By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on January 1, 2019
Many friends and supporters of John Archibald have asked me to give him one more chance at redemption for writing and publishing the fake racist quotation “kick white people’s ass” which he made up and attributed to me in his November 29, 2018 article. According to Archibald, I made this statement during an interview with co-author Bob Blalock and him for a feature article they published in The Birmingham News on May 12, 1991.
For the record, I never made the racist comment and it does not appear anywhere in the published article. Furthermore, this comment is not captured in our tape-recorded interview and it does not appear in the reporters’ notes. Finally, Bob Blalock has not confirmed Archibald account on this racist comment because it did not happen.
Unfortunately, John Archibald forfeited his chance at redemption when he established a new gutter-level standard of journalism in his New Year’s Eve article. Here is the new standard, as announced by a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter: “I quoted the comment from 28-year-old memory, and that’s not a smart thing to do. I can’t prove he said it any more than he can prove he didn’t. I sure hope he did say it, because I put those words in his mouth and if they’re wrong I did him a profound disservice.”
Archibald readily admits he cannot prove I said “kick white people’s ass." Yet, Archibald published this comment anyway.
AL.com’s Reckon managing editor/reporter John Hammontree repeated Archibald’s fake quotation in his December 25, 2018 article. Hammontree never contacted me to ascertain whether I made this racist comment. He simply reported this comment as a true statement made by me.
Rather than retracting his racist quotation, Archibald doubled-down and reduced my request for journalist integrity to a “he said/he denied” dispute between a white and black man in an Old South state. Even though his version of this fake quotation is based on a “faulty” memory from more than 28 years ago and is devoid of any corroborating evidence, Archibald refused to retract it.
John Hammontree has made no comment about this matter even though he repeated Archibald’s fake racist quotation on Christmas Day and is an accomplice to the public dissemination of this fake quotation.
Given The Birmingham News’ documented history of smearing the good names and character of numerous civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while serving as a willing participant in J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous COINTEPRO program, I think it is only fair that I afford AL.com an opportunity to retract the fake racist quotation that appeared in the Archibald and Hammontree articles. This retraction should be a straightforward professional acknowledgement that: (a) the racist comment Archibald attributed to me was, in fact, never made, (b) the publication of this fake quotation on November 29, 2018 and, again on Christmas Day, was a journalistic mistake, and (c) AL.com did a “profound disservice “ to me by publishing this fake racist quotation based upon John Archibald’s “faulty” memory from 28 years ago and without corroborating evidence that the comment was actually made.
Once AL.com issues this straightforward retraction and a sincere apology to me for the “profound disservice” done in John Archibald’s and John Hammontree’s articles, I will accept the apology and move on without initiating any legal action in this matter.
Right now, John Archibald and John Hammontree occupy the same dreadful spot in Alabama history that Victoria Price and Ruby Bates occupied in the Scottsboro Boys case. Archibald and Hammontree falsely accused me of making a racist statement with no corroborating evidence. Price and Bates falsely accused nine innocent black boys of rape with no corroborating evidence. Archibald had a chance to recant his false statement and he refused to do so. Hammontree has remained silent. Ruby Bates recanted her false rape allegation in the Scottsboro Boys case. Like Archibald, Victoria Price did not recant her false allegations.
The Scottsboro Boys suffered unimaginable pain and agony for 45-years because of Victoria Price’s false allegations. The Watkins family and I are suffering unimaginable damage to our reputations and documented legacy as “bridge-builders” between blacks and whites in America since 1865 solely because of Archibald’s fake racist quotation. The publication of his racist quotation has also been particularly hurtful to the multiple interracial couples in my immediate family, each of whom I personally and warmly welcomed into our family. It has also been hurtful to my wonderful daughter, who is biracial.
This is AL.com’s Scottsboro Boys’ moment. Will the state’s largest media organization choose “truth in journalism” and end the “profound disservice” Archibald and Hammontree have inflicted upon me by promptly retracting Archibald's fake racist quotation and apologizing for its publication, or will AL.com continue to breathe life into the “lie” Archibald fabricated and both men published?
PHOTO: Truth in Journalism is the only standard that matters.