Claudia Rowe's first piece for The Stranger—about how Mayor Nickels blew it on youth violence—took a look at youth violence and what the mayor had done about it. Rowe wrote: "Kids were getting shot, but Nickels did not show up at their funerals," and then listed five black teenagers killed in Seattle whose funerals Nickels didn't attend. This information came from Rowe's years of reporting on this topic for the P-I.
The mayor's office was furious about the piece and complained widely that the article was inaccurate. The blog Publicola, whose co-owner Sandeep Kaushik was until recently employed by Nickels as a spokesman, reported the complaint about inaccuracies without independently verifying them. "The mayor’s office complains that the story contained factual inaccuracies," Erica C. Barnett reported last week, taking the mayor's spokesperson Alex Fryer's word that the mayor did attend "several" of the funerals. This is untrue. Nickels met with the family of one of the five young men Rowe listed, but he met them at the morgue and didn't attend the funeral. The only other funeral Nickels attended that Fryer can name was for a 26-year-old—in other words, not relevant to the piece on youth violence. Asked if Publicola stood by its reporting, Kaushik said, "You need to talk to Erica about it."
Barnett, asked if she verified independently that the mayor had been to any of those funerals, said that she had. When asked how she verified that, she said, "I talked to the mayor's office. I called the mayor's office." Asked again if she verified independently that the mayor had been to the funerals—outside of what the mayor's office allegedly told her—Barnett said, "The mayor's office is not in the habit of saying things that are verifibly not true." In other words, she hadn't verified it. And then Barnett said "it seems a little silly to be nitpicking" over this.
Alex Fryer, spokesperson for the mayor, just confirmed by phone that the mayor did not attend any of those funerals. "You're correct in stating he did not attend the funerals of those five people you mention," he said.