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George Curry

Below-the-Belt Attacks on the Obamas

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(NNPA) No United States president has been more disrespected than Barack Obama – and his family.

The hatred for the nation’s first African American president is so deep that all but seven Republicans in the U.S. Senate were willing to write a letter to Iran that amounted to treason on a grand scale.

In an effort to derail talks that would limit Iran’s nuclear weapons, 47 Republican senators signed an “open letter” to Iran’s leaders claiming any deal they reach with the administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

In an issue that caused the Republican senators to be labeled traitors in a New York Daily News headline. An editorial: said, “Regardless of President Obama’s fecklessness in negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, 47 Republican U.S. senators engaged in treachery by sending a letter to the mullahs aimed at cutting the legs out from under America’s commander-in-chief. We join GOP signatories in opposing the pact as outlined, but we strenuously condemn their betrayal of the U.S. constitutional system.”

In case there is any doubt, the liberal political website PoliticusUSA stated, “According to the dictionary definition, a traitor is one who betrays a person, a principle, or especially their country. It is of no consequence why someone, or a group, chooses to work in opposition to their nation, or fellow citizens’ well-being, because if their intent and result of their actions is to deliberately damage or cause harm to their country or fellow citizens, they are by definition traitors.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Democrats and Republicans observed the rule that while we might have our internal debates, when it comes for foreign policy, we speak with one voice – that of the president.

House Republicans ignored that long-standing custom by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, knowing he would be critical of ongoing negotiations by the U.S. and its allies to freeze Iran’s nuclear weapons. The White House was not consulted on the invitation, a sharp departure from established protocol.

The disrespect for Obama and the presidency itself has reached such a low point that a headline in the Washington Post summed it up this way: “Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president.”

The story explained, “It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself.”

And many argue that the hatred extends well beyond partisan politics.

PolitcusUSA stated, “It is likely that throughout America’s short history, except for the traitorous Confederacy, no group of individuals has exhibited the characteristic betrayal of a traitor more than conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular. What makes their actions all the more despicable is that their traitorous actions are founded on racial animus for one man; and allegiance to foreigners and one tiny segment of the population.”

The attacks on Obama began when he first ran for president, with some conservatives openly questioning whether he was a U.S. citizen.

Marilyn Davenport, a member of the Orange County Republican Party in California, e-mailed a cartoon in 2010 with the face of President Obama superimposed on a chimpanzee. Also pictured were two older chimpanzees described as “parents.” The inscription on the cartoon read: “Now you know why – No birth certificate.”

The New York Post went well over the line of respectability by publishing a cartoon in 2009, in the wake of Connecticut police shooting a pet chimpanzee, depicting the authors of the stimulus bill as a dead chimpanzee.

And who could forget Rep. Joe Wilson [R-S.C.], interrupting a 2009 presidential address on health care to Congress in by shouting, “You, lie!”

The personal attacks have not been limited to President Obama – his entire family has been attacked.

Last week, Emmy-winning Univision host Rodner Figueroa was fired for saying, “Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of Planet of the Apes.”

Michael O’Neal, Speaker of the Kansas House, circulated an email referring to the first lady as “Mrs. Yo’ Mama.”

Even Sasha and Malia have been targets of conservatives. They have been upbraided from everything from taking their spring break in the Bahamas to the clothes they wore when their father pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey.

As Media Matters, the watchdog group, stated, “On May 27, [2010] President Obama explained at a press conference that he was reminded daily about the consequences of the oil spill by his daughter Malia who asked him did you plug the hole yet? while he was shaving.”

Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh saw fit to imitate Malia on air.

No stunt is too low or too vile for conservatives who hate everything about Obama, including his race.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns

LBJ's Defenders Cheapen his Accomplishments

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(NNPA) Lyndon B. Johnson has done more to help African Americans and poor people than any modern president. But his defenders are cheapening his legacy by inflating his accomplishments, which is an insult to the people – Black and White – who lost their lives fighting for civil rights.

The first and most obnoxious example of a LBJ supporter becoming unhinged is Joseph A. Califano, Jr., President Johnson’s domestic policy adviser from 1965 to 1969.

In a column for the Washington Post, he wrote: “In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted – and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him.”

The idea of a Selma-to-Montgomery March actually originated in Marion, Ala., about 30 miles northwest of Selma, with the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Marchers were protesting the arrest of James Orange, a key Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) field organizer. In fact, they were marching from Zion Chapel Methodist Church a short distance to the jail when Jackson was killed by an Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler. At the time, he was trying to defend his 82-year old grandfather, a scene vividly captured in the movie, “Selma.” The account is also recounted in Selma 1965: The March That Changed the South by Charles E. Fager.

Instead of a traditional funeral, the idea was proposed to march to Montgomery and present Jackson’s body to Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace at the state capitol. Wiser minds prevailed and the idea was refined to hold a traditional funeral for Jimmie Lee Jackson and march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery to demand full voting rights for Blacks.

It was the death of 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson that inspired the Selma to Montgomery March, not an “idea” floating around in LBJ’s head. Neither Califano nor anyone else is entitled to use the blood of the Civil Rights Movement to create a myth that is contrary to history and common sense.

The most recent attempt to super-size LBJ’s legacy is the assertion that it was the former president’s idea to include Latinos in the Civil Rights Movement.

An Associated Press story noted, “While this week’s commemorations of the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ may invoke memories of historic events in which the ‘real hero,’ as Johnson said, was ‘the American Negro,’ little is said about Johnson’s call in that speech to include Mexican-Americans in the struggle for equality.”

The story added, “Appalled by the brutality in Selma, Johnson viewed it as an opportunity to ‘liberate himself’ by linking the voting rights struggle with the struggles, 37 years earlier, of his poorest [Latino] students in Cotulla…”

Dr. King worked hard to build coalitions with other groups, including Latinos. In fact, many were in attendance in great numbers at the 1963 March on Washington.

Former New York City Councilman Gerena Valentín said, “Martin Luther King Jr. invited me to Atlanta, Ga., to discuss the march that was being organized, and I went there with a strong team. He personally invited me to organize the Latinos in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and so I did.”

King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech – made two years before the Selma to Montgomery March – was a broad appeal for justice for “all of God’s children.”

So it’s preposterous to suggest that it was President Johnson’s idea to include “Mexican-Americans in the struggle for equality.”

The reality is that Johnson was anything but a civil rights advocate in Congress.

PoliticFact.com, the fact-checking site, noted that Robert Caro, LBJ’s biographer, said: “for eleven years he had voted against every civil rights bill – against not only legislation aimed at ending the poll tax and segregation in the armed services but even against legislation aimed at ending lynching: a one hundred percent record.

“Running for the Senate in 1948, he had assailed President Harry Truman’s entire civil rights program (‘an effort to set up a police state’)…Until 1957, in the Senate, as in the House, his record – by that time a twenty-year record – against civil rights had been consistent.”

Luci Baines Johnson accepted an award from march organizers Sunday morning in Selma on behalf of her father, saying, “It means the world to me to know that a half-century later you remember how deeply Daddy cared about social justice and how hard he worked to make it happen.”

It was only after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Johnson’s elevation from vice president that he overcame his past, signing into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Those three laws forever changed the United States for the better. LBJ’s legacy is firmly established. He doesn’t need his supporters to lie about his record in order to enlarge his reputation. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.

Shelby County to Washington, D.C. March Needed

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(NNPA) After ceremonies wrap up Sunday in Alabama commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a group of die-hard demonstrators will re-enact the full march.

“We are re-enacting the full 54-mile March this year,” Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President Charles Steele announced at a press conference in Montgomery. “The March will begin in Selma on Sunday, March 8th, with the Commemoration of Bloody Sunday, and will conclude on Friday, March 13th, with an 11:00 a.m. event on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.”

At the news conference, Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma) correctly noted, “The right to vote is being challenged at every turn. From voter photo ID (modern day poll tax), proof of citizenship to register (modern day literacy test) and reduction in voting and voter registration days to the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act and more, Americans are losing the right to vote, which so many people sacrificed their lives and blood to secure.”

In Shelby V. Holder, by a margin of 5 to 4 in June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required jurisdictions with a proven history of racial discrimination to pre-clear any election law change with the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The case grew out of a decision by Calera, a small city in Shelby County, Ala., to implement a redistricting plan that led to the defeat of the city’s lone African American City Council member. Under the plan, a district that was 71 percent Black was redrawn so that its Black population was reduced to 23 percent. The plan was never submitted for pre-approval.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, more than 40 bills have been introduced in 17 states that would restrict access to registration or voting.

In view of these politically motivated efforts to suppress the Black vote in particular, I am hereby proposing a Shelby County, Ala. to Washington, D.C. March, with the goal of getting Congress to protect the integrity of voting in the U.S. Just as the Selma-to-Montgomery March led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a Shelby County to D.C. March could pressure Congress to act again to protect the sacred right to vote.

The march would kick-off in Calera, about 30 minutes south of Birmingham, and address the relevant voting issues along the march route.

After Calera, Ala., the next stop would be in Georgia, where marchers could express support for proposed legislation that would expand opportunities for eligible citizens to vote, and provide for or expand the electronic transfer of voters’ information between state agencies.

In South Carolina, demonstrators could support a bill that would relax voter ID or citizenship laws and legislation that would make it easier for people with disabilities to cast a ballot.

Crossing into North Carolina, demonstrators can join an effort to overturn the Voter Information Verification Act, a voter suppression bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. The controversial measure requires government-issued voter ID, ends same day voter registration, bans Sunday voting and discontinues pre-voter registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. Several organizations, including the NAACP State Conference of Branches, have sued to overturn the law.

Marchers might want to spend some extra time in Virginia before moving on to D.C. to oppose a bill that would restrict access to registration and voting and support a competing one that would increase access to voting, oppose a bill that would require proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate) to register or to vote, support proposed legislation that would expand early in-person voting, back a proposed legislation to reduce waiting times for voting, endorse a bill to expand opportunities to vote by absentee ballot, support a bill to protect voters from having their name wrongfully removed from voting lists, and back a proposed bill to increase the likelihood of contested provisional ballots being counted.

In Washington, demonstrators should underscore the embarrassing reality that D.C. is the only capital of a democratic country in the world that does not enjoy voting representation in its national legislative body or true home rule.

I am glad we’re commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But after the celebration, it’s time to undo the damage the Supreme Court and largely-Republican state legislatures have done to the landmark voting legislation. The Brennan Center report stated. “This year, the courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court – are again poised to rule on voter ID and other election laws. Courts failed to block a number of restrictive laws last year, and without clear limits, states appear ready to move forward with harsh new measures.”

We must block those measures.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns

DuBois and Trotter: My Civil Rights Heroes

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(NNPA) In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a W.E.B. DuBois fanatic since my teenage years in Tuscaloosa, Ala. I have a healthy collection of books by and about DuBois, including David Levering Lewis’ two-volume biography of DuBois (W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963 and W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919), each a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

I first became enamored of DuBois at Druid High School when I learned he was the polar opposite of Booker T. Washington. In his Atlanta Compromise speech in 1895, Booker T. said in defense of racial segregation, “In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”

DuBois, on the other hand, was unwilling to settle for anything less than full economic, social and political equality for African Americans.

When I learned that DuBois and I shared the same birthday – February 23 – I was ecstatic. I was born at 11:30 at night and told Mama if she had waited another 31 minutes, I don’t know if I would have ever forgiven her, not that the timing of my entry into this world was under her control.

Enough disclosure.

As much as I admire William Edward Burghardt DuBois – my middle name is also Edward – in temperament, I am probably more like William Monroe Trotter than DuBois. And we both pursued full-time careers in journalism.

Even during Black History Month, I am surprised that Trotter’s name is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, Trotter grew up in Boston. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard in 1895 – the same year DuBois became the first African American to earn a Ph.D from the university. A year later, Trotter earned a master’s degree from Harvard in finance but could not find a job in banking because of his race. Instead, Trotter worked at his father’s real estate company.

In 1901, he and George Forbes founded the Boston Guardian newspaper, an uncompromising voice for Black liberation that routinely denounced Booker T. Washington as Benedict Arnold, the Great Traitor and an errand boy for Northern philanthropists.

When Washington went to Boston to address a National Negro Business League meeting at a local Black church, Trotter repeatedly interrupted him, challenging his accommodationist views.

In his autobiography, DuBois wrote that Trotter attempted to make Washington “answer publicly certain questions with regard to his attitude toward voting and education.” Instead of getting an answer, Trotter got arrested in what was mislabeled “The Boston Riot” for disorderly conduct and served a month in jail.

It is widely recognized that the founding of the NAACP grew out of the Niagara Movement. But it is not widely known that the Niagara Movement was established as a direct result of William Monroe Trotter’s arrest after confronting Booker T. in Boston.

“…When Trotter went to jail, my indignation overflowed,” DuBois wrote. “I did not always agree with Trotter then or later. But he was an honest, brilliant man, and to treat as a crime that which was at worst mistaken judgment was an outrage. I sent out from Atlanta in June 1905 a call to a few selected persons ‘for organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believe in Negro freedom and growth.’”

Answering that call for a meeting on the Canadian side of he U.S./Canada border were 59 African Americans from 17 states in what became known as the Niagara Movement.

Though instrumental in the Niagara Movement and the founding of the NAACP, Trotter refused to join the nascent national civil rights group because he felt its leadership and finances were controlled by Whites.

Trotter continued to press for civil rights through his National Equal Rights League. He remained an advocate for better treatment of African Americans in World War I, tried to get the racist movie “Birth of a Nation” banned in Boston and confronted President Woodrow Wilson over his policy of segregating of Black federal employees.

Trotter continued to fight for civil rights until his death on April 7, 1934 at the age of 62.

The William Monroe Trotter Institute at the University of Massachusetts publishes a scholarly journal called the Trotter Review. The editor of the journal, Kenneth J. Cooper, is a friend and former colleague from our days as reporters for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Several years ago, he asked me to serve on the editorial board of the Review. I quickly accepted. I just celebrated Feb. 23 as my birthday and the birthday of my hero, W.B. DuBois. But being affiliated with the Trotter Review, even from a distance, keeps me connected to William Monroe Trotter as well. DuBois and Trotter – it doesn’t get any better than that in Black History Month or any other month.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

Did NBC’S Brian Williams also Lie about Hurricane Katrina?

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(NNPA) “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has finally admitted that he had incorrectly asserted that a helicopter he traveled aboard in 2002 while reporting on the Iraq War in 2003 was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, forcing an emergency landing.

“This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by extension our brave military men and women veterans everywhere…” he said on air.

Williams’ admission came on the heels of a story published in the military publication Stars & Stripes that challenged his retelling of events.

“NBC News anchor Brian Williams has told a war story over the years since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It grew to where he was claiming to be on a Chinook helicopter that was forced down after taking rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire,” the newspaper reported. “In his on-air apology Wednesday, he backed off that, but said that he ‘was instead in a following aircraft.’ Soldiers who were in two Chinook companies say he was not in, nor ever near, a helicopter that was being fired upon.”

Williams, who makes $13 million a year, has drastically altered his story over the years, according to a timeline published by CNN.

Lt. Col. Jerry Pearman, the mission commander when one of the three Chinooks took fire, told Stars & Stripes, “I can say with 100 percent certainty that no NBC reporters were on any of the aircrafts.”

Following his public admission, Williams said that he would forgo his anchoring duties at the top-rated network news program “for the next several days.” Politico.com, describing what it called “a sign of deepening trouble,” reported on Sunday that Williams cancelled an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman” that had been scheduled for Thursday.

It was on an earlier Letterman show that Williams also gave his now-discredited account.

The New York Times reported, “In 2013, Mr. Williams told David Letterman that he had actually been on the helicopter that got shot down, adding that a crew member had been injured and received a medal. ‘We figured out how to land safely,’ he said, ‘we landed very quickly and hard. We were stuck, four birds in the desert and we were north out ahead of the other Americans.’”

Of course, none of that was true.

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media watchdog group, said, “Now that he’s cleared that up, there are some other tall tales that Williams might want to take back. Take his recounting of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (Dateline NBC, 8/22/10; Extra!, 10/10):

“You know, I’ve been around a lot of guns and a lot of dead bodies, and a lot of people shooting at people to make dead bodies. But you put them all together and you put it in the United States of America, and boy, it gets your attention….

“It was clear already there weren’t going to be enough cops…. Everywhere we went, every satellite shot, every camera shot, we were at the height of the violence and the looting and the—all the reports of gunplay downtown. Well, who’s bathed in the only lights in town? It was us….

“We had to ask Federal Protection Service guys with automatic weapons to just form a ring and watch our backs while we were doing Dateline NBC one night…. State troopers had to cover us by aiming at the men in the street just to tell them, ‘Don’t think of doing a smash and grab and killing this guy for the car.’”

FAIR stated, “As long as he’s in a confessional mood, Williams might as well admit that he didn’t see ‘a lot of people shooting at people to make dead bodies,’ nor would people have killed him for his car if he hadn’t been surrounded by feds – none of which appeared in his original reporting.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, “Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.”

To Williams’ credit he did air a week-long series called “After the Storm: The Long Road Back” in which the network tackled racial discrimination, among other issues. He said Katrina was different from most disasters and that NBC would “keep covering it.”

However, that was not the case.

FAIR observed, “… Katrina’s impoverished victims faded rapidly away from NBC’s coverage thereafter. By the six-month anniversary in February, NBC had joined its rivals in limiting coverage to a brief look at the struggles of putting on Mardi Gras in a depopulated city, then moving on before anyone could accuse them of peering too deeply into matters of race or class.”

Perhaps it was another ”bungled attempt” by Brian Williams to portray himself as a hero.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.

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