By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on December 31, 2018
In 2003, John Archibald, a Birmingham News reporter, declared personal bankruptcy. The bankruptcy petition required Archibald’s signature in several places. Archibald lied about his bankruptcy filing in 2011after an anonymous commenter on one of his articles bashing Jefferson County, Alabama’s bankruptcy filing outed Archibald on his personal bankruptcy.
Archibald excused this lie by blaming the bankruptcy filing on his wife, who did not keep him in the loop.
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.”
I stood with John Archibald publicly because his positive contributions to Alabama society far outweighed this personal blunder and he was a friend who was under attack for his journalism.
Then, in December of 2016, Archibald published an 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. 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 with this copyrighted material, even though he became aware of Bentley's sex scandal when I did and 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 secretly recorded phone call with Legislator Johnny Mack Morrow, Bentley gave me full credit for outing Rebekah and him. 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.
I lost John Archibald as a friend on November 29, 2018 when he made up a fake 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. There is no excuse for writing and publishing this lie. It constitutes a reckless disregard for the truth.
Rather than reviewing his May 12, 1991 article where I talked about “kicking ass” to retrieve the exact quotation from 27 years ago and present it in the proper context, John Archibald simply relied on his faulty memory of the quote. His recollection proved to be incorrect and is not backed up by any reporter's notes taken at the time.
The quotation at issue referred to an aggressive litigation style, which is specifically mentioned in Archibald's 1991 article. This “laser litigation” tactic was applied to all of my opponents across-the-board, whether black or white, and produced a stunning record of success in 73 cases during my career as an attorney for the City of Birmingham.
Archibald changed my original "kick ass" quotation to “kicking white people’s ass,” which was not what I said. His fabricated quotation is racist and was never used by me, on or off the record.
In “AL.com Love The COINTELPRO Lifestyle Too Much To Leave It,” I published the relevant excerpt from Archibald’s 1991 article to show the exact quotation and the proper context in which it was used.
To this day, Archibald has not admitted fabricating this racist quotation, nor has he apologized for doing so. Like he did with the story about his bankruptcy filing, Archibald simply provided another lie and "Bullsh-t" excuse for his latest blunder. In essence, he is now saying the public cannot rely on the content of the article he wrote and published in 1991.
No one can be my friend if he/she is not capable of telling the truth. Furthermore, I hold my fellow journalists to a higher standard for telling the truth because the public relies on what we report. This is why I research my facts before publishing them.
Finally, my good name and character mean everything to me. I will never tolerate an attack on my good name or character by any person, media organization, or government agency. I will fight any and all smear campaigns and attempts to assassinate my character, using all lawful means necessary, until I have crushed the perpetrator.
PHOTO: John Archibald.
PHOTO: The original quotations at issue appear in this May 12, 1991 Birmingham News article.