On Friday, Sept. 21, we published a lengthy account of what really happened in Jena, Louisiana, which showed how events in that town were distorted to fit an image of Southern white “racism.” We have since learned that events were even more shamelessly manipulated than we realized. There were two key elements to the “racism” charge: that there was a tree at Jena High School under which only whites could sit, and that whites hung nooses from the tree to intimidate blacks who asked if they could sit under it. Both charges are false.
Craig Franklin is a reporter with the Jena Times who has covered events from the beginning. He confirms that there was no “whites only” tree. The tree in question was planted in 1986, and only recently grew tall enough to give shade. The school put picnic tables under it, and anyone who wanted to sat at them.
As we reported previously, the question about whether blacks could sit under the tree was a joke during an assembly for boys. Everyone in the room knew that although students sometimes self-segregate, no place at Jena High School was off-limits to blacks or whites. Everyone laughed at the question. Mr. Franklin has learned that the boys asked a number of joke questions, partly to keep the assembly going as long as possible, so they would not have to go back to regular classes.
Even more central to the Jena-is-racist hysteria is the report—now enshrined as fact—that the next day nooses appeared on the tree to scare away blacks. The three students who hung the nooses were soon discovered, and school authorities described the episode as a “prank.” The national press has mercilessly blasted any school that could dismiss an evocation of lynching as a “prank,” but Mr. Franklin confirms that this is exactly what it was.
The three boys who hung two nooses were members of the rodeo team. Contrary to our report of Sept. 21, they did not paint the nooses in the school colors of black and gold. Both nooses were black, but only because the rope one of the boys had in the back of his truck was made of black nylon. Mr. Franklin says they were not even proper nooses, but crudely tied loops. Why did the boys put them there?
They had recently seen the “Lonesome Dove” television series, in which Texas Rangers string up several rustlers. None of the rustlers was black. The nooses on the tree really were a joke, directed at white friends.
Mr. Franklin, who recently spoke to the parents, says the boys did not even know nooses had racial significance. To members of the rodeo team, nooses meant cowboys and rustlers. “They didn’t have a clue what nooses mean to blacks,” he says, and were “totally flabbergasted” to learn that they can be seen as symbols of lynching.
It is nevertheless widely believed that white students perpetrated a vicious act of racist intimidation, but got only a slap on the wrist because the school dismissed it as a “prank.” The national media tell us that justifiably frustrated blacks then got into a fight with a white boy and were charged with attempted murder. Blacks denounced double-standard justice, and Jena became the new civil-rights battlefield.
Once the story took this turn, why did Jena High School not explain what really happened? The authorities learned about the nooses in investigatory hearings that could have led to expulsion (and did lead to suspension). State law requires that such proceedings be confidential, so the school kept silent. Only now have parents agreed to waive confidentiality.
The charges of “racism” that are supposed to be at the heart of this story have now been shown to be just as mendacious as the inventions with which Tawana Brawley helped Al Sharpton find his true calling. There was no whites-only tree. There was no “racist intimidation.” Four months later, when a gang of blacks decided to beat a white boy unconscious and stomp him, the local prosecutor treated the attack like the serious crime it was. The blacks—with the encouragement of the national media and the “civil rights” industry—concocted a history of “racism” because they wanted to beat the rap.
For those who know how the press covers race, its hideous cavorting over Jena is no surprise, but Craig Franklin is disappointed. “We are taught there are two sides to a story,” he says, speaking as a journalist. “The national media took one side and ran with it as if it were fact.”
In fact, they ran so far with it they are too ashamed to report the truth. Mr. Franklin says he called CNN to tell them what he has learned. “We’ll get back to you,” they said. The New York Times and the Washington Post are certainly not going to correct their stories, now that they have committed themselves to a juicy tale about Southern “racism.” We ask AR readers to let us know if even one national organ reports the truth.
This story is not like the Duke rape hoax. The press had licked its chops so gleefully at the initial charges that it could hardly turn its back as the sickening process ground on to its—for the press—deeply disappointing conclusion. The Times and the Post will write small stories when the “Jena 6” go to trial, but here’s betting they will never admit they got it wrong about the whites-only tree and the nooses.
If they ever do, what will be their message? That the press should control its biases? That it should check facts? No. They will blame the white rodeo team for its ignorance of American history, and will insist that every white boy get the “sensitivity training” he needs to know what nooses really mean.