America got a double treat a couple years ago when, first, Sarah Palin couldn't name a single newspaper she reads during her famously embarrassing interview with Katie Couric. And then, for her second act of idiocy, Palin went on Fox News in an attempt to clean up the mess and blamed not herself but "the state that is so sorry today of journalism."
Which brings us to Seattle this week. Some readers may be familiar with the Guardian, the internal union newspaper of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, written by and for the city's 1,350 sworn cops. A controversy ensued in January after The Stranger republished recent officer-written editorials that slammed the city's "socialist" agenda and "the enemy" at City Hall, spoke of wanting to repeal racial and social justice training, exhibited contempt for oversight, and joked about shooting at the ACLU and African American leaders. That exploded into a firestorm picked up by the Seattle Times, KING 5, KIRO FM, and other outlets.
"Where did all of this frenzy come from?" asks police-union president Rich O'Neill in the February issue of the Guardian. "A 'newspaper' called The Stranger. I don't read the thing as I find it as credible as The National Enquirer."
This is classic Sarah Palin—blaming the media for your own PR catastrophe. (But to O'Neill's credit, at least he could name two newspapers.)
O'Neill then proceeded in his "president's message" to thank the officers who supported Seattle police officer Ian Birk (whose shooting of John T. Williams was recently found unjustified by the police department's Firearms Review Board), defend the officer who opposed the racial and social justice training, and cast the US Department of Justice review of the Seattle Police Department as "embarrassing."
For months now, city officials have asked if there are simply a few bad apples at the SPD or if a toxic culture pervades the department. It may be a few bad apples, but, as this steady stream of bile-washed articles makes clear, one of those apples is leading the police union.
"We need the union to come to the table, not be defensive, not be closed, not say the problem is the media," said Mayor Mike McGinn at a press conference on February 16. "If we don't have the courage to take a hard look at their job and acknowledge how and where we can do better, things are not going to change."