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OUR VIEW — Covering their behinds

The Lincolnton-Lincoln County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #85’s leadership is backpedaling after it came to light that the organization hired a blackface comedian to perform at an upcoming event.
The Lodge claims none of its members knew comedian Willie P. Richardson performed in blackface when they hired him for a fundraiser, as described in a story in our Monday edition.
They said, in a press release, “There is no indication that any of (their) members knew the race of Willie P. Richardson” and that they hired him based on the recommendation of another F.O.P. group in another state.
When the Order found out Richardson does a modern-day minstrel show — thanks to a letter from the local branch of the NAACP — they backed off. Richardson will still perform at the function, though not in blackface, on August 16.
Taking off the makeup doesn’t make it any more acceptable that someone who regularly does a blackface act is coming to town to perform for a law enforcement group, with members who have a solemn duty to protect each and every citizen of Lincoln County. But that’s what the F.O.P. has chosen to do, to save face.
The F.O.P. also saw the controversy as a chance to question how the Lincoln Times-News makes its editorial decisions.
We contacted the group’s president, Lincolnton police lieutenant Brian Greene, on Friday and asked for a comment. He said he couldn’t make one, and passed the buck to the group’s members. We contacted Greene again 48 hours later, on Sunday, and informed him that we would be running a story in Monday’s edition.
The group also claims in its press release that staff writer Elizabeth Heffner told Greene that the Times-News was publishing the story on Monday because we “could not wait because her editor wanted to be first and that since the State NAACP had been notified they were afraid someone else would report the story before them.”
That is an outright falsehood. It was Greene who told Heffner during their interview that he believed that was the reason the Times-News was publishing the article. He assumed, incorrectly, that we were hungry for a scoop, rather than our true motive — presenting the news.
We work for you, our readers. Not the F.O.P., not City Hall, not the county commissioners or anyone else. And we make our editorial decisions based upon what’s going to best inform our readers. We didn’t need an official line of spin from the F.O.P. to report that they had hired a blackface performer for an event, though we offered them ample time to provide a statement, particularly given the modern age of computers and smartphones. The fact remains that they hired a blackface performer, and only once that fact was publicized did they recognize the error of their ways.
What the group is really trying to do, with its accusations against this paper, is turn attention away from the fact that they made a very, very bad decision in hiring Richardson. We know our readers, like us, recognize a ruse when they see one.

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