Shame Tactics From the Press Are an Abuse of Power

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Claudia Barber testifying before House Judiciary Committee on February 21, 2018, in Annapolis.
Claudia Barber testifying before House Judiciary Committee on February 21, 2018, in Annapolis.

Say their names: Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith. They are four unsung hero plaintiffs part of the landmark Montgomery Bus Boycott lawsuit, Browder v. Gayle in Montgomery, Alabama.

When researching Claudette Colvin’s contributions to the civil rights movement, little is found. All we know is that nine months prior to Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to give up her seat, Claudette Colvin did the same.

It is fair to say that Colvin’s identical contribution to the civil rights movement was marred by negative press coverage. The press acknowledged that yes, she is the forerunner to the civil rights movements that galvanized the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but the press also branded her as one who could not “decently” carry the mantle as the mother of the civil rights movement because of certain choices she made in her private life. These private matters really were no one’s business and had nothing to do with the bus boycott; therefore, the press should have never marred her important contributions to the civil rights movement by choosing to expose these private matters.

Like Claudette Colvin, both Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ms. Colvin in particular experienced difficulties finding employment after the notoriety of being branded a troublemaker. For these reasons, the real heroes of the Montgomery Bus Boycott were not just Dr. Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Mr. E.D. Nixon of the NAACP; I include among the heroes the person or persons who gave Parks and Ms. Colvin jobs during this horrific ordeal.

It is probably that the employers who fired them thought that destroying their livelihoods would send a clear message to others not to follow their lead because this is what will happen to you as a troublemaker. The employers behind their firings were not concerned about their mental health, instead only taking whatever measures were necessary to end the boycott. But it didn’t work. The boycott continued for 366 or more days, and these champions won when segregation ended.

Today, I am reminded of these same shame tactics of the press when tackling the re-segregation of the circuit court for Anne Arundel County. I’ve seen The Capital Gazette newspaper print misleading story after story from 2016 to the present, assassinating my character and Rev. Rickey Nelson Jones’s reputation as candidates.

Readers should be careful to question fair reporting when reading personal attacks against political or non-political candidates. For example, how is it fair reporting to magnify certain personal litigation of the only African American candidates running for judge on the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County and not others? There was personal litigation involving other judicial candidates, who are now serving 15-year terms, all because they somehow escaped the wrath of the press that intentionally picks and chooses which candidates will be exposed and which candidates will not be exposed.

Reporters all too often abuse the power of the press to lead voters to form negative opinions about candidates they dislike and simultaneously destroy the livelihood and career prospects of candidates they dislike.

There is no fairness about reporting any of the lawsuits a judicial candidate has lost without examining any of the lawsuits other judicial candidates may have lost. The same holds true of magnifying my perceived campaign violations when I was never charged criminally with anything and appealed the case questioning due process. Yet the same newspaper ignored the campaign violations of Governor Larry Hogan; his campaign was fined $250, but it was never exposed as a front page news story the way that Barber’s story was.

This type of malicious and biased reporting is called shame tactics because it helps readers jump to biased conclusions about our qualifications, encouraging voters to find any excuse out there not to vote for us.

Capital Gazette news reporter Phil Davis has eagerly shared with The Capital Gazette readers what he perceived as the negative outcome of certain personal litigation of myself and Judicial Candidate Rickey Nelson Jones. Most of Davis’s stories about us were horribly inaccurate, citing cases that were removed from state court to federal court as being completely dismissed when they were not.

Another misrepresentation of the Capital Gazette’s editorial staff was when they recently referred to my judicial appointment as an administrative judge, which is a title I have never held. Yet another misrepresentation to readers was constantly referring to a case being dismissed for being filed in the wrong court, which again, was not accurate; the case involving a petition for judicial review was properly filed in the circuit court.

The Gazette also magnified a letter from the Maryland Board of Elections sent to my election campaign by misleading readers into believing I committed a crime when no administrative action was even taken against me, nor was any threatened according to the exact words of the Assistant State’s Attorney who represented the Maryland Board of Elections.

The Gazette’s subsequent statements that they re-checked their facts and found them to be correct is equally arrogant and demonstrates they will not stop with spreading their falsehoods. It’s like conducting a audit of yourself.

None of these extreme exploitation stories were written about other political candidates. Governor Larry Hogan’s lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging his blocking of Facebook statements from those disagreeing with the governor was never magnified on the front page of the Gazette. Nor was his campaign violations exposed in a front page news story. Such unbiased reporting needs to stop.

Many were counting on these grossly inaccurate news stories to define us as bad people in hopes of ending our candidacies. It was definitely done to sway voters to not even consider our candidacies and choose other candidates. But it didn’t work. Both Rickey Nelson Jones and I are running for judge on the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

All of the biased reporting should be stopped. It is divisive, unhelpful to the electorate, and is a shameful act of Jim Crowism. Jim Crow never died. History simply repeats itself, regardless of who is behind the personal attacks.

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