A dictionary defines propaganda as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” A great deal of what is held out as journalism today fits this description, with opinion often presented as hard news and objective analysis. Many newspapers have resorted to sensationalism in an attempt to stay in business in the face of intense competition from talk radio, cable TV, blogs, social media, podcasts, and online publications.

A case in point: In the aftermath of the disqualification of Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, the Washington Post ran a wildly one-sided rant by award-winning sports writer Sally Jenkins titled “Forget Maximum Security’s misstep; the whole of horse racing is a foul.” Ms. Jenkins condescendingly took it upon herself to render a moral judgment about the countless fans who follow horse racing, many of whom don’t even gamble, and the thousands of hard-working and animal-loving people involved in the industry, by derisively opining: “This isn’t a sport; it’s a fancied-up vice.”

Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, partied at a 2019 Derby-eve gala and appeared to be enjoying the festivities, so he was part of the vice-seeking crowd his employee Ms. Jenkins rails against.

Some of the world’s most accomplished people and generous philanthropists have bred and raced horses–and still do–and would no doubt be chagrined to learn that their horse-related endeavors have been nothing more than “a fancied-up vice.”

Slanderous hyperbole is apparently a stock in trade for Ms. Jenkins. To illustrate, she published an accusatory article in the Washington Post in August 2018 under the headline “Prehistoric college football coaches are killing players. It’s past time to stop them.” Talk about supercilious exaggeration and broad condemnation of an entire occupation. 

Another shallow article that was obviously timed to detract from Kentucky Derby 2019 and its traditions was a politically correct diatribe by columnist Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Under the caption “Kentucky Derby Anthem ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ is Racist. Don’t Sing It,” Mr. Gerth charged that Kentucky’s beloved official state song “celebrates slavery.” His mindless op-ed coincided with the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers banning Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” over her unpardonable sin of recording a song in the 1930s that is racially insensitive by today’s standards.

When 150,000-plus people sing “My Old Kentucky Home” at the Kentucky Derby, they are innocently expressing affection for the bluegrass state and its emotion-laden signature event on the first Saturday in May…not “celebrating slavery.”

Ironically, the Washington Post and the Courier-Journal were once employers of two of the finest horse-racing writers ever, Andrew Beyer and Jennie Rees.

American horse racing is in dire need of some game-changing and game-saving reforms, no doubt about that, and there are steps that can be taken now, and significant remedial initiatives are being pursued, to increase safety for horses and jockeys and to enhance the sport’s image. But don’t hold your breath waiting for such progress to be reported objectively. Giving credit where credit is due would not fit the intended narrative or attract enough readers.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business


  1. Jeannie says


  2. Critics like Sally Jenkins from an ivory tower set themselves up as judges of other people’s behavior. She has never done anything substantive except pontificate.