Today, in “How to Find the Lede”: The Macaca Adventure

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 1 2014 3:49 PM

Today, in “How to Find the Lede”: The Macaca Adventure

APW1999120602486
Off-field shenanigans are making more news

Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images

You always hate to miss a story that you could have had. The feeling starts behind the eyes, and sinks into the joints. You thirst for whatever usually cures your pain—morphine, bourbon, a hug from a stuffed animal, maybe more bourbon.

Anyway: Last week, Virginia Democratic political operative and sometime source Ben Tribbett told me he'd signed up with Washington's football team, which according to Slate style and my own Philadelphia loyalty I will not name.* "That's nice," I thought. The news that Tribbett would walk away from full-time Democratic politics (he'd just worked on the runner-up's campaign in the race for Virginia's blue 8th Congressional District) was not closely held, and on June 26 the Washington Post reported that the team had hired "politico Ben Tribbett to help guide defense of team name." It just took a few grafs to get to this factoid:

Tribbett also wrote the progressive political blog  ‘Not Larry Sabato,’ where he broke the story of Redskins executive Bruce Allen’s brother, former Virgina Sen. George Allen, referring to an opponent as a ‘macaca’  in 2006.
Advertisement

Hang on—he did? It took a weekend and a day for the great Evan McMorris-Santoro to find the story in this story. Tribbett, who has a long and pugnacious record of speaking his mind on races, had considered "macaca" a horrible slur.

One of the loudest voices insisting the controversial term “macaca” was a racist attack: Tribbett.

“I’ve been arguing for two weeks on here that Macaca is a racial slur,” he wrote in an Aug. 27, 2006 post about a Democratic candidate who he heard “made an offensive joke to a group of Muslims.”

“Racial slurs are not funny things to joke about,” he added.

Tribbett shut down Not Larry Sabato not long after taking the job with the NFL team. Archived pages show he was dismissive of those who thought Allen’s crack was anything other than racially charged.

But Tribbett has been a staunch advocate of the Redskins name for a long time, leading to vigorous debate with followers.

Tribbett wasn't exactly hired to convert lefty sports fans into slur-lovers, and he pronounces himself a little frustrated by the anonymous operatives now criticizing him—he's "fighting ghosts." What we're left with is a funny tale and a great example of why it's worth spending some time to find a lede.

*I'll keep it in quoted material, though.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.