By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on July 17, 2019
Kyle Whitmire hates the Watkins family and what it has achieved in America. Whitmire is a reporter/columnist for AL.com and The Birmingham News who suffers from a huge journalist credibility problem. He’s also a closet bigot.
The Birmingham News has provided statewide PR coverage for the Department of Justice in the criminal case against my son, Donald Watkins, Jr. and me. Thanks to the Internet, this coverage is also global.
Kyle Whitmire has been tasked with portraying Donald, Jr. and me in the most negative light possible. In law, they call this activity “poisoning the well.”
It is well-documented that the News has been a willing participant in J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous COINTELPRO program since 1956. Even when the formal COINTELPRO activities ceased in 1972, the News soldiered on with its job of race baiting and trashing black and white civil rights activists.
Last year, a former prosecutor explained to me how they routinely used Birmingham News reporters Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald to demonize high-profile criminal defendants. In my case, Kyle Whitmire gleefully performed this vital COINTEPRO role. In fact, Whitmire knew about my indictment before I did.
Today, Whitmire published an article that said I should have pled guilty in order to save Donald, Jr. from prosecution. Here is Whitmire’s exact quote:
“This is the thing you won’t find in any court record, in any grand jury testimony or any deposition, but rest assured it’s true: Watkins Sr. could have made a deal. He could have gone to the U.S. Attorney’s office and made a plea for less time, and he could have negotiated an important condition — you don’t touch my son.”
Donald, Jr. wasted no time in smacking down Whitmire, who knows nothing about the Watkins family or its five-generation legacy in America. Here is my son’s response:
"This morning, Kyle Whitmire of al.com wrote an opinion column entitled 'Sins of the father: Donald Watkins failed no one more than his son.' In his column, he basically skewers my father for, among other things, not cutting a deal to keep me out of this trial. Let me set the record straight. Kyle could not be more wrong about Donald V. Watkins. Dad did not fail me; in fact, he is my hero. Here's why:
1. Our relationship and our involvement together in this case go far beyond loyalty. The sum of my Dad's good deeds--for his community, his family and especially for me--far outweigh any missteps he has made throughout his life. To fully understand and be able to speak intelligently or factually on my relationship with Dad, Kyle would have had to have grown up in the Watkins household and be a part of the Watkins family. But Kyle was not so lucky.
2. I do not blame my disposition in this case on my Dad's decision to not "cut a deal." I could've cut my own deal and exited this case relatively unscathed long ago. But there were two things I decided a while back would never happen: (1) I would not testify against my own father, or any of my family members for that matter, and (2) I will not let my father go through this ordeal on his own. Dad has done more for me over the years than any father I know has done for his child. He has been there for me in more ways than I can imagine or count. If I were dying and needed a heart transplant, I have no doubt that he would offer his to save me. He even would've gladly had his brother, my late uncle Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. perform the surgery.
3. Dad did not use me as a ”human shield”--instead, it was me who used him as cover under enemy fire. Last year, I made a conscious decision to fight these charges, alongside my father, with the expectation that we would both clear our names and walk out of that courthouse, together. And once I made that decision, I knew I would need to rely heavily on his extensive experience, expansive knowledge of the law and unmatched skillset while navigating a case of this magnitude. And despite the outcome as it currently stands, it is much easier for me to sleep at night knowing I did not sell my own father out, disown him, or leave him out in the cold when he needed me the most. You just don't do that. And we especially don't do that in this family. Even when people were in my ear and thoughts of going a different route tried to creep into my head, my own wife shut it all the way down, saying emphatically 'we all are going to stand with your dad, no matter what happens. Because he's not just your dad, he's family.'
And yes, my father did leave the courthouse before my hearing. And I don't blame him for wanting to go eat. It had been a long day and he was starving, and frankly, I was starving too. But in all actuality, he didn’t stay for my hearing because earlier that morning--while he and I were working together at my house preparing for his hearing--we mutually decided to skip each other's hearing to avoid being an unnecessary distraction. That's why no one, including Kyle Whitmire, saw me inside during Dad's hearing either.
Just like in our case, Kyle Whitmire's opinion column is yet another unfortunate example of the assumptions, a slanted narrative and the resulting judgments people make when they don't have, or simply ignore, all the relevant facts. When that happens, some people feel victimized while others are cast as villains. Throughout the trial, Kyle, in his articles, has been relentless in his casting of Donald V. Watkins as the villain of this incredible saga. And he is entitled to his opinion. But Kyle, you're going to have to find another victim for your movie, because it's not going to be me. I have personally witnessed too much goodwill spread throughout our family, the community and the world by this one man. And I stand with him, still. He's my dad and he's still my hero."
Kyle Whitmire is not qualified or fit to comment on the father-son relationship between Donald, Jr. and me. Whitmire did not grow up in a family where the dad’s landmark civil rights work in Alabama produced threats of death and bodily harm to his children on a regular basis. No one has ever threatened to throw acid in the faces of Whitmire’s children. My children were often subjected to these frightening threats, and my former wife and I dutifully protected them from physical harm. Would Whitmire’s parents have done the same for him?
Whitmire is a two-bit hustler. The last time I wrote about him, Whitmire was peddling an unauthorized biography about my life. Apparently, Whitmire’s life is not worthy of a book deal. Now, I understand why.
Finally, I am extremely proud of Donald V. Watkins, Jr. He is a great man, a wonderful father to his daughter Demi, and a devoted husband to Chay Watkins. I will love him, always and forever. No person or force on earth can destroy our father-son bond.
PHOTO: Donald V. Watkins, Sr. (left), and Donald V. Watkins, Jr., in front of their Montgomery, Alabama home during Donald, Jr.’s teenage years.