Tuesday, August 31, 2004

It's Evolution Baby

From the August 30 Baltimore Sun:

Steele and Ehrlich still talk about how supporters of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend tossed Oreo cookies at Steele during the lone gubernatorial debate in 2002, a symbolic slur that suggested because he was a Republican he was white on the inside and black on the outside.

Convinced that these two gents were embellishing their story, I decided to track the evolution of the "Oreo Tale."

What do you know? I was right. This one has grown from one Oreo rolling to Steele's feet during the debate -- an isolated incident that would be impossible to prove or disprove -- to supporters of Kathleen Kennedy Towsend showering Steele with Oreos, en masse.

This may seem trivial, whether the incident involved one cookie or a thousand, but in truth, it's important. One person tossing an Oreo at Steele is a misguided knucklehead, but an entire group throwing cookies paints the MD Democratic Party as intolerant of black republicans.

In addition, the only sources for these allegations are Steele, Ehrlich, and spokesman Paul Schurwick. The Baltimore Sun, nor any other publication which I could find, bothered to verify this story with independent sources.

This is a report from
Captial News Service, which mentions not only that the sources of the allegations, but how Steele recalled the event back in 2002.

At the candidates' only televised debate in late September, there were reports that Townsend supporters passed out Oreo cookies to represent Steele, joking he was black on the outside but white in the middle.

Paulson denied the incident happened and said the only documented accusation came from Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick.

Steele, however, said an Oreo cookie rolled to his feet during the debate.

"Maybe it was just someone having their snack, but it was there," Steele said. "If it happened, shame on them if they are that immature and that threatened by me."

Here is how Bob Ehrlich was spinning it by the end of October, courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.

The audience who gathered at a Jewish school yesterday in Pikesville gasped when Ehrlich told them that Townsend supporters at the debate threw Oreo cookies at his running mate, Michael S. Steele -- a slur symbolizing an African-American considered "white on the inside."

The Telegraph, a UK paper, put their own spin on it; this time, the story went from one cookie striking Steele in the foot, to the future Lt. Gov. being "bombarded" by the delicious chocolate cookies with a savory creme filling.

The tone of the debate has at times spilled over into vicious invective against Mr Ehrlich and his running mate. Mr Steele, a wealthy lawyer, was bombarded with Oreo cookies by activists at one debate - a slur implying that, like the chocolate sandwich biscuits, he is black on the outside and white on the inside.

And here is where it all begins -- immediately after the event, Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurwick contradicted Steele's recollection of the Oreo-throwing incident.

They booed Ehrlich's wife and parents, he [Paul Schurwick] said, and distributed Oreo cookies in the audience -- a racial insult apparently aimed at GOP lieutenant governor nominee Michael S. Steele, who is black. Schurick also said he thinks they vandalized the cars of several Ehrlich supporters, scratching paint with keys.

For an interesting take on both the Oreo incident -- Ehrlich again repeats the allegation that a horde of cookies, not just one, were thrown at Steele -- and the "key scratching" story, take a look at this Bay Weekly interview with the then-candidate, from the end of October. Ehrlich manages to spin the "key-tale," which was also never independently verified, into an attempt on the life of his child.

EHRLICH: I was not going to speak with the boos and catcalls and Oreo cookies very symbolic being thrown at [running mate] Michael [Steele]. I wasn't going to try to speak over all that.

EHRLICH: By the way, it was not the kids of Morgan. They were thugs who were bused in. They punctured our tires, covered our car with bumper stickers, scratched it up. We have a three-year-old in that car a lot. It could have easily blown out with our three-year-old in that car.

Whether or not these events ever happened as initially reported is impossible to confirm, but I think it is clear the Ehrlich-Steele camp is embellishing them with no challenge whatsoever from the press.

things fall apart would also like to remind everyone that this tale bears a certain similarity to that fantastic yarn about the Clinton staff "vandalizing the White House" prior to the Bush team's arrival; which, of course, turned out to be false.