The Wall Street Journal continues to discredit itself


The Wall Street Journal has a credibility gap in Indian country, which it seems determined to make wider and deeper. It attacked a sovereignty-based sales tax exemption for California tribes after two decades of advocating tax-free "Enterprise Zones" and supply-side tax cuts, and it chose the morning of a visit from a delegation from the National Congress of American Indians to make this breach with its own principles.

Now its editorial writer on Indian affairs has managed to convince his senior editors to endorse a hopelessly lagging candidate in a Democratic Congressional primary apparently because the aspirant is one of his major sources. The candidate, of course, is Jeff Benedict, author of "Without Reservation," the attack on the legitimacy of the Mashantucket Pequots that has been widely discredited except among the ranks of the true Indian-haters. Benedict's star has so faded that a former best friend has resigned as his campaign manager and he is highly unlikely even to be able to force a primary for the Democratic nomination in Connecticut's second Congressional District, home to the Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods Casino Resort and the Mohegan tribe's Mohegan Sun.

Connecticut Democrats hold a District nominating convention in July; a loser has to have the support of 15 percent of the delegates even to take the contest to a primary vote. Benedict lost his best chance to make even this modest threshold when his slate took a humiliating defeat in a Norwich city primary earlier in June. Since Norwich is the city closest to both casinos, the vote would seem to show a certain limit to the appeal of Benedict's one issue, the supposedly harmful local effect of Indian gaming. The Journal blithely ignored this political reality, and now Benedict is saying his best chance for gaining support is the Journal's endorsement.

We can watch the returns to see how many non-Indians still believe the Journal.

Meanwhile the second of the Journal's main sources, Sean Murphy of the Boston Globe, is having a rough time of his own keeping facts straight. In a grudging report on federal recognition of the Eastern Pequot and Paucatuck Eastern Pequot tribes, Murphy said the Paucatucks were the larger of the factions of what is now a single recognized tribe, with 1000 members to the Easterns' 150 members. The numbers, of course, are precisely the reverse. But this confusion is not new to Murphy. In a huge investigative series two years ago that anti-Indian forces still like to cite, Murphy placed the Mohegan Sun Casino in Ledyard, ten miles away from its true location in Uncasville.

So inaccurate has been the Journal's reporting and so off-balance its commentary, including its belated endorsement of Jeff Benedict, that one would be hard-pressed to find any educated policymaker who takes the newspaper seriously when it comes to American Indian issues.