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Little Ado About a Swastika

July 30, 1997
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Two Democratic senators who touted a West Virginia man at a news conference July 18 as a hero of the American working middle class did not know he had a swastika tattooed on his arm.

But it is the reporting of the incident — or lack of it — that has raised many eyebrows in the nation’s capital, where issues often turn partisan.

In this case, some say the Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D- S.C.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) — got off easy.

Media critics and Republicans suggested that the coverage would have been severe if the news conference was called by House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Only the Hill, a Capitol Hill weekly paper, and Associated Press Radio reported the dime-sized tattoo near the wrist of Rickey McCumbers.

Both senators said they were unaware of the tattoo when they hailed McCumbers as a prime example of how tax cuts would help working Americans.

McCumbers later called his tattoo a teen-age mistake.

Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz wrote this week that “the journalists who sat on the story clearly gave the Democrats a pass.”

They included, according to Kurtz, an NBC reporter and a CNN producer.

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