MONROE, La. (KNOE) - We've tried for weeks now to get Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo to tell us why he gave a Key to the City to Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, which is a designated hate group. For weeks the mayor has refused to answer our question. But through a KNOE investigation, we found documents that shed light on that answer.
We requested all documents that the city possessed which were related to Farrakhan's controversial visit to Monroe, including text messages and emails.
In them, city spokesperson Rod Washington says the Monroe Free Press was out to get the mayor. The Monroe Free Press published the original story on Farrakhan's visit along with audio recordings of Farrakhan's meeting with Mayor Mayo. In a text exchange with reporters from KTVE, Washington implies that the publication's owner, Roosevelt Wright, had "twisted" things to stir the pot. He also calls Wright "a sneak and a liar."
When discussing Wright's audio with a KTVE reporter, Washington texts, "Between us, Read our response and you will see just how low Roosevelt Wright is willing to go to twist things and stir the pot to get at the Mayor. He's been doing things like this for 16 years."
And later, "Ain't no telling how he may have chopped up the audio. The man is a sneak and a liar."
Wright initially sent out clips of the audio to all media outlets in the area but posted the full audio on the Monroe Free Press website. For a 2 dollar subscription to the Monroe Free Press, it could be downloaded in full along with pictures of the meeting. KNOE paid the 2 dollars for the subscription.
The documents we requested show every media outlet was trying to get the mayor to talk about this meeting. And every request was subsequently denied. That is, until after we decided to find the mayor at an event and ask him, in person, the questions he still wouldn't answer.
KNOE's Chris Brown approached the mayor and asked, "Mr. Mayor, why did you give a Key to the City to Louis Farrakhan?"
Again, he didn't answer.
At 10:45 that morning Chris tweeted about that interaction. Moments later, the mayor liked that tweet. 30 minutes later on Twitter, at 11:14 am, Chris asked the mayor the same questions he'd asked in person. There was no response.
Then a little over an hour later, city spokesperson Rod Washington texted a reporter from KTVE, "Hey are you working today?"
2 hours after that text, an interview was set up on KTVE for 6:00 pm. Mayor Mayo mentioned an interview during a recent city council meeting. He said, "As I said when I gave an exclusive interview to one of the media outlets that, you know, on one side, on the north side, several folks were appalled that he said that. And on the south side, several people chided me for not inviting them to meet with Minister Farrakhan."
But there were conditions for that interview.
In the text exchange, the reporter and Washington discuss sending interview questions in advance. The reporter says he has to get them approved. And then he tells Washington that the questions were sent. This gave the mayor a chance to come up with preprepared answers and have control over the direction of the interview.
Another document we obtained contains a list of the questions KTVE planned to ask. And beneath each question are bullet points on the mayor's response. We have shared those questions and responses below this article. It's in these written responses, where the mayor finally puts into words why he gave Farrakhan a Key to the City.
The responses say he did it because Farrakhan is a nationally known leader of a religious organization. And because members of his local study group do positive things for our community.
In writing his prepared answers to those questions. The mayor also says he's given keys to Sons of Confederate Veterans and the LGBT community. He suggests that if he apologizes for Farrakhan, he should apologize for those too.
It's important to note here, though controversial, Sons of Confederate Veterans... or gay people... aren't labeled hate groups.
You can find the pre-planned questions and responses for the KTVE interview below. They are presented verbatim.
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KTVE Interview Questions
6 pm Friday, December 22, 2017
1. With Controversy surrounding Minister Farrakhan’s visit what can you tell us about his message at the airport? / How much of the conversation did we get to hear in those three clips?
• First of all, it was not a press conference, as has been falsely reported by some.
• It was a “meet and greet” session that lasted for about 30 minutes. So, you didn’t get to hear much of the conversation at all. Which makes the snippets easy to be taken out of context.
• Minister Farrakhan’s remarks focused on how black leaders must show pride, unity, and integrity
• He also mentioned that black leaders are not in position for just the black community. But, that they are elected to serve the entire city – and, should take their responsibilities seriously.
2. Some of the comments in the past and at the airport have been viewed as hateful against white people and Jews. Do you feel like giving him the key to the city was the right move?
• I want people to know that I don’t agree with everything Minister Farrakhan has said in times past. And, my actions were not meant to offend anyone.
• One thing he said at the airport that is being taken out of context, because you only hear a portion of the entire 30-minute conversation, is when he said “they want to take good out and put evil will back in”
• There are evil people of all races, genders, and nationalities. And, there are good people of all races, genders, and nationalities.
• The context of his comment is that black leaders don’t always get the same leeway that many of our white counterparts get.
• Let’s be honest: We live in the south…in the state of Louisiana…and, it is no secret that every black man, woman, and child, raised within a black household, has been told to be extra careful and do the right thing because there are some people who don’t want you to be in certain positions.
• That was a reality in 1957; and, sadly, is still true in 2017.
• Although sometimes very controversial, Minister Farrakhan is a nationally-known leader of a religious organization.
• Members of his local study group do positive things for our community.
• I gave him the key to the city because of those two reasons.
3. Since the clips were released there’s been a lot of talk about the Nation of Islam as a hate group. What’s your experience with their involvement in the Monroe community?
• Their local study group leader served as an elected member of the Monroe City School System…and was chosen by his peers to serve as President of the School Board.
• Their local study group has been active in multiple community efforts aimed at things such as - conflict resolution, stopping youth violence, housing development and more.
4. After getting some of the backlash for this what would you do differently?
• First let me address the backlash, which was manufactured by the overzealous Publisher of the Monroe Free Press – Roosevelt Wright.
• He editorialized the brief and uneventful “meet and greet” session at the airport to intentionally stir up racial animosity because of his continued vendetta against me – because I refuse to allow him to control me or the city’s agenda (it’s been this way for 16 years).
• Like I said before, it was not my intent to offend anyone. However, I don’t believe that I did anything wrong.
5. What’s your message to non-black residents in the twin cities who may have been offended by this move?
• It’s interesting that you phrased your questions that way – because the responses that I have received have been split along racial lines.
• That tells me that we need to address a bigger elephant in the room.
• This community needs to have more frank and honest conversations about race – a topic that is avoided all too much!
• Over the past 16-years, we have given keys to the city and proclamations to a diverse group of people.
• Should I apologize for giving a proclamation to the LGBT community or the Sons of Confederate Veterans? I am sure that some people would be offended because of their personal beliefs.
• But, as Mayor, I must look beyond my personal beliefs and represent the city of Monroe to people of all walks of life
End of KTVE Questions