On Thursday Jamilah Lemieux, Senior Editor, Digital, for Ebony Magazine, attacked RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams (who is African-American) for being white and daring to talk to her. Later, finding he was African American, she rejected him because he was conservative. On Friday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus published an open letter to Ebony's Editor-in-Chief demanding an apology "not just for making assumptions about his race but more importantly for dismissing black Republicans and the validity of their opinions in public discourse."
The text of the letter, which is published on the RNC website, reads:
Dear Ms. Barnett:
Over the years, the writers and editors at EBONY have done great work in promoting civil rights and diligently covering issues of race and politics in America. That’s why I was shocked to learn that one of your senior editors, Jamilah Lemieux, repeatedly attacked black conservatives on Twitter yesterday for their political views.
When one of the Republican National Committee’s staff members challenged her assumptions and attempted to engage in a dialogue, she dismissively referred to him as “a white dude.” That staffer, our Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams, is black. She went on to deride those who were criticizing her as “a house full of roaches.”
Attacking someone for his or her race, heritage or political views is the very thing EBONY has worked to discourage, and actions like those of Ms. Lemieux are far below the basic standards of journalism. She did not even attempt to show journalistic objectivity. And I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s unacceptable to refer to those who disagree with you as “roaches.”
Raffi deserves an apology from Ms. Lemieux and from EBONY—not just for making assumptions about his race but more importantly for dismissing black Republicans and the validity of their opinions in public discourse.
In their Twitter exchange, Ms. Lemieux said she had “no interest” in a conversation about encouraging diversity of thought. I’m hopeful, however, that she does not speak for the entire magazine and that we can use this unfortunate episode as a catalyst for greater engagement and understanding between the Republican Party and the black community.
UPDATE: Ebony posts apology
BONY founder John H. Johnson once said that he created EBONY magazine with the intention to affirm a certain sense of "somebodiness" for African Americans. Nearly 70 years ago the magazine began on the principle that, as Black people, we are all somebody—we all count.
Yesterday, the spirit of this mission was disregarded by EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux in a personal Twitter exchange between herself and RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams. In part of the exchange, Lemieux responded to an attempt at discourse from Williams with words that curtly dismissed him and his suggestion that she be interested in the "diversity of thought." She also misidentified him, unintentionally, as White. Williams is Black.
EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas. As the magazine of record for the African American community, Lemieux's tweets in question do not represent our journalistic standard, tradition or practice of celebrating diverse Black thought.
In a letter to EBONY from RNC President Reince Priebus, he suggests, "that we can use this unfortunate episode as a catalyst for greater understanding between the Republican Party and the black community."
EBONY acknowledges Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux's lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account and apologizes to Raffi Williams and the Black Republican community.