Accuracy in Media

The CBS Sunday Morning show, resurrected a smear of George Washington on February 27, just five days after his birthday. It was a despicable way of commemorating the two hundred and sixty-eighth anniversary of the birth of the father of our country. The smear had been published in The New York Times last July. The Times devoted half a page to a story by its science editor, Nicholas Wade, to a claim made by several women that they are descendants of Washington.

CBS devoted over five minutes to airing the claims of these women that their ancestor, West Ford, was the son of George Washington and a slave named Venus, owned by Washington?s half brother, John Augustine Washington. The women say their claim is based on a story passed down through the family that George Washington was Venus?s “sleeping partner.”

There is not a shred of evidence that George Washington had any connection with Venus. Martha Washington had four children before she was widowed at an early age and married George. The fact that they had no children together is strong evidence that he was sterile.

Moreover, Augustine?s plantation was a hard two-day ride from Mount Vernon. Washington?s whereabouts during the time West Ford was conceived are known except for a period so brief that if George Washington made the journey, he would have had to leave almost as soon as he arrived. The idea that he would have made such an arduous journey just to sleep with a slave is absurd.

Venus?s son, West Ford, was of mixed blood, but it is a long leap to assume that George Washington was his father. Augustine Washington did give him special treatment, probably because either he or his son, Bushrod, had fathered West Ford. Elise Allen, the great granddaughter of West Ford told CBS that her father told her on his death bed to “tell the story” that George Washington was her great great grandfather. She gave the absurd excuse that she had kept it secret from everyone but her family because “America was in trouble with lynchings and race riots.”

She said they decided to make the story public after the story of Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, broke in November 1998. Her granddaughters decided to see if they could get a book deal. This got them the half-page story in the Times and interviews on NBC?s Today Show and MSNBC. Nicholas Wade, who wrote the story in the Times, soon after wrote another story saying that the claim that George Washington was the father of West Ford was dubious and unprovable.

CBS ignored that. It showed an official at Mount Vernon saying that Washington was probably sterile, but it did not use the evidence that Martha had four children by her first husband and none by George. Nor did it say how far Mount Vernon was from his brother?s plantation and the evidence that Washington was not there when West Ford was conceived. CBS concluded with Elise Allen?s claim that Washington?s paternity would some day be established. Our “respectable” journalists delight in airing discredited smears of America?s greatest presidents, but they refuse to report the serious crimes of Bill Clinton.

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