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KSTP's #PointerGate: Reporter Jay Kolls Doubles Down and America Facepalms

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By noon Friday, #pointergate was the top trending hash tag in the entire United States. Vanity Fair called it "pathetic." Daily Kos called it the most racist news story of 2014.

If you don't know by now, it all started Thursday night when Jay Kolls of KSTP insisted that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges had flashed "a known gang sign" during a voter drive on the city's north side. The proof? A photograph of her and Navell Gordon, a volunteer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), pointing playful fingers and smiling.

See also:
Twitter Erupts After #PointerGate Story, KSTP Tries to Defend Itself


Though Kolls admitted there was no evidence of gang affiliation, he highlighted Gordon's criminal record and his ongoing probation (and later called him a gang banger on Twitter).

"That's disrespectful to me," Gordon tells us, and points to Kolls's DUI arrest in 2007. "He made a mistake and he's on the newscast. I have a background. I'm trying to change my life."

It's true, says Anthony Newby, executive director of NOC, and you can already see the results in the community. Voter turnout in this last election was abysmal, but the North Side neighborhoods where Gordon and other organizers volunteered to sign people up saw a 13 percent increase from the 2010 midterms.

Apparently that's not good enough. In his report, Kolls said cops brought the photo to his attention after doing "investigative work" on Gordon's Facebook page. But what the cops failed to tell Kolls -- and he failed to dig up -- was that Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau stood right next to the mayor and Navell when the photograph was taken.

Perhaps the craziest part of this story -- besides the fact it was broadcast at all -- is that Kolls doubled down rather than apologize, insinuating on Twitter that people who questioned the race-baiting nature of his report were actually the racists. In a statement, KSTP revealed itself as a flack for police sources who supposedly believe the photo "could jeopardize public safety."

Unfortunately, the madness didn't end there. Kolls produced a followup story Friday titled "Law Enforcement: Criticism of Mayor Hodges' Photo Report Misses the Point" in which he repeated the same exact claims as the first. Later that evening, on Joe Soucheray's radio show, Kolls wouldn't say whether he believed the mayor was endorsing a gang lifestyle. He leaves that to unnamed people in the metro-area gang unit who tell him, "Perception is as bad as the real thing."

The whole story reeks of score settling, especially in light of Friday's roll-out of police body cameras -- an initiative championed by Hodges and which hurt more than a few feelings. John Delmonico, president of the city's cop union, wrote an op-ed earlier this month in which he slammed the mayor for saying the culture of the police department was "on a downward spiral." Kolls admitted on Soucheray's show that Delmonico was among the cops who gave him the photograph.

There's more: NOC called out a Minneapolis police officer back in September for allegedly tackling a canvasser and threatening to shoot witnesses. And guess what? The canvasser was Gordon.

There is nothing funny about the unequal treatment of minorities in the mainstream media -- or the life-long burden that felons have to carry, without the possibility of redemption -- but much of the reaction to this stupid, stupid affair has been tragically comical.

On the next page, let's take a moment to reflect on the mind-blowing credulousness of a local TV station, as parodied by much wiser and more skeptical citizens over the weekend.

[page] Twitter took Kolls to task over the weekend. Here are a few of the reactions:

-- trianglman (@trianglman) November 7, 2014
We could go on for a while. Browse the hash tag yourself for seemingly endless of lulz.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse