Watkins Demands Retraction And Apology From AL.Com
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on January 9, 2019
On November 29, 2018, John Archibald, a columnist/reporter for the Alabama Media Group, wrote and published an article on AL.com titled, “Donald Watkins charged; this will be one for the ages.” In the article, Archibald wrote, as a quoted statement of fact, that my job as Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr.’s special counsel in 1991 was to "kick white people’s ass.”
I never made the “kick white people’s ass” comment, on or off the record. Furthermore, Archibald's statement was not fact-checked before it was published.
The “kick white people’s ass” comment was repeated and published again as a statement of fact in a December 25, 2018 article written by Reckon Managing Editor John Hammontree titled, “25 people to watch in 2019.” Again, this statement was not fact-checked before it was published.
The “kick white people’s ass” statement is false, libelous, and defamatory. It portrays me in a false light to (a) the white and biracial members of my family, (b) my white business partners and associates around the world, and (c) people of interracial goodwill in the United States and abroad who have contributed to my success in life.
Instead of Retracting His False Statement, Archibald Explained It
Instead of retracting his false statement and apologizing, Archibald attempted to explain this statement in an article he published on December 31, 2018: “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’s retreat from attributing the “kick white people’s ass” comment to me as a statement of fact, to “I can’t prove [Watkins] said it,” to “I sure hope he did say it,” is damning. His attempt to paint me as a racist who hates white people has collapsed.
Yet, Archibald has steadfastly refused to retract his fake quote or publicly apologize to me for publishing it. His AL.com pal and colleague, John Hammontree has made no effort to retract his Christmas Day publication of this false statement.
Archibald’s candid admission regarding this fabricated racist comment, which was attributed to me in the two AL.com articles cited above, evidences a reckless disregard for the truth about this libelous statement.
Furthermore, AL.com has never publicly disclosed its conflict of interest in writing and publishing articles about me. As detailed in “The Birmingham News’ $16 Million Undisclosed Conflict of Interest," I was an arbitrator who awarded six former Birmingham News distributors (all of whom were white) $20 million in damages on December 30, 2002 because they were the victims of the News’ serial fraudulent conduct against each one of them. The findings of fraudulent conduct and award of damages (which was reduced on appeal to $16 million) were affirmed by the Alabama Supreme Court on June 11, 2004.
It was well-known in Birmingham media circles that The Birmingham News, as a media organization, hated me after the company was required to pay the $16 million judgment in this case, which the News never reported in a published news article. Every published article about me after the News paid the $16 million judgment was laced with actual malice.
A Demand for Retraction and Apology from AL.com
No standard of journalism, Alabama statute, or case law permits the publication of a false statement of fact on the “hope” that it later turns out to be true. Furthermore, the standard of journalism imposed by AL.com in my case is not used by any reputable news organization in America.
The standard of journalism used in my case calls into question the legitimacy of John Archibald’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize. If Archibald made up a false quoted comment in my case, did he engage in similar conduct in any of the articles that formed the basis for the award of his Pulitzer Prize?
On January 3, 2019, I issued a letter to Tom Bates, President of the Alabama Media Group demanding a retraction of Archibald’s and Hammontree’s false “kick white people’s ass” comment. I also requested that the retraction appear in the same medium of publication and in a prominent position therein. Finally, I demanded a full public apology for John Archibald’s and John Hammontree’s reckless conduct in writing and publishing the libelous “kick white people’s ass” comment.
The Alabama Media Group has until January 11, 2019 to comply with my demand for a retraction and apology.
PHOTO: On January 3, 2019, a demand for a retraction and apology was issued to Tom Bates, President of the Alabama Media Group. We are awaiting his response.