'Gotcha' Journalism at Play in Conveniently Timed (Non) Story On Mitch McConnell's Ancestors Being Slave Owners

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks back to his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks back to his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


On Monday, NBC News broke what some media and political commentators viewed as a blockbuster story about Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) involving the slave-owning history of some of his ancestors.

The report centered around searches done of McConnnell’s family history by way of “ancestry and census records.” Here’s what they found:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said recently he opposes paying government reparations to the descendants of American slaves, has a family history deeply entwined in the issue: Two of his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners, U.S. census records show.

The two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county “Slave Schedules” in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

The details about McConnell’s ancestors, discovered by NBC News through a search of ancestry and census records, came in the wake of recent hearings on reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Asked about the reparations issue, McConnell, R-Ky., said he was opposed to the idea, arguing it would be hard to figure out whom to compensate.

Even if you hadn’t read the story itself, the headline and subheadline to it tell you all you need to know about why the story was done in the first place: To shame the Senator for taking what the news network views as a conveniently calculated position against reparations:

Screen grab via NBC News.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was incredulous that NBC News even found this to be newsworthy:

Former Red State managing editor Erick Erickson – now the editor at The Resurgent, called this story out for what it is:

There literally is no journalistic or newsworthy purpose for this article except to apply pressure on McConnell to not block slave reparations legislation. There is none. As the article itself notes,

Louis Cain, professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago and an expert on the economics of slavery, said more Americans have been stained by slavery than they realize. “I suspect with the mobility of the American population in the 20th and 21st centuries, most of us have ancestors that owned slaves, including many individuals who did not arrive until well after the Civil War,“ Cain said. “The responsibility for what happened was collective, not individual.”

This completely undermines the purpose of the article. If the responsibility is collective, singling out McConnell is ridiculous, but that’s exactly what NBC News is doing because it is not reporting news. It is working to advance the hucksters’ reparations agenda.


Similar point made here:


The journalism community – both inside and outside of NBC, were quick to share, write up their own versions, and/or praise the report and defend the journalists behind it from accusations of an agenda.

Here’s NBC News digital reporter Jon Allen trying to justify the report:

Tim Perone is an assistant managing editor for NBC News digital:

Here’s NBC News correspondent Morgan Radford, in one of the more obvious displays of agenda-driven journalistic commentary:


Move along, no agenda to see here.

Clay Travis notes that the Louisville Courier‘s headline was arguably worse than NBC‘s:

Key point from John Hayward and others surrounding this story:

And how convenient was the timing of this story? Very, very convenient:


Here are some more burning questions the mainstream media won’t answer about this story:


Related: If the mainstream media are so good at digging into family histories, how did they so badly botch the Sen. Elizabeth Warren fake Native American heritage story?


Doing a quick scan of reactions to the story last night and today on social media and other websites, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many rank and file leftists (not the ones who are perpetually outraged) say they didn’t think story was fair to McConnell. ‘Blaming him for the sins of his ancestors isn’t right’ was the key take away I got from much of what I read in the comments.

It’s very obvious why the media ran this story. NBC News and their defenders can try to explain it away all they want to, but it’s very clear what the agenda was here – and it wasn’t to advance objective journalism.

— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –



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