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Whom Should We Fear? Donald Trump or the Media

April 15, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Two

The second experience was more personal. I may be the only leader in recent times – surely, the only Black leader that won a lawsuit against one of the major television stations on a character defamation charge. We know it’s hard to win those cases regarding the media. You have to prove among other things that they deliberately and maliciously lied over a period of time. Fortunately, I keep good files.

I was subjected to a constant barrage of derogatory languages. As God would have it, in their eagerness to destroy me, they were given wrong information, I believe, by the police. Perhaps, they were right in their allegations, but they had the wrong person. There was another Herbert Daughtry that was, perhaps, guilty of what was attributed to me. I visited the other Herbert Daughtry in the hospital. I even took a photo with him.

The media, in their haste, never verified, checked, or validated their allegations. They presented their misinformation on television. Let me emphasize, it was not just one isolated media outlet. It was practically all of them – electronic and print. Thank God 99% of the Black press did not participate in the character assault. In fact, they were very, very supportive.

It is easy for some of us to believe in conspiracy theories, especially as it relates to the press. Again, reporters would come to me and say that they had never seen anyone receive the treatment which the press directed towards me. What was I doing? Was I engaged in terrorist attacks, robbing banks, raping old ladies, or shooting babies? No, I was simply calling for justice, challenging America to live up to its promise.

Let me give you an example. Randolph Evans, a fifteen-year-old lad, was shot in the head for no reason by a police officer named Robert Torsney in 1976. The jury pretty much acquitted the officer in 1977. Arthur Miller, a respected businessman, was choked to death by the police on June 14, 1978. On June 15, 1978, Victor Rhodes, a 16-year-old Black youth was beaten to a pulp by 30-50 members of the Hassidic community, according to the press.

It was a painful, infuriating time for Black people. We held a rally in one of the schools. I spoke. I denounced the police and the Hassidic community. I said among other things, “When we organize our patrol, when men meet men, we will see what the people in the long black coats will do.”

There had been a history of Hassidic vigilante attacks on the youth, women, and some men by said community. I, as Chair of the Black United Front (BUF), sought to make as militant of a statement as I could. The community was angry, and I wanted to deliver that message to New York, but in particular the Hassidic community. We had had enough. Clearly, my statement was not that we would initiate violence: “We will see what the people in the long black coats will do.” Neither was it passive. To repeat, my intention was to deliver the strongest, angriest message: “You better cease your assault on our people, or there will be serious consequences.”

The next day, the press said, “We will get the Jews, and the people in the long Black coats.” They showed a picture of me looking crazed with hands wildly gesticulating in the air. That misquote and the picture followed me for years. In the many places where I would speak, especially on the college campuses, inevitably, I would be hounded by that misquote. Repeatedly, in ad infinitum, and everywhere, I denied the misquote and sought to give an accurate quote. My refutations went unprinted and unheeded. I was tarred and feathered probably, in some people’s mind, forever.

Let me give you another example. In 1991, the upheavals, rebellions, and riots, (depending on who is defining what happened) which took place in Crown Heights, were precipitated by the killing of seven-year-old Gavin Cato by a car driven by members of the Hassidic community. The community was furious. Clashes between the Hassidic community and people of color commenced.

Coming from a trial of a young lady who had accused four white students of sexual abuse at St. John’s University, I headed towards Crown Heights. I determined beforehand that I would say as little as possible. I knew my very presence was going to generate the usual white media attacks. I would simply be present, and see if I could bring about a peaceful solution to the problem.

I walked the streets night and day. I had one 2-minute statement when I was asked by the police to have the youth stay on the sidewalk. I spoke at Gavin’s funeral. I taped every word I said. In my remarks, I tried to warn the city. I said, “The situation in Crown Heights has been festering for a long time. Unless we resolve it, it’s going to continue to flare up, and may spill over onto Williamsburg.” Well, the media had a field day. I was accused of stirring up violence. They dug up the 1970s confrontation with the Hassidic community. Obviously, they replayed the misquote.

A march was even held in front of my home. The press did a rare thing. Usually, they do not show or give the address of a person. This time, they zeroed in on the address of my home so that the number could clearly be seen.

My family and I became victims of hate mail of the filthiest kind. The mail that I used to receive at the church now came to my home, which my family had to handle and dare not read. Obviously, this necessitated 24 hours of security by members of our organization. What a horrible impact this had on my wife and four children! Thank God through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my church members, and the many supporters, we were able to overcome. As I have stated, all of our children are doing quite well. They are pursuing their chosen professions and making contributions to build a better world. My wife and I are still married after 54 years.

Let me record one response that I made to Mr. Anthony Marro, the editor of New York News Day, on October 9, 1991. I wrote, “Dear Mr. Marro: Your article in the Monday, September 16, 1991 edition, ‘Two Jewish Groups Protest Black Anti-Semites (the other anti-Semite home was Dr. Leonard Jeffries’),’ was unfair and irresponsible. First of all, I think it is questionable journalism to use the words of one’s adversaries, although in quotation marks, as a headline to an article.

“Second, nowhere in the article do I respond. Although, I had a press conference at 11:00am, at least 2 hours prior to the start of the march, to state my position. So, any outsider group, significantly, the media, did not emphasize outsiders as it does when the outsiders are Black, can make wild allegations against a prominent clergyman respected by people of various religious and national backgrounds and the Newsday does not challenge the outsiders to substantiate their allegations nor give the targeted persons an opportunity to respond.

“A third point worth making: all of the media made a point of showing my home. Some even went to the highly unusual length of recording the address and street name. It was as if they were saying, ‘Here is where he lives, go get him.’ It has been a long time since I have seen such irresponsible, reckless, and biased journalism.”

Source: The letter to Mr. Maro comes from a chapter entitled, “Related Correspondence,” in my book, “No Monopoly on Suffering: Blacks and Jews in Crown Heights (and Elsewhere).” [Publisher: Africa World Press, Inc.]

… to be continued.