Earlier this week, on his radio show, Alexandria talk radio host Tony Brown leveled an explosive and sensational charge against leaders of the City of Alexandria: That they were purposely attempting to deny and suppress African-American voter registration. The accusations were quickly, almost instantly, reposted on Greg Aymond’s website, with Mr. Aymond directly accusing Mayor Roy of responsibility.
The story, in a nutshell, is this:
This year, during the City’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration, members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, without any prior consent or agreement, showed up at the Alexandria Riverfront Center, the location of the event, and attempted to set up a booth, allegedly with the intention of conducting a voter registration drive. But before they could get their booth set up, they were informed that they did not have permission to use the facility. Indeed, although the City of Alexandria helped to sponsor the festivities, the center had actually been rented out to a non-profit ministerial alliance and the Buffalo Soldiers, both of whom, like the AKA, are African-American-led non-profit organizations.
Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Aymond incorrectly reported or implied that the City of Alexandria is responsible for renting the Alexandria Riverfront Center. To be clear, although the City owns the Riverfront Center, the facility is managed by the Alexandria/Pineville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Either way, though, when an organization seeks to utilize a public facility for any purpose, it is necessary for them to have a written agreement for such use; this not only protects and indemnifies the public from potential liability; it also protects the organization renting the facility. AKA, however noble their intention may have been, did not have an agreement and, apparently, did not even attempt to pursue an agreement; they just showed up. And when they were given the word that they could not use the facility without an agreement, apparently- one can only surmise, some of its members alleged that this denial was a racially-motivated conspiracy to suppress African-American voters.
Without any question and with all due respect to the AKA, if they had actually contacted the good people of the Alexandria/Pineville Convention and Visitors Bureau beforehand and then entered into a written agreement, then they would have been granted the use of the facility at no cost, just as the other groups were on that day.
But the truth doesn’t make for good radio, I suppose, and Tony Brown, a man who was recently paid thousands of dollars to run controversial race-baiting commercials on behalf of William Earl Hilton’s campaign for Sheriff, is apparently never one to let a potentially explosive and racially divisive story go unnoticed, despite the facts. “This was about not getting more African-Americans to register to vote. I’m not going to give y’all the opportunity to register more black folks to register to vote in this town. Y’all got too many registered voters already,” Brown said on his radio show on Tuesday.
The truth, of course, is much more innocuous than Mr. Brown (and Mr. Aymond) would want people to believe: One group had a public facilities use agreement, and one did not. The City administration is not responsible for executing and enforcing those agreements; the CVB is. And they didn’t do anything wrong. They merely ensured compliance with a legal agreement. This wasn’t about discriminating against the AKA; it was about ensuring the opposite: That no one is unfairly discriminated against, that everyone abides by the same rules when they seek to set up shop in a public building, regardless of however noble their intentions may be.
But Tony Brown makes a living, in part, stoking and promoting the flames of racial divisiveness. He blamed the City administration for seeking to suppress African-American voters, an absurd and hateful allegation, and given the true facts, an allegation that seems antithetical to the life’s work and the legacy of the man being honored that day, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tony Brown spent nearly an hour talking about this story this week, fielding phone calls from several listeners, and doubling down on his sensationalistic and contrived outrage by suggesting that the City of Alexandria requires, in its agreements, that anyone who uses public buildings agree to not criticize the City administration. Sandra Bright, the outgoing leader of the Lower Third Neighborhood Watch Association, was named as the source of this incredibly disturbing news, though, in fairness to Ms. Bright, she never appeared on Mr. Brown’s show; these words were put into her mouth by others. And suffice it to say, as someone who knows exactly and precisely what these agreements look like and how they are structured, this accusation is not just ignorant; it’s maddeningly stupid. If Ms. Bright or Mr. Brown can offer even a scintilla of evidence that this is the case, then I am more than happy to issue a public apology; I’ll put the apology on the front page of my website for an entire year. But this is nothing more than a completely contrived lie.
Alexandria deserves better than Tony Brown’s lies. I don’t really care who he has worked for in the past or how important or influential he may believe himself to be; the man is an unethical, unprofessional, race-baiting liar whose antipathy toward the City of Alexandria and the Mayor has less to do with policy and almost everything to do with money.
And I can back it up, Mr. Brown.
When City Attorney Chuck Johnson, an African-American, asked Mr. Brown if he could appear on his show to clear up the controversy and present the facts, this is what Mr. Brown wrote back:
From: Tony Brown
Date: January 20, 2012 4:18:00 AM CST
To: Chuck Johnson
Subject: Re: Program
Reply-To: Tony Brown
Eyes Open is an open formatt for listeners to tell their story! The AKA’s and Links did just that. The opposing side came from Minister Larry Turner. In my more than 25 years of working as a journalist my ethics and professionalism has never been called into question by any city I ve worked in.I appreciate your’re interest in coming on the show but no one from your adminsitration has come on eyes open for several years now and certainly has not tried to use this formatt for any radio buys which has been numerous with others who don’t question the ethics or professionalism of the Jacque Roy administration.When we decide to advance this story we may decide to give you a call, until then, Town Talk, KALB-TV, KBCE Mix 93.9, 102 Jamz, Kiss 97.9 and The On Point Show with Mrs Xmas…those stations and shows that your administration spends money with, I suggest you reach out to them.T BrownEyes Open
In his 25 years of journalism, Mr. Brown says his ethics and professionalism have never been called into question. I’m honored to be the first person to do so: Tony Brown, I call your ethics and professionalism into question.
Tony Brown believes he can spend as much time as he wants to on publicly-owned, publicly-regulated airwaves making baseless, defamatory, divisive, and race-baiting accusations about specific individuals in the City of Alexandria, but that he does not owe them an opportunity to counter these claims on air and on the same forum. Reverend Larry Turner, incidentally, does not and has never represented the City of Alexandria; he was an organizer of the Martin Luther King Day event, but it’s completely disingenuous and dishonest for Tony Brown to assert that Reverend Turner represented the “opposing side.” Reverend Turner was not asked and was under no obligation to oppose the numerous and sensationalistic lies espoused and advanced by Tony Brown against the City of Alexandria; Reverend Turner was simply defending himself, and righteously so, I may add.
But perhaps most insidiously, Tony Brown reveals that he is not interested in hearing from the City Attorney– on a story that he broke and manufactured almost entirely on his own– because the City of Alexandria doesn’t spend advertising dollars lining his pockets. Read between the lines, folks. Read this with your eyes wide open. A few years ago, as I recall, the City took out an ad on Mr. Brown’s radio show promoting the Que’in on the Red festival, and Mr. Brown, despite this, actually discouraged his listeners from attending the very festival his show had been paid to help promote. Maybe it was an act of righteous defiance, but more than likely, I believe, it was nothing more than a reflection of Mr. Brown’s arrogance: He didn’t approve of the musical line-up for some inane reason. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I ever spent thousands of dollars advertising my business or my event on someone’s radio show, only to have the show host then discourage people from supporting my business or my event, I’d never spend another dime with that person. That’s what happened to Tony Brown, and apparently, he is still bitter.
Again, I don’t think Tony Brown is ethical or professional, and frankly, I am surprised no one has questioned his integrity until now. There’s a treasure trove of evidence out there that he simply cannot avoid.
There’s one other thing, which is extremely important for Alexandrians and for listeners of Mr. Brown’s radio show to understand: He operates on a noncommercial, educational radio station. That’s right. And as such, he and his station are beholden to a completely different set of rules and criteria, particularly as it relates to advertising and the free and open exchange of ideas.
For some reason, Tony Brown apparently believes he can accuse others of committing crimes– serious crimes; he can suggest that an entire City administration believes and endorses the suppression of African-American voters; he can broadcast lies over and over and over again. But if you want to respond, then please, send in your check first. I’m sure he’d take cash as well.
Sue me, Tony. I’d love to get you under oath. It’d be fun. You could call Greg Aymond as a character witness.
PS: Senator Landrieu and Mayor Landrieu, do the good and decent people of Alexandria and Central Louisiana a favor– the people who actually supported you and actually campaigned for you and actually gave you money– STOP giving this man credibility. Seriously. My audience, without any doubt, is bigger than his, and unlike him, I (perhaps stupidly) do all of this for free. Maybe I should have taken lessons from Tony Brown.