Reporter Jillian Kay Melchior of the Wall Street Journal took it upon herself in 2018 to do what local media should have done in 2015, namely review the existing records to see if there was any truth behind the claims of widespread campus racism at the University of Missouri.
Melchior took particular interest in the assertions of one Jonathan Butler, the hunger striker in whose support the MU football team threatened a boycott. People believed Butler. In fact, an MU alum, Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris, emerged as one of the more vocal participants in this year’s anthem kneeling spectacle based in part on Butler’s allegations.
Butler has an interesting background. The perennial student comes from a prominent Omaha family. As even the covertly leftist fact-checking outfit Snopes conceded, “Butler’s father is Eric L. Butler, executive vice president for sales and marketing for the Union Pacific Railroad. His 2014 compensation was $8.4 million, according to regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” So much for the inequities of white privilege.
According to the Wall Street Journal, at the time of the protests Butler claimed, “Being on campus, I’ve seen the N-word spray-painted on my door. I’ve experienced white students who have jumped me during the President Obama’s election night. . . . I was jumped by three white students on campus.” Mr. Butler lamented that such behavior was “allowed to be going on, on campus—let me make that very clear, was allowed to be going on, on campus.”
Rather than take Butler’s word for these abuses, Melchior made an exhaustive review of the campus records during the lengthy period of Butler’s stay on campus. What she found was “no sign of the incidents Mr. Butler described.”
“Neither the university police department nor the Columbia, Mo., city police received any report of an incident where Mr. Butler’s door, residence or property was vandalized,” Melchior continued. “Furthermore, neither police department has any record of Mr. Butler being jumped, assaulted, attacked or otherwise physically harmed by students as he described at any time between January 2008 and May 2016, when he departed the university.”
Melchior dove even deeper into the records, looking for any incidents that might have resembled the ones Butler claimed to have happened either to him or other MU students, even checking with the Sheriff’s office. Again, nothing turned up.
“It’s possible that the incidents happened and he didn’t report them,” writes Melchior, “but in that case there is no basis for his claim that the university ‘allowed’ the incidents to occur.”
Boys have been crying wolf since at least the time of Aesop some 2500 or so years ago, but the media’s willingness to take the wolf-crier at his word is a relatively new thing. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for doing the work Missouri media chose not to do.