Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Kwame Kilpatrick: Scandals, Hearsay, the Blogosphere, and the mainstream media
It's no lie that I dig Kwame Kilpatrick. Back in '01 when he ran for the mayor of Detroit, our talk show, PhaTLiP! 4.2 on WNSB 91.1 FM in Norfolk, VA quickly supported him. We followed his election closely. Although I have issues with the term “hip hop mayor,” I was immediately awed by his youthful energy and his resume. He strengthened my believe that politics is local and that we should all be a part of the political process on the local level. I knew being a first time mayor in a city like Detroit would be a tough road. He was being handed a city that had so many problems. Yet, it could not get any worse. Moving to the midwest this past year, I made it a point to meet him. To be honest, it's folks like Kilpatrick, Corey Booker of Newark, New Jersey, and Adrian Fenty who have really made me think about running for city council. Trust me, my closet friends and my wife couldn't convince me. All these brothers are young, intelligent, and inheritors of the Black Freedom rights struggle of the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
The last few months, Kilpatrick has been embroiled in a series of scandals. He has been accused of having an affair with his former chief of staff, firing some police officers for being whistle blowers, using city funds to pay for personal trips and perks, and worst of all perjury. Every day it seems as if new allegations are appearing. Every news article I read or political blog I peruse seems to throw more hearsay into the fire. Some of the news seem to imply that Kilpatrick continues to give people more rope to hang him. My wife will tell you, I am always the skeptic. Of course, I have a personal stake in Kilpatrick's administration. To be honest, I have to say that I am hurt by all these allegations.
I expect the mainstream and even local media to take any tidbit of information and make it sensational. I wouldn't be surprised if someone came out and said that Kilpatrick was a member of Al Qaeda. However several blogs, quite a few that I respect, are acting like celebrity blogs putting up every and any piece of news about the scandal. Some are even making their own allegations. I must point out that allegations are not fact. They have to be proven. The evidence? Fourth thousand text messages between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff. No one has asked the question: why would a mayor have to text message his chief of staff that many times over the course of six years? Wouldn't his chief of staff be with him at all times? Usually seven days a week. I also notice that the news media and unfortunately several bloggers continue to play the same text messages over and over. What about the other 3,990 some odd text messages? Why did it take so long for Detroit Free press to explain where they got those messages? Why have we not heard the full story about the whistle blowers? All we have heard from their representatives is about that big party at the mayor's mansion.
Now I will agree that both Kilpatrick and his chief of staff are doing things now that make them seem guilty. Yet he has not been proven to be guilty. Perjury is a serious crime but there is not enough detail in those text messages to take him to trial (which is why he hasn't been charged with perjury). I am no lawyer but I am a historian and facts are vital to me. It seems as if no one wants to defend him. This is something that I look at closely. I can tell when things are being spun. I have learned how to “read” the news. Some have claimed that I am assuming that there is a conspiracy brewing. I am not saying there is. I am asking folks to let the smoke clear and hear how this plays out. Give the man a chance.
It reminds me of another mayor of a major city who is currently running for the Republican presidential nod: Rudy Giuliani. In my opinion, Guiliani is one of the most arrogant, autocratic, and controversial political figures in my lifetime. During his administration, he was rocked by scandals. This guy has claimed that he singlehandedly brought down crime in NYC and has made millions of dollars making that claim. Despite the fact that experts from all fields have pointed out that his claim is false, we choose to ignore them. Fortunately for Mr. 666 (as Nas so eloquently called hime), 9/11 pulled him out of all the scandals and he became the darling of the United States and the hero of the entire day when in reality much of the communication and logistical problems of 9/11 came because of Guiliani. Yet I don't recall the newspapers bringing up anything about him unless it was the local alternative press. His extramarital affairs are not even an issue in his current run for office. And trust me true believers, Guiliani has done far worst than Kilpatrick. If he was to get selected, Guiliani would be like Bush on steroids.
Is it a double standard? I think so.
Some people have called me stupid, a blind loyalist, and even naïve. I may be so. Yet no one has been able to refute my argument. No one has asked the same questions I have. We have all taken all these allegations as fact. If Kilpatrick is guilty, then he should be tried. No one has made that move. We have yet to hear his side of the story.