Cory Booker v. National Review: The Pushback

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2013 9:47 AM

Cory Booker v. National Review: The Pushback

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Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Update: There was a technical difficulty on the site earlier, so I'm publishing a few items late that were written much earlier.

Cory Booker's campaign and municipal allies have pushed back against National Review's "embellishment" stories with all the force of a bullet train. After writing about the press-v-politician spat, which ended only when the city provided documents verifying the gist but not the grisliest details of a Booker anecdote, I've gotten pushback designed to portray NR as a little callow.

Exhibit A: The exchange of letters between the city of Newark and Eliana Johnson. According to records, NR's Johnson put in her request for police records on the death of Wazn Miller on Aug. 22, a Thursday. On Aug. 28, the city confirmed receipt. Two days later, it sent this update.

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 10.02.17 AM

Then, on September, National Review announced the lawsuit. "For weeks now," wrote EIC Rich Lowry, "we have been stonewalled and given the run-around by everyone we’ve asked for help in obtaining the relevant police records." That sounds accurate to me; the city says it had a problem finding the records, but, yes, this all took a long time.

Here's the more convincing part of the pushback: People who say they witnessed the aftermath of the shooting are ready to confirm more of Booker's story. "I was off-duty at the time," says Sgt. Kendrick Isaac, a member of the Emergency Services Unit, "and as I started getting in my vehicle I heard shots ring out, and I saw Mayor Booker up the hill, running up a driveway. I grabbed my gun, and I took off running in the same direction."*

When I got there, the Mayor was holding a kid with a few others and trying to lay him down on the ground. I saw the kid had been shot in the chest, so I drew my gun and took a defensive stance, I did not know if the shooter would return. While I secured the location Mayor Booker was tending to the kid, there was a lot of commotion, and a young lady I didn’t know was at his side. The kid had blood coming out of his mouth, and Mayor Booker was pushing his chest and yelling at him to hold on. The ambulance came and then the EMS started working on the kid after they moved Mayor Booker out of the way. When they took the kid to the ambulance, the Mayor basically tried to escort them and had blood all over his shorts and his hands.

That's not quite as dramatic as Booker's description of a body riddled by four shots and a kid lying "lifeless" in his arms, but it's definitely enough to back up the mayor and to keep this story from being weaponized by Republicans. I'm trying to imagine the ad: "Cory Booker SAYS that a boy who was shot died in his arms—but he might have died shortly thereafter, in someone else's arms!" National Review's instincts were sound; the new instinct of Booker allies to vet and double-vet the anecdotes is better than we would have gotten had no reporter asked the questions.

*Correction, Sept. 13, 2013: This post originally misspelled Sgt. Kendrick Isaac's last name.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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