Unfortunately, Just Mercy Was Based on a True Story

This film about one of the most egregious modern cases of racism and injustice mostly sticks to the facts.

One thing I didn’t like about Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018) was that it invented events to make its antagonists more menacing than they really were. It’s a habit in Hollywood to insert or amplify racism in historical films, which is weird because there are plenty of actual historical examples of racism to make movies about.

Case in point: Just Mercy (2019), written by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham and directed by Cretton, based on the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy follows the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of the 1986 murder of a white woman in Monroeville, Alabama and sent to death row. Years later, attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) successfully appealed McMillian’s conviction and won his freedom.

McMillian, who was having a very public affair with a white woman named Karen Kelly, was hosting a fish fry at his home with his wife, Minnie (Karan Kendrick), surrounded by about a dozen witnesses, when the murder occurred. Despite this, Sheriff Tom Tate (Michael Harding) arrested him for the crime. And despite not yet being convicted, he was sent to death row while awaiting trial.

Judge Robert E. Lee Key, Jr. (yes, that was actually his name) moved the trial to a different county where it would have a majority white jury. The judge overrode the jury’s decision of life imprisonment and imposed the death penalty. McMillian sat on Alabama’s death row from 1988 to 1993, when the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled he had been wrongfully convicted.

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CNN Lawyers Admit Charges of Racism are a Smear

“CNN filed a motion to dismiss the suit in May on the grounds that accusations of racism are not actionable in defamation cases because the allegation can’t be proven true or false.”

A few days ago, CNN settled with Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann, who was suing for defamation over CNN’s coverage of the incident in January in which Sandmann and his classmates were accused of confronting and harassing a Native American man–until full video showed otherwise.

I used a quote from this National Review article as a subheading because it’s so important: Not only did CNN settle with Sandmann, tacitly admitting the news company was wrong, but its lawyers tried to argue Sandmann had no case because charges of racism are not meant to be defended against.

When someone accuses you of a real crime, it’s able to be proven true or false. Was a crime committed? Did you commit the crime or not? But what about when someone is accused of being racist or acting in a racist manner? Is that more opinion than fact? Most of the time, it’s litigated in the court of public opinion, and the accused have little recourse but to apologize for the perceived offense and hope things blow over.

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CNN: It’s Not News, But What is It?

Chris Cillizza’s political “analysis” is a prime example of CNN’s fall from grace.

What is a news organization? Is it a public service designed to inform the public about significant events? Or is it just a business making money off sensationalism? I’m not sure what CNN considers itself, but in the Trump Era, its become a sad shadow of its former self; a parody of Fox News at its worst in the Obama years.

CNN has become nothing more than an outlet for clickbait, with Chris Cillizza offering probing analysis of “The 65 most outrageous lines from Donald Trump’s longest campaign speech ever”. What’s so outrageous, you wonder? Apparently Trump saying things like: “Remember when I first started this beautiful trip, this beautiful journey, I just said to the first lady, ‘You’re so lucky I took you on this fantastic journey.'”

“I wonder if Melania Trump would describe herself as ‘so lucky,'” Chris speculates. Well, she went from being born in Yugoslavia under communism, to Paris fashion model, to first lady of the United States of America, so yeah, she probably would. The list is literally just Chris Cillizza pulling random quotes from Trump’s rally and making sarcastic comments about them. Such probing journalism! Does he get paid per click, I wonder?

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Top Fake News Stories of 2019

The national news media loves to tout itself as an arbiter of truth, even teaming up with social media giants like Facebook to fact check viral articles and memes. But journalists aren’t immune to publishing and promoting fake news of their own, and boy, have we seen some whoppers this year. The following is a short list of some of the most egregious examples. Is there anything I missed?

Regretful Trump voter turns out not to have voted at all

In October, New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel wrote a story about Democrats who voted for Trump in 2016, only to regret their decision. Enter Mark Graham, a real estate appraiser in Erie, Pennsylvania. “He had voted for Barack Obama, but in 2016 he took a gamble on Donald Trump,” the article claimed. Now, Graham said, reelecting Trump would be like “throwing gasoline on a fire.” Except Graham never voted in 2016. A local news station looked into his voting record after a Democratic political action committee called American Bridge put him in their ad campaign. The New York Times later verified his voting record and added a correction.

Boys in MAGA hats harass Native American elder

In January, news outlets leaped on a viral video purporting to show a young man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a crowd of white kids confronting a Native American man beating a drum. “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March,” The New York Times headline proclaimed. As more facts emerged however, it turned out the situation wasn’t so black and white. The Native American man, Nathan Phillips, was neither a Vietnam veteran nor a tribal elder as originally reported. The crowd of students from Covington Catholic High School did not confront Phillips, rather, he approached them. In October, a federal judge allowed part of Nick Sandmann’s libel lawsuit against the Washington Post to go forward, after the Post claimed Sandmann, one of the students in question, had “blocked” Phillips and ‘would not allow him to retreat.’

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Trump Fact-Checkers Don’t Get the Joke

Journalists fact-checking Donald Trump’s rallies and Twitter feed often end up looking silly, and they don’t understand why.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Nelson, the bully, tells Bart his “epidermis is showing”, causing him to get confused, lose his balance, and fall. Nelson turns to his friend and says, “You see, ‘epidermis’ means your hair. So technically it’s true; that’s what makes it so funny.” There’s another joke hidden here–epidermis really means ‘skin’. Nelson is trying to sound smart, but failing.

The people who fact check President Trump’s speeches are like the guy who, thinking himself more clever than the show’s writers, watches that scene and announces, “Actually, epidermis means skin,” oblivious to the underlying joke.

Last week at a speech at the Turning Point USA student action summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, President Donald Trump made a joke about bald eagles flying into wind turbines. The line was meant to get a rise from his audience, made up of young conservatives skeptical of renewable energy.

Trump said: “A windmill will kill many bald eagles… After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off, that is true. By the way, they make you turn it off. And yet, if you killed one, they put you in jail. That is OK. But why is it OK for these windmills to destroy the bird population?”

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When Politics and Fact-Checking Collide

Self-appointed fact-checkers engage in dishonesty when they treat matters of opinion or debate as black-and-white issues to be judged as true or false.

Hysteria over “fake news” on social media has led to a bevy of fact-checking by news outlets and other websites. CNN, for example, loves to catalog every exaggeration, misstatement, or falsehood President Trump says. Though claiming otherwise, these self-appointed fact-checkers are not immune to bias, and they often treat matters of opinion or debate like math problems that have a definitive right or wrong answer.

Case in point, a website called TruthorFiction.com recently rated Professor Noah Feldman’s argument that President Trump hasn’t been formally impeached until the House delivers their charges to the Senate as “not true“, despite Feldman supporting his argument with legal precedent and history.

Feldman, who testified before the House in favor of impeaching Trump, is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. The House chose him to testify because of his strong academic credentials. Truth or Fiction cited dissenting opinions from Twitter to come to their conclusion (later adding an opinion piece by Alan Dershowitz).

One dissenting opinion they didn’t cite was that of Robert G. Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute. Writing on TheHill.com, Natelson cites two unrelated cases to argue that the President is impeached simply on the majority vote of the House of Representatives. One case pertained to ratification of state constitutional amendments and the other to presidential appointments. I fail to see how these examples specifically relate to the act of impeachment or rebut Feldman’s argument.

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GOP Only Has Itself to Blame for Electoral Defeats

The Republican Party squandered its 2016 majority and failed to make a compelling case to voters.

Results are in for local elections in Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and the trend is not looking good for Republicans. Democrats continue to make gains after the “blue wave” last year, and took control of the Virginia Senate and House for the first time in more than two decades. In one northern Virginia race, a candidate openly calling himself a Democratic Socialist won a seat in the Virginia Assembly.

Back in 2016 and 2017, Democrats were dismayed as it looked like they couldn’t win any important races. Republicans and conservatives controlled every branch of the Federal Government, but failed to accomplish even their most basic campaign promise of repealing Obamacare. We got one tax cut, which while nice, hardly makes up for squandering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who blames everyone and everything but herself for losing to Donald Trump in 2016, Republicans should look inward and re-evaluate their messaging and electoral strategy. Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. Republicans and conservatives are constantly harping on how radical and out of touch Democrats are–but then why are the Democrats winning?

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