NYT‘s Zernike in Tiff Over ‘Racial’ CPAC Coverage

New York Times reporter Kate Zernike has gotten into a spat with Young Americans Foundation spokesman Jason Mattera, who spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC, last week. The argument: who was being racist?

In last week’s Times story titled “CPAC Speaker Bashes Obama, in Racial Tones,” Zernike said Mattera used a “Chris Rock voice” to mock the president. She also noted his derisive attitude toward the concept of diversity on college campuses.

Accusations of racial insensitivity usually invite rebuttal, and Mattera got his in a Washington Times story, “Mattera vs. Zernike.” The item is careful to observe that Mattera “is of Latino descent” — an inoculation against prejudice if ever there was one. Mattera’s heated response, quoted in the article:

Kate Zernike should be fired immediately. She has no business being in a newsroom. Her allegation is absurd and flatly not true,” Mr. Mattera tells Inside the Beltway. “The racial stereotyping she speaks of was nothing more than my Brooklyn accent, something she could’ve figured out by doing a quick Internet search of me. Is it now the policy of the New York Times to allow its reporters to just make stuff up without any evidence? I bet Zernike’s journalism role model was Jason Blair.

Oh, snap!

Zernike stood by her reporting, saying that Mattera’s behavior, which included noticeable switches in intonation, suggests he was doing a racial Obama impression on purpose. She also said that she has friends and relatives living in Brooklyn — yet another inoculation! Case closed: thanks to their identities and those of their friends, neither Zernike nor Mattera is a racist. Good work, everyone.