BOSTON (CBS) — There is plenty of soul-searching to be done in the wake of the disturbing news out of Lunenberg, where law enforcement officials now say the focus of their probe into the spray-painting of racist graffiti on the home of a mixed-race family has shifted away from the town’s football team to the family themselves.

Listen to Jon’s commentary

The police say they couldn’t find any evidence of involvement by the football players, who were initially fingered by the alleged victims. And that calls for an apology from the Lunenberg school superintendant and any other officials involved in the precipitous decision to cancel the team’s season.

The regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who also rushed to judgment, should also apologize.

Also complicit – elements of the news media who were so quick to jump out ahead of the facts and jam this case into their pre-conceived notions of a hate-crime “trend.”

Shame on any of us who do that, and that also goes for snap judgment about possible implication of the family, no matter what some search warrant says. They, too, deserve at least a minimal presumption of innocence until facts and truth are established.

Along with the damage that’s been done to the lives of the football players and the goodwill of Lunenberg citizens who turned out to show solidarity with the supposed victims, there’s the broader issue of future damage done to the real victims of real hate crimes.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, points out, “every fake hate crime report feeds directly into the extreme-right propaganda machine.”

Hate is real, and a real problem. Violent practitioners of it are the bottom of the barrel.

But there’s a special place in purgatory right alongside them reserved for those who fake hate crimes for their own selfish purposes, political or otherwise.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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