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  • Donald V. Watkins

The Birmingham News Has Always Wanted Me Killed Off

Updated: Jan 4, 2019


By Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on December 31, 2018


As 2018 comes to an end in a few hours, I thought it was the appropriate time to remind my readers how The Birmingham News (now known as AL.com) has historically portrayed me.


The Scott Stantis editorial cartoon pictured below ran in the Sunday edition of the News on November 7, 1999. It depicts Birmingham's newly elected mayor, Bernard Kincaid, squashing me to death (as a blood-sucking insect). This fictional event was cause for celebration in The News' accompanying editorial.


In light of the fake racist quote reporter/columnist John Archibald made up about “kicking white people’s ass” which he attributed to me in his November 29, 2018 editorial, the cartoon shows that The News has always despised me and wanted me killed off, at least figuratively speaking.


In an article John Archibald published this morning, he attempted to explain away his fake quote this way: “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.”


I did not say, write or publish the racist quotation. Archibald did. The burden is not on me to prove a negative fact – that I did not say the words Archibald put in my mouth.  John Archibald carries that burden because he published the false statement. Yet, Archibald readily admits he cannot prove I made the statement about “kicking white people’s ass.” 


What is more, the statement does not appear anywhere in the May 12, 1991 article because it was not made. Additionally, Archibald’s co-author, Bob Blalock, was present during my 1991 interview and has not confirmed this fake quotation. Finally, the two reporters taped the interview and took reporter’s notes. None of these independent sources will reflect this racist statement being made because it never happened.


With this in mind, John Archibald has fallen back on a reliable Old South technique – the one that got thousands of blacks in Alabama killed and/or railroaded in the state's court system. Rather than retracting his racist quotation, he reduced his mistake to a “he said/he denied” dispute between a white and black man and based his version of events on a “faulty” memory from 27 years ago. 


In effect, Archibald made a "non-retraction" retraction. He also gave a half-hearted apology for his faulty memory.


This is worse than fabricating his racist quotation, which, in the light most favorable to Archibald, could be characterized as a “mistake.” Standing by his published statement in the absence of proof evidences a reckless disregard for the truth. It also fosters the News' negative portrayal of me -- someone who must be killed off.


In “street” language, John Archibald is no different from The Birmingham News reporters who willingly smeared the good name and character of numerous civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from 1956 to 1971 as part of J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous COINTEPRO program.


Yes, John Archibald has done a “profound disservice” to me. In the process, he has also dishonored himself. He was a friend, but is no more. A person cannot be my friend unless he/she has the courage to do the right thing under all circumstances.  John Archibald does not have this courage.


The Birmingham News was not successful in squashing me to death in 1999 and it will not be successful in killing me off in 2019.


[Editor's Note: In fairness to Mayor Bernard Kincaid, he always treated me with the utmost respect. After he assumed office, Mayor Kincaid valued my newly-established commercial bank as a significant resource for growing the City.]


PHOTO: Scott Stantis editorial cartoon for The Birmingham News, published on November 7, 1999.


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© 2020 by Donald V. Watkins, P.C.