orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

June 22, 2011

Beaumont NAACP says local media biased

BEAUMONT — At a Tuesday morning press conference Beaumont’s National Associatoin for Advancement of Colored Persons branch accused Southeast Texas media of biased reporting, and called for equality in both from the justice system and the media.

Beaumont NAACP President R.L. Bishop called the meeting to discuss Derrick Newman’s inability to receive justice and the threat of Calvin Walker losing his BISD contract, as well as the allegations of media bias.

Reading from a prepared script, Bishop challenged the community and local courts to examine its commitment of equality for all.

“We have people in this society who are still trying to take us back to the 1950s,” Bishop said.

There is a large group of people in this community who feel threatened, he said.

Newman is the subject of a police brutality case stemming from a 2007 arrest. Newman, who was unarmed and struck with a police baton and  Tasered, filed a use of force complaint against Beaumont police officer James Cody Guedry and David Todd Burke. Both police officers have  been found guilty of official oppression. Todd has since resigned, and filed an appeal in the case.

A state judge in April granted Guedry a new trial.

Calvin Walker, owner of Walker’s Electric Co. — a company that was contracted to perform Beaumont ISD’s electrical work since 2006 — was named in a 37-count federal indictment in May.

Walker is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, fraud in connection with organizations which receive federal funds, and money laundering.

The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges Walker overbilled the district by $3.7 million.

Walker, per his contract with the district, is allowed to continue working for the school district. School board members are scheduled to vote on the matter at an upcoming board meeting.

Bishop noted that both Newman and Walker are black while the Beaumont officers are white.

During the press conference Bishop accused the media of “slanted and uneven coverage.”

“All we hear is negative press from negative thinking people,” Bishop said.

Bishop also cited a recent Press Club of Southeast Texas skit performed by members Bill Leger and Jackie Simien as insensitive. In the skit, BISD employees and Walker were the singular subject of a lengthy parody.

Bishop said the NAACP branch had received numerous complaints about the skit.

Walker, he said, was innocent until proven guilty, though there is an outcry to pull his contract.

After reading his statement, Bishop was asked questions by the local media and local attorney Michael Getz concerning the allegations.

Getz spearheaded a petition drive calling for a referendum on the May 2011 ballot to change the BISD board's electoral system from seven single-member districts to five single districts with two at-large positions.

KFDM reporters said the news station went Walker’s home to talk with him about the allegations, then posted his entire response on the station’s Web site.

When asked for a response, Bishop agreed if Walker’s response was posted in its entity, the station had done what was right.

Bishop accused the media of “trying to take us back to the 1950s.”

“This 1950 mentality needs to stop,” he said.

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