This week, “journalist, activist and humanitarian” Shaun King will give a keynote speech at the annual Innocence Network conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme of the event, whose attendees work to prevent and undo wrongful convictions, is “The Presumption of Innocence.”
I've covered many flabbergasting things over the course of 25 years as a columnist, author, blogger and documentary host, but this one takes the cake.
It was just three months ago that King recklessly exploited the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in Houston, Texas, to stoke racial fear and hatred. The little girl and her family, who are black, got caught in crossfire at a Walmart parking lot. The Black Lives Matter activist and columnist for the Intercept immediately pounced — using his huge Twitter platform, followed by 1.1 million people, to cast the incident as a racial hate crime. King splashed a photo of Robert Cantrell, a white man who had been arrested for robbery the same day as the Barnes shooting, all over social media.
“We've had 20 people call or email us and say he is a racist, violent a--hole and always has been. Just tell me everything you know,” Social Justice Detective King incited on Twitter. Cantrell's family members faced vitriol and death threats online as a result of the irresponsible gossip-mongering. After two black men were arrested for the murder, King sputtered to save his reputation — first by claiming credit for passing on a tip that led to the arrests (which he kept quiet about while stoking anti-white hatred), and then by doubling down with a fake-but-accurate defense.
“We live in a time where somebody could do something like this based purely on hate or race,” he smugly argued. “And that it turned out to not be the case I don't think changes the devastating conclusion that people had thought something like that was possible.”
There's nothing “humanitarian” or exemplary about such an attitude. This is race-hustling cynicism at its worst. It's par for the twisted course for King, who is a serial apologist for treating people as guilty until proven innocent and for threatening those who call him out (including critics within the progressive left who have alleged he has ripped off the movement).
In May 2018, the Lying King led the witch hunt against innocent white Texas state trooper Daniel Hubbard by spreading the false claims of a black woman who lied about Hubbard raping her during a traffic stop. That admitted liar, Sherita Dixon-Cole, escaped prosecution based on a technicality. King's reward? Moving up from the New York Daily News to a coveted position at the Harvard-affiliated Fair Punishment Project, which in part conducts research to prevent more wrongful convictions.
In 2014, King promoted the anti-cop “hands up, don't shoot” lie debunked by none other than the Obama Justice Department, yet he still doesn't care about the truth. “I'm not going to parse evidence or make some complex technical argument that Michael Brown did or didn't have his hands up,” he defiantly retorted. “To me, it doesn't matter if he did or he didn't. It never has.”
As former New York City Police detective Sergeant John Paolucci, who is on the board of Uncuff the Innocent, which advocates for wrongfully convicted police officers, told me: “When the agenda is to instill in people a fear of the police, one creates an environment conducive to more deadly confrontations. ... Having worked the most high-profile police involved cases in the media, I'm well aware that the whole truth is never reported in these investigations and the probative value of evidence that favors the police is diminished or omitted entirely when it hits the news.”
In 2015, King gloried in the wrongful rape convictions of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, whose flawed case and forensic errors led six internationally renowned scientists to call for a retrial. He has failed to follow up because, of course, the truth doesn't fit his narrative.
The “journalist” also maintained the same obstinate stance after his disgraceful sliming of football star Peyton Manning in 2016, when he attempted to ride the #MeToo publicity wave by recycling — and woefully misinterpreting — a 13-year-old court filing regarding a settlement with a female trainer who had claimed she was sexually harassed, and then changed her story seven years later. Instead of admitting error, he played victim.
It's disturbing enough that King is being honored at the Innocence Conference, where many lawyers, activists, scientists and exonerees I admire will attend. Even worse, King heads up a publication called “The North Star,” which purports to “speak truth to power” and is aimed at young people of color.
Wrongfully convicted Marine Tim Wright and his wife, Danielle, wonder: “How can an individual with a reputation of making countless false accusations against white men, racially profiling whites and stirring up racial discourse in America be trusted with the hearts and minds of future generations of minority children?”
Or anyone, for that matter? This malicious individual who has repeatedly profited from undermining the presumption of innocence has no place pretending to defend it. That's speaking truth to power.