On April 29, the Baltimore Sun published a “refutation” of the story from the Fourth Estate blog of the previous day, that had claimed that Freddie Gray had had spinal and neck surgery shortly before his death. Except that it wasn’t a refutation.
I noticed a few years ago that MSM “reporters” had introduced a new use of the verb “to refute.” If someone they supported denied an unflattering report about themselves, the reporters would assert that he had “refuted” it. Well, that’s the sort of “refutation” the Baltimore Sun—B.S., for short—pulled off.
The trick that the BS operatives Mark Puente and Doug Donovan used, was to bundle two different claims, refute one, and falsely claim that refuting one necessarily entailed refuting the other.
The Fourth Estate had said that it had heard from a source that Gray had had spinal and/or neck surgery one week before he was arrested and died in police custody. It tracked down some legal papers attesting to a civil court case, which 4E said was connected to Gray’s purported spine injury.
The BS item is entitled, “The truth about Freddie Gray’s ‘pre-existing injury from car accident.’” Its highlights (“Sharelines”), which serve as subheds, assert,
Debunking rumors: Freddie Gray settlement connected to lead paint, not car accident or spinal surgery.
Freddie Gray filed paperwork to collect $18,000 settlement in exchange for $108,000 annuity.
Both claims are misleading. The legal papers in question may have been for the family’s lead paint shakedown of a slumlord, but that does not mean that Gray didn’t have a spinal condition, for which he underwent surgery shortly before his death. And Gray’s $18,000 settlement was in exchange for a $54,000 annuity, not a $108,000 annuity. His twin sister, Fredericka, also collected an $18,000 settlement in exchange for her $54,000 annuity. The two twins’ combined annuities totaled $108,000. The BS operatives are trying to make it seem as if the Gray twins were cheated on their settlement, as yet another case of white racism run amok.
Donovan and Puente quote Jason Downs, an attorney representing one of Gray's relatives, as saying, "We have no information or evidence at this point to indicate that there is a prior pre-existing spinal injury. It's a rumor."
Well, that’s a relief. An attorney from a firm seeking to soak Baltimore City for tens of millions of dollars says that he has no knowledge of Freddie Gray having had a pre-existing spinal injury. Downs, of course, has no motive to be less than truthful.
The BS main “evidence” for its “debunking” is that the 4E reprinted a court document for the (frivolous) Gray family lawsuit against their former landlord for lead paint, when it claimed to be reprinting the court document for a taxi accident. However, showing that the court document is the wrong one has no bearing on whether Gray had recently undergone back and/or spinal surgery.
4E finds some causes for doubt in the BS story, regarding the latter’s operatives being less than straightforward, but defends itself with weasel words that blow up in his face.
Now, the allegation that Freddie Gray had spine surgery a week before his arrest cannot be completely proven to be true, or false for that matter. Sources continue to allege that this is the case; it may not have been major surgery, rather it could have potentially been one in a long line of surgeries resulting from a previous injury. Due to HIPPA laws, we likely will never know. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a history of back issues, though….Nonsense. The patient is dead, and this is a murder case, and will soon be a multimillion-dollar civil case, both of which would be greatly influenced by any medical history Gray had with back, neck, or head injuries. I don’t believe that HIPPA laws still apply.
Is it possible that Freddie Gray was in fact involved in a car accident previously in his life in which he was severely injured, never to be the same again? Yes, it is possible.It’s also “possible” that all those things apply to me, too, but journalism isn’t in the possibility business. 4E even went so far as to commit redundant weaseling, as in “Is it possible that Freddie Gray allegedly had a history of back problems…”
Is it possible that Freddie Gray allegedly received a settlement from this injury, one which he later attempted to convert to a lump sum payment? Yes, it is possible.
Is it possible that Freddie Gray allegedly had a history of back problems that required multiple, even if minor, surgeries that left him with a vulnerable spine? Yes, it possible.
We are continuing to seek more information on Freddie Gray’s alleged history of spinal problems and alleged surgery less than two weeks before his arrest. This story is rapidly developing… [BREAKING: Freddie Gray Sued Taxi Company For Damages/Injuries Allegedly Related To Car Accident, Fourth Estate 2014, April 29, 2015.]
This is too much. 4E claims to have sources. Based on its weaseling, I no longer believe it has any sources, at least not reliable ones, and its credibility is zero, in my book. But since the BS was itself guilty of transparent BS, its operatives Mark Puente and Doug Donovan also get no credit for “debunking” anything. They just got lucky.