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Whom Should We Fear? Donald Trump or the Media

April 27, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Five

Disappointingly, the Metropolitan Council of the American Jewish Congress got into the act. They were probably influenced by the media. Excerpts from the Resolution adopted by the organization was recorded in the September 25-October 1, 1991 edition of the City Sun, “As the public leadership vacuumed, for the most part was filled by Sharpton’s, Carson’s, Mason’s, More’s, and Daughtry’s, and the City Sun and Amsterdam News, it is left to the Jewish community alone to assert that Black racism is no less racist than white racism. Only the Jewish community rallied against the anti-Semitism among the hate mongers.” In the resolution, it was stated, ‘The actions of Al Sharpton, Sonny Carson, Vernon Mason, Colin Moore, Herbert Daughtry, City Sun, and others, who have for opportunistic reasons, inflamed racial tension and hatred.'”*

I responded with a lengthy letter,** accusing the organization of being carried away with the inaccuracies, hatred, fear, and racism of the media. Alas, popular Honorable David Dinkins, who was the Mayor at that time, was caught in the crossfires of the press and their supporters’ scurrilous attacks.

In the days following the Crown Heights rioting, most of the press and even the Hasidim applauded Dinkins for his handling of events. In the West Indian Day parade (the largest in the city),which takes place on Labor Day, Dinkins and Black leaders marched for the first time with Hasidic leaders in a show of unity, but something shattered this harmony. What was it?

Lemrik Nelson, a Black youth accused of participating in the killing of a rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was acquitted. This infuriated the Hasidic leadership, who in turn began to inflame the situation again, regurgitating all the explosive rhetoric and using their considerable influence to reopen old wounds and revive the fears and suspicions of the Jewish community, and swaying public opinion at large.

People, who only a few months earlier had applauded Dinkins, were now criticizing him. There was no difference in Dinkins’ behavior – from the laudatory days to the castigating days – to warrant such an incredible flip-flop. Of course, tied into this reaction of hatred and racism was politics. It was, after all, an election year.

Caving into the pressure was New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a friend of the Hasidim. Mr. Cuomo had only lukewarm support for Dinkins all along, and many Black leaders had come to believe that Cuomo was prepared to throw Dinkins overboard, or, at the very least, was not prepared to risk his own election for Dinkins. There were ominous hints that the gubernatorial race would not be an easy one for Cuomo. So, as the Governor surveyed the scene, seeing the incumbent Black Mayor (who had won by only a few percentage points over a Jewish Mayor, Ed Koch, in the last election) embroiled in heated debate with White, Jewish, and Asian groups, his support dwindling among traditional liberal supporters, Mr. Cuomo decided to back away from the Black vote which was already locked up. Moreover, this time, Mr. Dinkins would be running against an Italian candidate, Rudolph Giuliani. It is reasonable to conclude that Cuomo was under enormous pressure from the Italian community to support Giuliani (though a Republican) or to do nothing to hinder his success.

Cuomo’s unenthusiastic and clearly ambivalent support for Dinkins should have had no effect, for after all, Cuomo’s popularity was waning, too. But Cuomo went on to show his true colors. A few days before the election, he issued a report highly critical of Dinkins’ handling of Crown Heights. Then, he tried to convince Dinkins supporters that this wasn’t going to really hurt Dinkins; rather it would bolster him with the voters. One commented, “The Governor is peeing in our face, which is awful enough; but, now he wants us to believe it’s rain.”

Realizing that the highly critical report would generate a great deal of resentment in the Black community, the Governor’s office called Black leaders to a briefing at Manhattan’s World Trade Center before the report was to be released. Interesting! If Cuomo honestly believed that the report would help, why the briefing? But the larger question was: “Why did Cuomo find it necessary to issue his report just a few days before the election?” It release could have waited a few months, a few weeks, or even a few days.

The Governor’s contradictory action and statements made it crystal clear; either he was against Dinkins, or he wasn’t going to help him. In the end, Rudolph Giuliani won the election. Or, is it that Dinkins lost it? For despite all the shenanigans, the outcome was in the hands of people of African ancestry. On Election Night, after a hard day of campaigning, I went to the Dinkins headquarters. I asked Bill Lynch, Dinkins’ campaign manager, for an honest assessment of our chances. His reply was, “It’s in our hands. If we vote our potential, we win.”

Unfortunately, tragically, the enthusiasm for Dinkins was not what it had been. While there were some Jews and Whites saying that Dinkins showed too much favoritism towards Blacks, Blacks were saying that Dinkins was showing too much support for Jews and Whites. Some Black even called him “Dinkinstein.” Although this allegation cannot be supported by his record, many Black people felt that Dinkins wasn’t doing enough for the community.

There had been twelve years of the Koch administration’s policies against Blacks and the poor. And, Dinkins had only won the 1980 election by four percentage points. Even under normal condition, neither Dinkins nor anyone else would have been able to meet the high, though unrealistic, expectations of Black voters at that time. Factor in ubiquitous racism and years of deep suspicion and alienation. So, by and large, Blacks stayed home, the 1993 turnout in no way matching that of the previous election in 1989. In 1993, Dinkins received 380,0000 Black votes compared to the 501,000 he won in 1989, a difference of 121, 000. Giuliani won the 1993 election by just 45,000 votes.

Then, in 1994, it was Cuomo’s turn. The Black community that Cuomo thought he had in his pocket didn’t show up; at least, not as expected. The gubernatorial election brought an upset victory to little-known upstate politician, George Pataki. There was a kind of poetic justice in Cuomo’s defeat. His loss was directly influenced by the disaffection by the people whose leader he had forsaken.

During that gubernatorial campaign, Cuomo received a most unusual endorsement. Guess who came to dinner? The Republican Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani. That settled it. If some had merely surmised that Cuomo had made a deal with Giuliani, and had rejected Dinkins on that basis, this endorsement confirmed it. The tragedy is that the defeat of both Dinkins and Cuomo was a set-back for Black people. Mario Cuomo, with all his faults, was a better advocate for Blacks than George Pataki.**

Let me be clear. I do not want to convey the impression that I, or anyone, is exempt from criticism by the press or whoever. What I am vigorously arguing is that no one deserves to be deliberately misquoted, or have words and statements taken out of context; unfairly treated; and, targeted for character defamation, abusive language, and maliciously distorted images. That is why I raised the question regarding the treatment of Mr. Trump. I believe that given the unfair coverage of Mr. Trump, and the controversial things Mr. Trump have said render both of them on trial before the public that wants truth, facts, accuracy, and fairness.

Protestors, disruptors, and controversial figures will come and go. The press will be here. The press, hopefully, is here to stay. They should have a commitment to truth, accuracy, objectivity, fairness, decency, and impartiality. There is a Bible verse that says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” I say to the press, “Let the press vigorously strive for truth, honesty, fairness, accuracy, competence, and professionalism. And, let the controversial characters continue to be controversial.”


* From the chapter, “A Response to the Metropolitan Council of the American Jewish Congress,” in my book, “No Monopoly on Suffering: Blacks and Jews in Crown Heights (and Elsewhere).” [Publisher: Africa World Press, Inc., 1997.]