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  • Donald V. Watkins

Alabama Power’s Role in Co-opting AL.com

Updated: Jan 18

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on January 18, 2023


An Editorial Opinion


In 2011, John Archibald, a Birmingham News reporter (and now an AL.com columnist), declared personal bankruptcy. The bankruptcy petition required Archibald’s personal signature in several places.


An anonymous commenter on one of Archibald’s articles bashing Jefferson County, Alabama’s bankruptcy filing disclosed Archibald on his personal bankruptcy in his/her comment.


Archibald was discombobulated by this unexpected public disclosure of his bankrupt personal financial condition. He initially lied about his bankruptcy and later blamed his wife for filing the bankruptcy petition without consulting with him.


After Archibald realized that filing a husband-wife bankruptcy petition under these circumstances would subject his wife to culpability for criminal bankruptcy fraud, Archibald came clean and admitted his human failings.


On April 2, 2011, Archibald explained the situation this way: “Let me deal with my own issues, first. Because I have been an idiot. I've been intentionally detached from my family's finances for a long time. I left that chore to others and am guilty, frankly, of not wanting to know. There's no excuse for that.”

Archibald further stated: “These anonymous people, these people who want me fired, dug deep into my past and set up a website to post their findings. They've gone door to door in mostly black Birmingham neighborhoods, leaving fliers that portray me as a liar and racist.”


Although he did not know it at the time, the “anonymous people” Archibald was referring to were Alabama Power Company, Joe Perkins, Matrix, LLC, and their “dirty tricks” operatives. The background investigation, establishment of a website for disparaging content, and the distribution of derogatory fliers are standard Matrix "dirty tricks" tactics.


In 2017, these Alabama Power/Matrix tactics were used against me. They were revealed in Joe Perkins' handwritten notes.

I stood with John Archibald during his bankruptcy scandal because his positive contributions to Alabama society far outweighed this personal blunder and I also considered Archibald a friend who was under attack for his journalism.


Drive-By Character Assassination

In December of 2016, Archibald published a “Drive-By Character Assassination” article that revived and recycled decades-old allegations that I engaged in public corruption activities while serving as Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington’s special counsel in the early 1990s.


Birmingham contractor Chris Woods reportedly made these allegations while running against Arrington for Mayor in 1995. Woods recanted and retracted these allegations, orally and in writing, on multiple occasions. Yet, Archibald resurrected them again in his 2016 article.


After I published a rebuttal article that chronicled my long and well-documented record of anti-public corruption initiatives, Archibald came on my Facebook page and wrote: “I did not intend to imply that you did wrong, Mr. Watkins. What was relevant was Mr. Woods' history of making similar allegations. I should have pointed out that nothing came of those claims. I took it for a given, and for that I apologize.”


Archibald did not issue this apology on his AL.com media platform so that his “click bait” readers could see that he made a mistake and apologized for it. Yet, I forgave Archibald and moved on.

Next, I watched John Archibald take my exclusive series of investigative reports about the secret love affair between Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason titled “Forbidden Love” and “Executive Betrayal” (which were published in September and October of 2015) and win a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2018 with this copyrighted material.


Archibald became aware of Bentley's sex scandal when I did in 2015. Yet, he refused to write about it until it was safe to do so six months later. Archibald simply repackaged my articles and took credit for them on national TV.

In a phone call secretly recorded by state Rep. Allen Farley, Bentley gave me full credit for outing his relationship with Rebekah. Using his powers as “Chief Magistrate of Alabama,” Bentley later asked various state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate me. They obliged him.


A Friendship Permanently Lost

I lost John Archibald as a friend on November 29, 2018 when he made up a fake racist quotation about “kicking white people’s ass” and attributed this quote to me in order to help prosecutors in a bogus federal wire and bank fraud case sway whites in the jury pool against me.


When I contacted Archibald about this matter, he refused to retract his fake racist quote.


Archibald’s fake “kick white people’s ass” quotation was repeated in a December 25, 2018 article written by Reckon Managing Editor John Hammontree titled, “25 people to watch in 2019.”

I never made the racist statement Archibald attributed to me, whether on or off the record. I threatened to sue AL.com, Archibald, and Hammontree for defamation.


On January 13, 2019, AL.com retracted Archibald’s fake racist quotation and apologized for publishing it on two occasions. Here is the retraction:


In an opinion column published on Nov. 29, 2018, columnist John Archibald wrote about the upcoming trial of Donald Watkins. In that piece, Archibald quoted Watkins as saying in 1991 that his job was to 'kick white people’s ass.' Archibald based the quotation on his memory from interviewing Watkins for a story he wrote in 1991. That quotation was republished in a Dec. 25 Reckon article about 25 people to watch in 2019. Watkins contacted AL.com after the column and article were published and said he did not make the statement that was attributed to him. We have reviewed Archibald’s 1991 story and it does not contain this quote from Watkins. We regret our publication attributing this quotation to Watkins and retract it.”


Co-Opted by Alabama Power


In 2018, a former federal prosecutor confirmed to me that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham routinely used AL.com, John Archibald, and Kyle Whitmire in a modern-day COINTELPRO role to smear the targets of their criminal investigations and prosecutions. Archibald and Whitmire, working in collaboration with federal agents in Birmingham, have smeared many black public officials throughout their careers as “journalists,” without conducting any kind of independent review of the matters set forth in their smearing campaigns.


Incidentally, federal prosecutors never filed criminal charges against John Archibald's wife for allegedly signing his name to the bankruptcy petition without Archibald's personal knowledge and/or express consent.


Earlier this month, I learned that several national media organizations are developing articles for publication that detail Alabama Power Company’s racketeering scheme under the leadership of former CEO Mark Crosswhite, Joe Perkins, and Matrix, and how this scheme co-opted the independence and journalistic integrity of AL.com, its reporters, and columnists, as well as federal law enforcement establishment in Birmingham.


To this day, AL.com has never disclosed its role in Alabama Power’s scheme to silence and destroy its critics. Likewise, AL.com has never disclosed its receipt of laundered professional service fees for serving as an undeclared public relations agent for Alabama Power and its political puppets.

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