The board of directors of Blaze Radio at Arizona State University announced Monday it had voted to remove the station manager, student broadcaster Rae’Lee Klein, from her position for sharing important facts about the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
A viral video showed Blake, who is black, being shot in the back seven times by a white officer after he resisted arrest and attempted to get into his car. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later issued a statement saying two tasers had been deployed but failed to stop the 29-year-old suspect, and a knife was found on the floorboard where he reached into the vehicle.
Klein shared a New York Post story revealing that Blake was wanted in connection with three charges filed last month in relation to an alleged sexual assault against the very woman who had called police shortly before the shooting occurred.
Along with her since-deleted tweet sharing the article, Klein wrote, “Always more to the story, folks. Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.”
Run by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Blaze Radio made the decision to vote for Klein’s removal following a flurry of social media backlash to her tweet.
Klein spoke with The Western Journal about the ongoing controversy and how it reflects on the current state of journalism.
She began by explaining how the events had transpired from her point of view.
“The tweet absolutely blew up and people were super, super upset. They said that I was racist, that I was insensitive and that essentially I wasn’t fit to lead in this role any longer,” Klein said.
“The board, at first, was very supportive, helped me write statements, was really trying to save the face of Blaze radio,” she said. “And then, in a matter of six hours, they all decided to call for my resignation as well.
“And then people on the staff of the Cronkite School, who oversee the functioning of Blaze radio, present and former, said that because I am a white woman who was raised in Wyoming and did pageants, I have no room to comment about stuff like this, and that the tweet was too, quote, like too Fox News-y and that all the backlash and mob mentality I was getting for it was justified and I should just step down.”
Klein is not resigning, and according to her, although the board voted for her removal, it doesn’t have the authority to follow through. In the end, it will be up to the school dean to decide whether she is forced to leave her post.
No matter what happens, however, Klein’s reputation has been thoroughly tarnished. Several students from the Cronkite School have condemned the journalist as a “racist” for sharing the contextual information about Jacob Blake.
For example, the student group Walter Cronkite College Council described Klein’s tweet as “factually misleading, discriminatory and racist,” adding that it “has potentially caused the harm and exclusion of students of color, specifically Black students.”
We want what’s best for our diverse community at the Cronkite School. No one should feel excluded or discriminated against. pic.twitter.com/QuDn9lBdSg
— Walter Cronkite College Council (@cronkite_cc) August 29, 2020
“This isn’t the first time that I’ve been called a racist for sharing information that I find relevant, and unfortunately, with these issues being so sensitive, no matter which way you lean you’re going to be called a racist no matter what you are, you’re wrong one way or another, and you can’t appease everybody,” Klein said in response to the accusations.
“There’s always going to be a group upset,” she said, “and it’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it doesn’t take away from my belief that the truth needs to be told.”
I would like to clear the air about my previous tweet. It was not my intent to make an excuse for what happened to Jacob Blake. The incident is tragic in every sense of the word. The point of my tweet was to provide an additional perspective.
— Rae’Lee Klein (@RaeLeeKlein) August 29, 2020
When it comes to stories like the Jacob Blake shooting, many media outlets are quick to rush to judgment before all the facts come out. For Klein, being right and delivering the truth is much more important than being the first to break a story.
“They call me out on hurting the industry, but they’re inherently the ones doing it because they’re trying to censor which truth gets out, and just because it may be hard to hear doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be told,” Klein said.
“I think a lot of different news outlets, unfortunately, they pick and choose which stories that they want to tell that fits their audience and they run it like a business, and that’s not what journalism is supposed to be.”
“I’m a patriot first and a journalist second,” she said. “I will never turn my back on the people that I work for.”
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