(NNPA)—Freedom of the press unequivocally stands at the core of fundamentals in the United States of America. It is a form of checks and balances towards the government, business and other entities in our society. But when producers, editors, journalists, executives and media conglomerates themselves begin fabricating news and openly spreading half-truths and lies, it’s time for someone else to start checking them.
Last week, news outlets began reporting on the case of Megan Williams, the young woman in West Virginia who had claimed in 2007 that she was kidnapped, beaten, sexually assaulted, forced to eat human feces and doused with hot water all the while racial epithets were being slurred toward her.
Seven individuals were convicted in the case—all of whom confessed in some form or fashion to the crime. The prosecution only pressed hate crime charges against one of the seven, despite his belief in the heinous nature of the event. Many—including myself—stepped in to support the troubled woman and her mother, who was deemed a victim even by the mainstream media. Megan has now recanted her story.
Reputable news outlets such as The New York Times, The Charleston Gazette and The Associated Press objectively reported on the turn of events. The AP quoted me in its piece as stating: “The Rev. Al Sharpton and Black Lawyers for Justice urged prosecutors to pursue hate-crime charges. The lawyers organized a march on her behalf. Sharpton addressed a rally in Charleston and donated $1,000 to Williams’ family as a Christmas gift…Sharpton has asked the prosecutor to vindicate anyone wrongfully convicted.”
The Charleston Gazette said in its piece: “Sharpton told the Gazette that he came down for the rally but wasn’t involved in any marches and did not represent the Williams family. He said he was involved only as a supporter of Williams.”
And the Times reported Oct. 22: “The Rev. Al Sharpton addressed a 2007 rally against hate crimes in Charleston and gave $1,000 to Ms. Williams’ family as a Christmas gift. Mr. Sharpton said Wednesday that he had sent a letter to the current Logan County prosecutor, John Bennett, asking him to look in to Ms. Williams’ new statement.”
Even those news outlets that perceived that I may have pushed for hate crime charges, did not fabricate lies or spin this latest development in the Megan Williams’ case. It was only on the right, from publications like the New York Post, where those attempting to vilify and discredit my history of civil rights work began freely spreading outright mistruths. A disservice to the field of journalism, the Post attempted to pass off judgments and their own biased beliefs as if they were facts.
“A troubled young woman whom the Rev. Al Sharpton championed as a victim of a horrific, racially motivated sexual assault now says she fabricated the incident…” the piece begins. This sorry excuse for reporting went on to say: “Sharpton—who now wants a new investigation—already has a record tarnished by his drumbeating for Tawana Brawley’s discredited 1987 claim that she was gang-raped by White cops.”
Instead of highlighting the notion that all I did was support a distraught woman and her family, and that I was not directly ever involved in handling her case, the Post has once again taken the liberty of printing whatever it feels like without proper research to support its biased claims. And unlike other publications that accurately reported my desire for the prosecution to reopen this case to ensure due justice for the seven White individuals who were accused of the crime, the Post attempted to juxtapose this incident with another one where once again all I did was believe a victim—not create a hoax.
As the Republican Party struggles for a clear voice and more and more begin to leave the contingent for its increasingly fanatic fringe rhetoric, it seems that those on the right are facing a new era of desperation. And desperation of course leads to a plethora of last resorts. When no one will listen to you, take your newspapers, TV outlets or conservative spin machines as legitimate news sources, you simply begin conjuring up whatever you want. When the wool has been removed from your cacophony of deception, no one will be left to dupe. And thanks to our ability to fact-check things on our own, your lies cannot fool people anymore.
We however, must not forget that it is still our duty to stand up and point out falsehood whenever and wherever we see it. We must be courageous against those who work to silence us, silence our work and silence the cause of civil rights and justice for everyone. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the right will stop at nothing to create ridiculous shams because that’s all the ammunition they have left.
First it was Tawana, now Megan and next thing you know, they will say I created the balloon boy hoax! Will these people and corporations stop at nothing? Apparently there’s no limit to the level they will stoop to. I simply say to them: keep creating this hoax, and we will continue calling you out every step of the way.