I missed this, a case where refusing to subscribe to my local paper, The Washington Post, bit me. (I decided that if I have to get a flagrantly left-wing biased newspaper that has chosen to be a propaganda organ for the Democratic Party, I might as well get the best flagrantly left-wing biased newspaper that has chosen to be a propaganda organ for the Democratic Party and not #2.
Glenn Kessler, the Post’s “Factchecker” who tries to be objective but is so marinated in his organization’s biases that he fails as often as not, tried to save face for his employers by revealing that a man who has repeatedly represented himself as a descendant of General Robert E. Lee (On his website, Rob Lee describes himself as “a descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”) in order to justify toppling statues of the Confederate icon is, in fact, nothing of the kind. He is as much a relative of General Lee as Elizabeth Warren is a Cherokee. Nonetheless, the Post published an opinion piece on June 7, 2020, by Rev. Robert E. Lee VI titled, “Robert E. Lee is my ancestor. Take down his statue, and let his cause be lost.” The Post editor identified the author as the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The headline, the description, and the justification for publishing the op-ed were, in order, a lie, journalism negligence, and misinformation. That was a year ago. Now Kessler decides to check the facts? Nice job, Speedy.
It’s not like Lee briefly appeared and then vanished into obscurity. He not only exploited his phony branch of the Lee family tree, others used him to justify cancelling an important and influential historical figure. The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck was in large part a chapter in the “Get Trump” plot, since the Big Lie that the President supported white supremacy was a key ingredient in the resistance’s four-year false narrative This is why 2020 was a banner year for Rev. Lee, supercharged by the George Floyd Freakout and the exploitation of that incident. For example, Rev. Lee denounced General Lee at the MTV Video Music Awards, because, after all, music videos are all about Civil War history, saying,
“My name is Robert Lee the Fourth. I am a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin. Today, I call on everyone with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.”
Translation: “Defeat that racist President Trump!”
A few days before the Post published Lee’s attack on his forebear, white supremacy foe and blackface auteur Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia introduced Lee during a speech in Richmond, on June 4, 2020 saying, “We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather” as he pandered to the George Floyd protests by announcing that a long-standing statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond would be removed.
This month, Lee joined a a lawsuit seeking removal of a Confederate statue, filed in Iredell County, N.C. with filings stating that “Plaintiff Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV (“Lee”) is a white resident of Iredell County. Lee is the fourth great-nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.” It’s not nice to lie in court filings. In fact, it’s illegal, and grounds for discipline. After the Post’s revelations, late as they were, Lee’s name was removed from the suit. The lawyer representing the blamed the Post in part for Lee deceiving him. Wrong. He had an ethical obligation to confirm that Lee was who and what he said he was. “The Post says so” is no longer a plausible verification, if it ever was. For the Post’s part, Shani George, vice president for communications at The Washington Post, said in a statement: “We do our best to verify a contributor’s credentials. This was clearly a more complicated case, though at the time, our research gave us no reason to doubt his lineage claims.”
That’s a lie too. As Jonathan Turley wrote in his post essay about this fake news fiasco, Lee’s claimed lineage was a “fact too good to check.” especially since it could be weaponized against Trump. The Reverend, meanwhile, is self-exposes as a jerk, writing “Why the Post is so focused on my heritage and lineage while not focusing on the issues of the statue at hand is beyond me” and “My mission and ministry has been confronting white supremacy as a sin. Regardless of whether you believe me or the article, the fact remains that either lineage participated and profited from racism and slavery. That ends with me.”
Turley points out the flaw in that defense: “Rev. Lee used his claim to elevate his voice above others and add the support of a Lee family member to the cause of removing these statues. He then expressed surprise that anyone is interested in confirming if he misled millions on this claim.The appeal of using a descendent to make such demands is obvious… The suggestion is that, if the family does not even support these statues, only racists or reactionaries would fight to preserve them. The effort is to cut short a needed debate over how to describe what statues should be removed and what should be retained.”
Compounding his deception was the lack of interest by so many historical airbrushing activists and partisan organizations, like the Post, in doing their due diligence and making sure Lee was the real McCoy before using him to advance their own interests.
Guess: how many “Pinocchios” did Kessler award Lee for his ongoing misrepresentation?
None! This, despite writing that “the pastor should not state he is related to Robert E. Lee, especially in legal filings — and news organizations should not echo this claim.”