, there is a distinction between a fetus and a person, a distinction you refuse to acknowledge. There is also a distinction between a mother who aborts her fetus, which is legal, and a person who commits murder, which is not legal, a distinction you refuse to acknowledge.

    Now what is it again that you are trying to say? Is it that you recommend the death penalty for a woman who chooses to abort her fetus, legally?

    This illustrates how incoherent your logic is on this issue, Hube!

  9. Perry, “in the eyes of the law” there is also a distinction between legal capital punishment and “premeditated murder”, just so you know.

  10. Sorry to offend your sensibilities, John, but I feel very strongly that the use of the death penalty is “barbarian”, thus I choose to use that term. If that is a smear, so be it.

    Moreover, referring to the death penalty as “state sponsored premeditated murder”, is that not an accurate description of the practice? I understand your shock, since you may not have ever before run across that terminology, but according to the definitions of those words, I am accurate in using them, don’t you think? Note that I did not actually call Mr. Perry a “murderer”, although if he has not exercised his oversight responsibility, he is complicit and accountable.

    This is something like, if you stand by and do nothing when witnessing a parent beating his/her child in the supermarket, you are accountable, for doing nothing!

    Or if you stand by and do nothing when in combat and the enemy has you or your buddy in his sights, you are accountable, for doing nothing.

    Or, if you say nothing when your niece says she is going to have an abortion, you are accountable, for doing nothing.

    Or if I knowing here that Governor Perry refuses to exert oversight on the death penalty, and I say nothing on this blog, I am accountable to myself, for saying nothing!

    That’s the way I look at taking responsibility, John, which extends to many every day situations that come up in my life all the time, large and small, depending on the issue and the environment.

  11. “Perry, “in the eyes of the law” there is also a distinction between legal capital punishment and “premeditated murder”, just so you know.”

    I’m not sure about that, John. And by the way, “state sponsored, premeditated murder” is the term I used.

    How about the irreversibility of executing an innocent person, John, taking into account that the judgments in a court of law are not always accurate? For that reason alone, everyone should oppose the death penalty.

    A good description of the moral reasons against the death penalty is the piece by the Council of Churches which I posted above. Did you read it?

    I do not subscribe to the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” approach, because it ignores the circumstances surrounding an action which must always be taken into consideration, like acting in self-defense for example.

  12. “Wonder how many “abortions” Rick Perry oversaw in the same time?”

    Well one thing Rick Perry oversaw was the TX law requiring women seeking abortions to have a sonogram first. What about freedom is it that Perry does not understand? Oh I know, it depends. Anyway, a Federal Judge has modified this extremely intrusive law:

    “AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key provisions of Texas’ new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients.

    U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed, but struck down the provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to their patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions.

    The law made exceptions for women who were willing to sign statements saying they were pregnant as a result of rape or incest or that their fetus had an irreversible abnormality. Sparks questioned whether the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature was trying to “permanently brand” women who are victims of sexual assault.

    The group said it had already received notice the state plans to appeal.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who is running for president, was critical of Tuesday’s ruling. Perry had made the law one of his top priorities for the 2011 legislative session.

  13. Well Perry, it like this. Those who were executed had a lawyer, a trial with a judge, a jury of their peers, appeals processes and had access to go to the supreme court. The baby had none of the above, and the outcome was the same, somebody died.

  14. In the eyes of the law, there is a distinction between a fetus and a person, a distinction you refuse to acknowledge. There is also a distinction between a mother who aborts her fetus, which is legal, and a person who commits murder, which is not legal, a distinction you refuse to acknowledge.

    Ah yes, the law. Of course, however, when something occurs that Perry disagrees with — like, for instance, Scott Walker being the ELECTED head of state and LEGALLY acting legislation — he is called a “dictator.” Need I also remind you that slavery was legal and permissible “in the eyes of the law.”

    Oh, and why do you call an execution “murder” then why you just noted that there is a LEGAL difference between “abortion” and “murder?” And execution is LEGAL, murder is not — a distinction you refuse to acknowledge.

    Once again, you’ve twisted yourself into a rhetorical pretzel trying to reconcile your usual id1ocy.

  15. I’m not sure about that, John. And by the way, “state sponsored, premeditated murder” is the term I used.

    Well, the first part of that is correct, at least. More accurately it should be “I’m clueless about that, John.”

    Please elucidate for us, Perry: How is “abortion” the proper term but not “murder,” yet “execution” or “capital punishment” NOT the proper term but more accurately “state sponsored, premeditated murder”?

    See if you can answer with at least 10% common sense.

  16. Again, for your sake Hube, I asked: “Is it that you recommend the death penalty for a woman who chooses to abort her fetus, legally?”

    Hopefully that will clear up your confusion!

  17. Again, for your sake Hube, I asked: “Is it that you recommend the death penalty for a woman who chooses to abort her fetus, legally?”

    I’d expect such nonsense from someone whose views on these matters are disastrously misguided.

  18. Perry refuses to be forced to maintain any semblance of consistency and demands his right to be absolutely, totally, and without a doubt hypocritically inconsistent in absolutely everything he says and believes. It is his right to be a totally dishonest and dishonorable baboon.

  19. “State sponsored premeditated murder” was the Hollocost, Perry. What you are contriving to point out is that executing a murderer is somehow equal to the reasoning behind the Hollocost. It is not. To me, murder is the unjustified killing of an innocent person execution of someone found guilty by a legal jury is not that. You can wiggle around all you want and may even be able to find some deffinition, legal opinion or even one of your charts or graphs to “prove” me wrong, but in your heart you know I’m right. Your problem is that if murder is the taking of an innocent life what does that make abortion? What is the fetus and/or baby guilty of? The answer is aboso;utely nothing as opposed to say, Jeffery Dahmer.

  20. “State sponsored premeditated murder” was the Hollocost, Perry. What you are contriving to point out is that executing a murderer is somehow equal to the reasoning behind the Hollocost. It is not. To me, murder is the unjustified killing of an innocent person execution of someone found guilty by a legal jury is not that

    Common sense says a fetus is not a baby, Hoagie. By your own “logic”, that trunmps any evidence you can provide otherwise.

  21. Common sense says a fetus sure ain’t no elephant! That IS common sense Pho. You just seem not to have any. Just so you know, a fetus isn’t a baby, a baby isn’t a child, a child isn’t an adolescent, and a adolescent isn’t an adult. But they are all human beings. They’re just at different stages of their development. And you know they are, like it or not. Neither a fetus, a baby nor a child can live on their own but it dosen’t make them expendible. It makes them innocent, and helpless as I’ve explained.

  22. Common sense says a fetus sure ain’t no elephant

    Sorry, common sense says a fetus isn’t a baby. I win, you lose – and according to your rules, you can’t present any evidence that trumps my assertion of common sense.

  23. I didn’t present any evidence of anything, I merely stated the obvious. They are all human beings at different stages of their development. No evidence needed as it is self-evident. It’s logic, it’s common sense. Just trace your own development back. At some point you, Pho, were a fetus. It wasn’t somebody else, it was you. Unless you started out as a tadpole.

  24. Actually, common sense says a fetus is a baby.

    Origin of FETUS
    Middle English, from Latin, act of bearing young, offspring; akin to Latin fetus newly delivered, fruitful

    Those who want to keep abortions legal have tried to sanitize their actions by using latin terminology to hide the fact that a “fetus” is a “baby.” But that academic big-word euphemism to make their agenda palatable to the masses doesn’t change any facts.

  25. The two Ps in a pod objected:

    I am picking up on the same point as PiaToR. You are stretching here, Dana. Even though Rick Perry does not have the power to stay an execution, by TX law, he has the authority to perform an oversight function, which he has in fact done, as in the case of Mr. Willingham, which you cited. Governor Perry chose not to object to the execution, so the NYT coverage was accurate, if not complete.

    Sorry, but while there is a second definition, the context of the statements, plural, definitely point to the definition I used, not the “inspection” definition, and we all know it.

    Moreover, it is extraordinary to me that TX, under Mr. Perry as well, has such a high rate of executions; and, it is evidence to me of a barbaric state of mind among those in TX, Mr. Perry included, for permitting their state sponsored premeditated murder to occur in the civilized society which we pretend to be!

    While I agree that we should abandon capital punishment, it is both constitutional and legal, and the good citizens of Texas have, through their elected representatives, decided that they wish for capital punishment to be part of their laws, and for it to be carried out.

    However, this was the line that made my jaw drop:

    Mr. Perry is out of touch and out of step with the basic concept of the sanctity of life. One would think that his claim of being Christian would compel him to exert the oversight of which he is empowered by TX law. He has not done so! The New York Times is correct to focus on this issue.

    Dude, no one who supports, as you do, and as the other P in the pod does, legal abortion ought ever to complain that someone else is “out of touch and out of step with the basic concept of the sanctity of life.”

  26. Hoagie asked:

    Can’t you say something like: I live in Delaware and under the Tenth Ammendment we approach our crime and punishment this way…blah….blah? I disagree with the approach in Texas and do not believe in capital punishment?

    Actually, the First State does have capital punishment, and carries it out. Because their population is so small, the total number of executions does not make many lists, but Delaware has executed 15 murderers in the last 19 years, while our most populous state, California, has executed 13 people in tha same time frame.

  27. “Dude, no one who supports, as you do, and as the other P in the pod does, legal abortion ought ever to complain that someone else is “out of touch and out of step with the basic concept of the sanctity of life.””

    Looks like I have to say it again: I personally am against abortion, Dana. How often must I repeat it?

    And speaking of being out of step with the “sanctity of life”, as far as I can tell on here, Blubonnet, PiaToR (I think), and I are the only ones here who are consistent on this issue: I am against abortion; I am against the death penalty; I am against wars. Can you make the same statement, Dana?

  28. Anyone who claims to be against abortion yet supports the woman’s choice to abort is lying, either about the first part or the second part.

    Anyone who talks about being “against wars” as if that can be a unilateral decision is an abject fool. Sometimes the opposite of war is capitulation, enslavement, tyranny, and mass murder. But the fool who loudly proclaims to be “against wars” absolutely rejects reality for platitudes.

    Perry has on a great number of times falsely accused people of being dictators, terrorists, and murderers while at the same time actively supporting actual dictators, terrorists, and murderers. With Perry’s positions now, I know where he would stand in 1776, 1862, and 1942. In 1776, he would side with the King. In 1862, he would side with the secessionists/slave-owners. In 1942, he would side with the isolationists/capitulationists. Of that, I have zero doubt, despite what will likely be his dishonest protestations to the contrary.

    Like I said, it is impossible for Perry to be consistent on anything whatsoever, as he proves every day.

  29. I didn’t present any evidence of anything, I merely stated the obvious.

    Yes, but you’re wrong. Common sense says so, and that’s all I need by your own debating rules.

    Boo-yah, I win again! In your FACE, bia-tch!

  30. And speaking of being out of step with the “sanctity of life”, as far as I can tell on here, Blubonnet, PiaToR (I think), and I are the only ones here who are consistent on this issue: I am against abortion; I am against the death penalty; I am against wars. Can you make the same statement, Dana?

    – Against abortion but would not lobby to make it illegal.
    – Against the death penalty but WOULD lobby to make it illegal.
    – Against wars … unless they’re led by Democratic presidents like Clinton’s sojourn into Bosnia/Kosovo, and Obama’s into Libya.

    What was that about “consistent,” again?

    And does Perry ever get tired of being laughed at for his outright nonsense?

  31. – Against abortion but would not lobby to make it illegal.
    – Against the death penalty but WOULD lobby to make it illegal.

    Thus indicating a better understanding of the tension between freedom and law than you “conservatives”.

    Perry isn’t being a hypocrite here – he’s just showing he’s more in tune with America’s founding ideals than you lot. Not that that’s difficult.

  32. Perry isn’t being a hypocrite here – he’s just showing he’s more in tune with America’s founding ideals than you lot. Not that that’s difficult.

    Uh huh. And precisely how does that pertain to convicted murderers who Perry would deny their execution — as prescribed by LAW? What “tension” exists there? And don’t tell me about the possibility of any doubt — b/c Perry has never stated that he would agree with an execution if there IS NO doubt the convicted did it.

    Face it: Perry is a hypocrite, again, because he

    1) disagrees with abortion but believes he has no right to tell a woman (via the law) what to do;
    2) disagrees with capital punishment, but believes he HAS the right to tell a jury (and the victim’s kin) what to do (via the law) by lobbying for CP’s abolition.

    IOW, Perry believes the rights of convicted heinous murderers outweigh that of completely innocent unborn children. That’s sure some “tension,” all right.

    And I noticed you neglected to mention the point about Perry’s choice of wars. No wonder.

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