Open Letter To The Wave From Congressman Gregory Meeks
I am writing to state my categorical rejection of the allegations and inventions you put forward in your column in the October 7, 2011 edition of The Wave. In that article, you repeatedly reference a New York Post article (October 2, 2011), which claimed that a secret meeting had been held without my knowledge in my district to select a successor in the event that I am “forced to resign” or “expelled from Congress” (your words). You repeated both the claim of a secret meeting and the fiction that I am considering resigning or that I might be ousted from Congress despite the fact that the day after the Post article appeared every individual named in it publicly denied that a secret meeting or any such discussion had ever taken place and in fact forcefully reiterated their support for me.
All of this happened a full three days before your column appeared. And unless the New York Post is the only publication you read you could have and should have taken into serious account the reporting in Crain’s and on WNYC’s website under its “The Empire” feature to that effect.
Instead you relied second hand on two unnamed elected officials who were “familiar with the gathering, who talked with the Post on the promise of anonymity” and “one local Democratic operative, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution by the powerful duo” of State Senator Malcolm Smith and me.
As for retribution, anyone attending my town hall meetings, my meetings with clergy and civic leaders, meetings that I or others have organized on controversial community issues, or anyone with knowledge of the exchanges I have with other elected officials, district leaders, or constituents, knows full well that “retribution” is not and has never been part of how I carry out the duties of my office.
The public statements of the elected officials mentioned in the Post article, especially that of Rep. Joe Crowley who is also the Queens County Democratic Party chair, and other well-known facts seem to have been of little concern to you since they do not fit in with your carefully crafted but nonetheless false narrative that was further sensationalized with reference to “a Washington watchdog” having named me “one of the most corrupt members of Congress.” This so-called “list” is an annual stunt by a group whose fundraising depends on disparaging members of Congress. Its latest press release is an irrational and irresponsible quilt of news clips, blog posts, and press releases from other groups, stitched together with weasel words like “seems to have,” “may have,” “it appears” and “may constitute.”
You did not seek to report in a balanced way, nor did you seek the facts as is necessary in credible journalism. If you did you might have included the fact that this summer the House Ethics Committee dismissed the 2010 loan allegation outright. The report and findings of the Office on Congressional Ethics did not support the second allegation. I hope the Ethics Committee will soon dismiss that one as well.
I have been responsive throughout this process. I have been open and frank about the facts. But, out of respect for the process I have chosen to reserve my comment until the deliberations have been concluded.
Both your column and the cartoon explicitly suggest that I stole funds from the New Directions non-profit. You and your colleague are perpetuating an outright lie. The fact is I welcomed an investigation into New Directions and promised my full cooperation with any and all authorities. And there has been no credible allegation, let alone any investigation that has supported this dishonest charge.
In another falsehood, your column also claimed to have spoken with a member of my staff. But, a canvass of my staff showed that no one from my office spoke with you about the matters covered in your article nor were they contacted by you about this article.
Finally, I will not let it pass that your provocative, incendiary, and deliberately inaccurate column was accompanied by what I believe most observers would regard as an explicitly racist cartoon caricaturing State Senator Malcolm Smith and myself. I don’t use that characterization lightly or frequently, but it definitely applies in this case. The cartoon crosses way over the line of civility and violates the necessary sensitivity that a publication in 21st century America ought to consistently and conscientiously display on every page of every issue, particularly when a publication has a racially diverse readership and relies on ads from retailers and other commercial enterprises that have a racially diverse customer base.
It is one thing to disagree with me politically or on policy, or to just dislike me personally for whatever reason. However, none of these reasons justify or authorize you as managing editor, or The Wave as “Rockaway’s newspaper since 1893” to resort to gross racial caricature reminiscent of the portrayal of Black elected officials during Reconstruction in the film, “Birth of a Nation,” nearly 100 years ago.
What the publication of the cartoon by Elgin Bolling reveals is the length to which The Wave will go to drum up animus toward me and other African American elected officials. This is not the first time you have published a demeaning depiction of African Americans. Therefore, I am left to conclude that the comfort that you as managing editor and a columnist, and The Wave on a whole, evidently have in publishing a racist caricature of African American elected officials as conniving thieves with thick, oversized lips, speaking in some sort of street vernacular, actually expresses a general view of African Americans.
This is unconscionable, unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. I demand that The Wave take the immediate affirmative step of publishing a retraction and an apology in its next issue (Friday, October 14, 2011). Moreover, it is my intention to share the views I have expressed above with your advertisers, other media, civil rights organizations, community groups, as well as the residents of the Rockaways.