In what is being tagged #pointergate on Twitter, a Minnesota news station ran an absolutely irresponsible and overtly racist story claiming Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges flashed gang signs with a black man who also happened to be a convicted felon. ABC 5 in Minneapolis headlined their news coverage Thursday night with a story about the mayor, claiming local law enforcement was horrified by images of her with a known gang member flashing apparent gang signs. The story happened to coincide with Hodges’ declaration that Minneapolis cops will be required to wear body cameras starting Friday.
The so-called flashing of gang signs with a dangerous criminal was actually Hodges and a community activist trying to take a picture together and unsure how to pose. The activist, Navell Gordon of Neighborhood Organizing for Change, was canvassing with Hodges prior to the election when they decided to pose for a photo. A video by the organization was posted to YouTube showing Hodges and Gordon together before, during and after the photo was shot.
As you can see from the video, Gordon discusses his criminal past, which means he was unable to register to vote in the most recent election. However, he volunteered his time to make sure others can get the opportunity to vote and talks about how he hopes to be able to vote in the next Presidential election. Overall, an inspirational tale, and you can see why Mayor Hodges wanted to spend time with him and others of the organization.
Well, Jay Kolls, a reporter with KSTP-5, decided to go in a different direction with this story. Basing his story solely on a picture of Hodges and Gordon pointing at each other, Kolls hyped up his piece with a couple of tweets promising to discuss why the mayor was flashing gang signs with a two-time convicted felon.
Mayor Hodges flashes gang signs with 2x convicted felon. Police not happy. Details on 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at ten.
— Jay Kolls (@JayKollsKSTP) November 7, 2014
Why would Mayor Hodges flash gang signs with 2x convicted felon? Find out why police are fuming in ten minutes on 5 at ten. — Jay Kolls (@JayKollsKSTP) November 7, 2014
At 10 PM local time Thursday night, the station ran the story, replete with interviews from current and former police officers stating with absolute certainty that the mayor is not only flashing gang signs, but standing in solidarity with the gangs. Kolls reports in the piece that the simple hand gestures of each person pointing at the other are really signs from a well-known local gang.
Below is video of the segment, which has to be seen to be believed:
By Friday morning, the news station and Kolls were the subjects of ridicule for their racist hit piece on the mayor that was almost certainly done to benefit the local police force. Daily Kos‘ Shaun King said that it’s “so racist and so outrageous, that people are questioning whether or not it’s satire from The Onion.” Vanity Fair labeled it the “most pathetic news story of the week.” Nekima Levy-Pounds of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote a column in response titled ‘Dear White People: Mayor Betsy Hodges is Not in a Gang.’
Meanwhile, #pointergate was trending throughout the day Friday. Thousands of people piled on Kolls and KSTP-5 by commenting how ridiculous it was to jump to the conclusion that Hodges was flashing gang signs or simply posting photos of other people taking pictures pointing at others.
— Lnonblonde (@Lnonblonde) November 7, 2014
— Patrick R. Brown (@iPRB) November 7, 2014
— Goldie Taylor (@goldietaylor) November 7, 2014
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) November 7, 2014
— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) November 7, 2014
— Ken Paulman (@kenpaulman) November 7, 2014
The station released a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon standing behind its story. It stated that police brought the matter to the attention of the station as a matter of “public safety.”
KSTP issues statement on Mayor Hodges photo story: pic.twitter.com/09487PDTWa
— KSTP (@KSTP) November 7, 2014
Essentially, the station admitted it was doing the police department’s dirty work for them. Hodges has been tough on the department through her tenure as she’s tried to crack down on police brutality and corruption. With her forcing police officers to wear body cameras, it seems those higher up in the department decided to throw some trash at her. And KSTP was more than willing to follow along.
Just when you think you’ve seen the bottom of the barrel…
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).