Cory Booker Definitely Shouldn't Exaggerate Any Stories of Urban Crime

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 12 2013 5:41 PM

Cory Booker Definitely Shouldn't Exaggerate Any Stories of Urban Crime

Not a fabulist, but perhaps an exaggerator

Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

National Review's Eliana Johnson has been doing some solid, dogged, unpopular journalism, digging into Cory Booker's past to see if some of his heart-rending anecdotes are true. Did he really know a drug dealer named T-Bone? Was a teen named Wazn Miller really shot four times before dying in his arms? He told that story this way in 2010.

Shots ring out and I see children fee fleeing from between two buildings. I sprint through the children and stand there as a kid stumbles backwards into my arms, and I look over his shoulder and I see his shirt filling up with deep red blood. And I lay him on the ground and just start screaming at people to call an ambulence. Putting my hand onto his chest. And this is not a movie. There's nothing pretty. Foamy blood pouring from his mouth and nostrils, gagging until he just laws motionless and lifeless, screaming for  someone to get somebody there. Ripping at this boy's chest, trying to figure out where the blood was coming from, and it was everywhere. Seemed like hours, and the ambulence coming and pushing me aside and ripping open his shirt and seeing three bullet holes in his chest and one in his side.

This week NR sued the Newark Police Department, the city of Newark, and Booker to pry loose documents about the death of Miller. ThinkProgress got 'em first, but I'm sorry, but the way the liberal website sets up the scoop is sort of odious.

[L]ike a birther demanding President Obama’s birth certificate — they would “like to see documents backing up Booker’s statements.” They claim that they have been “stonewalled and given the run-around by everyone we’ve asked for help in obtaining the relevant police records,” and they announced on Wednesday that they have “filed suit against the Newark Police Department, the City of Newark, and Mayor Booker to obtain the records in keeping with New Jersey law.”
In reality, it is not at all clear that the National Review is lawfully entitled to these records.

Well, they should be. And asking a politician to prove an anecdote isn't like "birtherism." Birtherism denied documentary evidence of Barack Obama's birthplace and accused him of fraud. National Review asked for documentation where none had been offered. And the document confirms the gist of Booker's story while failing to confirm the most gruesome details.

Screen shot 2013-09-12 at 5.58.27 PM

Booker was there, but according to the police, someone else was holding Miller.

Screen shot 2013-09-12 at 6.03.23 PM

Booker referred to "three bullet holes in his chest and one in his side." The report makes reference to two shots, one bullet, and several holes.

Screen shot 2013-09-12 at 6.05.04 PM

Maybe we can spot Booker on the number of bullet holes—that probably was confusing in the moment. And it's highly doubtful that "Booker merely helped at the scene after a boy was shot to death" is the sort of story that's going to take him down, or the sort of story Republicans wanted. He's not a fabulist. But did he exagerrate? In another context more familiar to statewide politics—maybe if he was a war veteran saying a soldier died in his arms when the soldier died in somebody else's—that would be a scandal. National Review had the right instinct here, asking for all the details; ThinkProgress put a foot wrong by mocking that.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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