Why Did the Washington Post Fact-Check Tim Scott?

Elite media's obsession with race is making them increasingly blind to universal themes like class and social mobility.

The Washington Post earned itself some ridicule this past week for conducting a deep investigative fact check of a story often told by South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott about his family. As Scott tells it, his grandfather was forced to drop out of school as a third-grader to pick cotton on a farm. The story is essentially true, as it turns out, but the Washington Post felt it was lacking some necessary details. Here they summarize their findings:

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. Scott’s family history in South Carolina offers a fascinating window into a little-known aspect of history in the racist South following the Civil War and in the immediate aftermath of slavery — that some enterprising Black families purchased property as a way to avoid sharecropping and achieve a measure of independence from White-dominated society.

So the Post’s two-thousand-word deep dive investigation into the Scott family’s historical record comes down to this: Scott’s grandfather did in fact leave school at a very young age to pick cotton on a farm, but it was a farm owned by his father, which was not common among black families in this period. That’s the sum of it.

One thing to note here is that it’s actually debatable whether Scott even intended to mislead about this at all, given what he himself wrote about his grandfather in his memoir, Opportunity Knocks, that was published last year:

The highlighted part there is key. “Help on the farm” is the kind of wording that strongly indicates the farm was a familial obligation and not just a typical employment arrangement.

But that’s also a little tangential. The real question we have to ask is: Why did the Post think this was a point in such dire need of clarification that it felt compelled to conduct and publish an entire fact-checking investigation? While it’s certainly an interesting detail that Scott’s grandfather’s family owned land at a time when that was rare for blacks in America, why did the Post think this was such a gotcha? What exactly did they think they had debunked?

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