The Washington Post on Friday decided to publish an extensive probe of Republican Sen. Tim Scott's history to fact-check if the South Carolina lawmaker's family actually went from "cotton to Congress," prompting critics harsh criticism from commentators on the left and right.
What are the details?
"Tim Scott often talks about his grandfather and cotton. There's more to that tale," wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler in the Friday morning hit piece on Scott, who was recently tapped to deliver the Republican Party's response to President Joe Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday.
Scott often touts his family's journey from cotton to Congress in one lifetime as proof of the opportunity America affords to enterprising individuals who work hard to get ahead, regardless of their skin color. But that message runs counter to modern progressive ideology, which teaches that America is inherently racist and restrictive to minority classes.
With that in mind, the Post set out to investigate the authenticity of Scott's claim, digging through the annals of history to decipher whether his grandfather, Artis Ware, was in fact forced out of elementary school to help on the farm and pick cotton.
In the exhaustive 1,800-word article, Kessler enlists the help of historians and draws from numerous census and property records to ultimately suggest on admittedly flimsy data that Scott, while speaking truthfully, may not be providing the entire context of his family's situation.
"Scott's "cotton to Congress" line is missing some nuance, but we are not going to rate his statements," Kessler declared, opting not to award Scott any Pinocchios.
"Scott tells a tidy story packaged for political consumption, but a close look shows how some of his family's early and improbable success gets flattened and written out of his biography," he continued. "Against heavy odds, Scott's ancestors amassed relatively large areas of farmland, a mark of distinction in the Black community at the time. Scott, moreover, does not mention that his grandfather worked on his father's farm — a farm that was expanded through land acquisitions even during the Great Depression, when many other Black farmers were forced out of business."
The post immediately drew backlash from commentators on social media.
"Who thought this was a good idea?" tweeted CNN commentator and former Democratic South Carolina state lawmaker, Bakari Sellers.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley added, "What WaPo did to @SenatorTimScott is shameful. When minorities refuse to be victims, disagree with liberal talking points, and think for ourselves, the media shames us and questions our credibility. It's why we must fight harder for conservative values that lift us all up."
What WaPo did to @SenatorTimScott is shameful. When minorities refuse to be victims, disagree with liberal talkin… https://t.co/asN5phSDA9— Nikki Haley (@Nikki Haley) 1619190227.0
"Senator Scott deserves an apology for this," political strategist Rory Cooper wrote. "It's everything wrong with the fact checking industry. The targeting. The lack of good faith. The personal side of it. It's bad."
Senator Scott deserves an apology for this. It's everything wrong with the fact checking industry. The targeting. T… https://t.co/DmDJIxMRw6— Rory Cooper (@Rory Cooper) 1619184427.0
"If you find yourself telling the grandson of a Depression-era Black man who spent his youth picking cotton to check his privilege, please for the love of all that is holy log off, WaPo," Washington Examiner executive editor Seth Mandel tweeted.
If you find yourself telling the grandson of a Depression-era black man who spent his youth picking cotton to check… https://t.co/zeSwxPO5UV— Seth Mandel (@Seth Mandel) 1619187992.0
Daily Wire reporter Cabot Phillips summarized the story this way: "A white man telling a black man his ancestors weren't ***actually*** that poor or oppressed ... If this story were about a Democrat, half the Washington Post editorial board would have been forced to resign by now.
A white man telling a black man his ancestors weren't ***actually*** that poor or oppressed If this story were abo… https://t.co/OLI0HDyOHx— Cabot Phillips (@Cabot Phillips) 1619187303.0
Republican strategist Matt Whitlock noted that many readers will only see the headline in front of the Washington Post's paywall and assume that Scott is lying despite the fact that the outlet ended up admitting the senator's statement is true.
It’s quite a choice to publish this when A) your conclusion is that everything he said.. is true B) you’re argu… https://t.co/n655KK3g0g— Matt Whitlock (@Matt Whitlock) 1619188763.0
One self-described independent wrote, I "really don't think this is necessary or appropriate...Bad look by @washingtonpost."