Two veteran journalists have come to the defense of Randall Pinkston, another longtime black journalist, after Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly called out Pinkston, Soledad O’Brien, Joie Chen and John Seigenthaler as workers for Al Jazeera, which O’Reilly called a “propaganda outfit” that supports terrorism. (video)
Les Payne, a retired editor and columnist at Newsday, replied to O’Reilly in an e-mailed rebuke, and DeWayne Wickham, USA Today columnist and dean of Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication, devoted his Tuesday column to the issue. Each is a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Payne wrote, “Linking Mr. Pinkston to ‘jihadist terrorists’ by virtue of working as a journalist for Al Jazeera TV is a misplaced assault upon the reputation of a solid professional and a good man you dared call ‘a friend.’ The offense is beneath the usual utterances from your media perch in the lower reaches.
“Even if one were to accept your notion that Al Jazeera supports terrorists, Mr. O’Reilly, it does not follow that this particular reporter working for the network, ipso facto, is a supporter of terrorists. When your boss, Rupert Murdoch purchased the NY Post, I asked Columnist Murray Kempton how, given his impeccable journalistic standards, could he work for such a loathsome press baron.
“The incorruptible Kempton, as always, had an answer. ‘I consider myself the clean handkerchief in Rupert Murdoch’s otherwise dirty suit.’
“It probably has never occurred to you, Mr. O’Reilly, that reporters have professional standards geared primarily ‘to fulfill the public’s right to know.’ Most of them are guided in this Public Trust craft — protected by the First Amendment — in accordance with established values quite different from those of their owners. Indeed, media tycoons such as Murdoch, Mort Zuckerman and, perhaps those of Al Jazeera, are in business to make money and to advance political causes close to what passes for their hearts. . . .”
Payne also wrote, “As a rookie reporter, I worked for the previously, lily-white Newsday. The fact of my employment did not make me a racist, or a supporter of racists. . . . .”
Wickham wrote, “Lumping Pinkston and the other American journalists to O’Reilly’s empty case against Al Jazeera — without real evidence of the network’s wrongdoing, and none whatsoever of the journalists’ complicity — stretches the notion of guilt by association beyond its reasonable limits.
“It also slanders Pinkston — a good man O’Reilly shamefully calls his friend.”