Why the ridiculousness of the notion Antonin Scalia was murdered by the Obama Administration doesn’t excuse the bad journalism and pooh-poohing of valid questions on the shoddy post-mortem activities.
February 16, 2016
US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s body after death was first apparently found by John Poindexter, the owner of the remote exclusive ranch that Scalia was staying at. His comments to media of the state of Scalia’s body were reported by various papers.
Note that only the San Antonio Express above noted the detail of Scalia found with a pillow over his head. The others simply omitted this detail.
Why did these mainstream outlets omit the detail of “pillow found on head”? Most likely they feared that this would just give ammunition to those who would assume the worst. Anyway, why mention the pillow? Who would smother a guy and leave the pillow on his face?
So they left it out all together.
Yet, by making an editorial decision to omit the detail otherwise widely quoted from the San Antonio Express paper (which first broke Scalia’s death to begin with hours after his body was first discovered), it only stokes the notion that the media is suppressing inconvenient details and is part of a “cover up”.
Indeed the media is doubling down on its refusal to clarify Poindexter’s remarks and instead ridiculing those who bring it up.
What Should Have Happened
The media should have clarified from Poindexter what the pillow comment meant. Perhaps it was literally over his head, Scalia having slid down. Or Scalia’s head was turned with the pillow over his head like the picture on the left, above.
Indeed given the whole lack of detail of Scalia’s death, the signing off on his death certificate by phone, his family’s refusal to authorize an autopsy, it would seem that the death of arguably the most important and famous Supreme Court Justice at this particular time is being treated as shoddily as the death of a homeless person on a New York sidewalk (which is also inexcusable). Even the Washington Post found the process after death chaotic.
At a time when the US public deeply polarized, with a significant fraction of the electorate willing to believe that Obama is an evil dictator who can and wants to cap his opponents at will (like he does with drone strikes in foreign lands), a through investigation and reporting process is necessary. One can argue that the crazies won’t be satisfied with anything less than a signed confession from Obama, so no matter what one does, it won’t be enough for them. But this misses the point.
The bigger picture is a procedure and precedence in dealing with the death of one of the key senior officials in one of three branches of the US Government. It has to be thorough and as importantly seen to be thorough.
Post Script (added hours after above post)
Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times actually did what I had suggested reporters do and talked to Poindexter. As per Pearce:
I talked to the guy who found Scalia, and he said the pillow was not on Scalia’s face, but between Scalia’s head and the headboard.
He said he “didn’t find anything unusual” about the arrangement. For what it’s worth.
There. Straight question, straight answer. You know. Journalism.
Update (February 24th, 2016)
The Washington Post had an excellent report regarding Scalia’s association with a secretive Mason-like group of hunters which is what led him to the remote ranch. While the larger part of the story is about this secretive group and Scalia’s movement over the last day, there are some interesting details about the pillow and how the body was found. There is a new detail about a “breathing apparatus”.