THURSDAY UPDATE: And for good measure, NBC News' Rachel Maddow:
UPDATE: Folks, you did realize NBC News' Al Sharpton was going to see this eventually, right? Holy crap:
David Weigel of Slate is the latest national voice to weigh in on the growing controversy over mailers attacking Republican county clerks, sent by a group headed by the former communications director of the Colorado GOP, Bill Ray–mailers that contain a photo altered to remove African-American faces from a line of voters.
The only black woman in the photo had been photoshopped out, replaced by the woman standing next to her. Why?
"The mail house just made a monumental mistake," says Mario Nicolais, counsel for Citizens for Free and Fair Elections. "And they hadn't informed the folks here that they'd done the Photoshop. I think they just weren't thinking."
We've reported on the response from the mail house in question, Commerce City-based Wizbang Solutions, and their claim that the Photoshopping of the African-American woman at the center of the photo in question was done to depict "the same person waiting in line to vote." This excuse doesn't explain the removal of another African-American face directly behind the first one–the two most prominent in the photo, with other minorities depicted either barely visible or faded out of the edges. Moreover, nothing in the text content of the mailing suggests a problem with people voting twice; it's all about "felons, illegal aliens, and the deceased."
In short, their excuse is ridiculous, in no way persuasive that this isn't exactly what it looks like.
But as Weigel reports, Mario Nicolais of the Hackstaff Law Group, counsel for the issue committee Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, has no plans to admit what appears obvious.
"I know there are a lot of people out there who are looking out for racism in a story like this," he says, "but we're beyond the time when there are out and out racists." [Pols emphasis]
Now before you break out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter at this preposterous assertion, we feel obliged to point out that Nicolais was a major Republican proponent of the civil unions legislation that finally passed this year. When Nicolais says something as plainly absurd as "we're beyond the time when there are out and out racists," remember that he probably really believes that, and tries to make it true with his personal behavior.
But it is no less preposterous to suggest that "out and out racists" no longer exist. In the case of this mailer, once you understand that Nicolais' excuse about why this African-American woman was edited out doesn't explain the removal of a second African-American depicted behind the first, it's obvious the removal of the two most prominent African-Americans from the image was deliberate. There is no other logical reason for removing both of these faces than the fact that they were prominently depicted African-Americans.
And that is by definition a racist motive. No amount of willful ignorance can change that.
There seems to be an effort to aggressively shout down any suggestion that a mailer with a return address of Secretary of State Scott Gessler's former law firm, the firm he tried to "moonlight" for after taking office, could indicate Gessler might have had a role in the production of this mailing. But the fact is, any member of the public who received this mailer, entering the return address into Google to get more information on its origin, is going to immediately discover the Hackstaff Law Group–and its former name, Hackstaff Gessler. All of the reporting on this story has taken note of the return address on these mailers being the same as Gessler's former firm.
What would any reasonable person think?
It might greatly annoy Republicans to have to contend with this, but when they put up the state's leading GOP election defense lawyer for this office, they made exactly this kind of suspicion inevitable. Given Gessler's public role in opposition to this legislation, his long history on the shady side of Colorado politics, and established record of back-room maneuvering against county clerks while in office, the angry protestations against the suggestion Gessler may have been involved…protest too much. This stinks to high heaven, and it reveals a deeply ugly side of contemporary Republican politics. And it can't be blustered away.