DETROIT, Mich. (CN) — Call conservative radio talk show host James Edwards a hate monger, just don’t call him a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Edwards sued the Detroit News and one of its columnists, who printed that he was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. The column, which appeared in the newspaper on March 17, listed Edwards alongside David Duke and Thomas Robb as one of the Klan’s leaders.
“All of these leaders — avowed racists and Holocaust deniers — have publicly expressed strong support for Trump and hailing him as the best candidate to lead the country,” the column, which was written by co-defendant Bankole Thompson, said.
Thompson’s column was written in response to Edwards’ public support for Donald Trump for president, and was one of many to lambaste the Trump campaign last month for granting Edwards media credentials to one of its rallies. An article in the New York Daily News at the time referred to Edwards as a “hatemonger.”
By insinuating that Edwards as a Klansman, however, the Detroit News crossed a line, one that involves libel and invasion of privacy, according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants publicly defaming plaintiff — a conservative — by falsely stating that he is a leader of the Ku Klux Klan is no less actionable than it would be for a conservative to defame a liberal by falsely alleging that they are a communist,” Edwards says in the lawsuit, filed April 18 in a trial court in Wayne County, Michigan.
Nearly a month after the column ran, Edwards’ attorney on April 5 sent the newspaper a demand for retraction. The Detroit News has since issued a clarification stating that Edwards “has no formal position with the Ku Klux Klan” and that Edwards’ support for Trump “left the impression that Edwards served in an official capacity with the Ku Klux Klan.”
However, Thompson never published the retraction on his Twitter page, the lawsuit states, noting that Edwards has suffered damages to his reputation for “being disparaged, embarrassed, and shamed” by the newspaper and columnist.
Edwards, whose radio talk show host on “The Political Cesspool” touts its “pro-white” message and opposes racial-integration policies. It has featured interviews with Duke and other white supremacists and counts among its sponsors the Council of Conservative Citizens, which condemns “race-mixing.”
In 2009, Edwards wrote a book called “Racism Schamcism: How Liberals Use the ‘R’ Word to Push the Obama Agenda.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, during the show’s 10-year anniversary in October 2014 Edward and others in attendance saluted Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. He once wrote that “slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to [blacks].”
In March 2016, Edwards interviewed Donald Trump Jr. on his show, during which Edwards praised his guest’s father and supported his presidential run.
“Here in the South, evangelicals are in a frenzy over your father, and in a very big way,” Edwards said during the show. “I have never voted for a Republican nominee. I’ve always voted conservative third party. I will vote for a Republican nominee for the first time in my life in November.”
Trump himself has had problems with being linked to the KKK, after a February flub in which he failed to condemn Klan leader Duke’s support for his presidential campaign during an NBC interview. Trump later claimed he had a malfunctioned earpiece and didn’t hear the question.
Thompson joined the Detroit News in July 2015, after resigning as senior editor for The Michigan Chronicle.
In a March 9 column, titled “Bigots have a clear choice for president,” Thompson took the Trump campaign to task for “coddling white supremacists” and granting Edwards media credentials.
When asked to comment, Detroit News managing editor Gary Miles replied in an email, “On behalf of all of us here, we’re not interested in commenting.”
Edwards’ attorney Kyle Bristow, who practices in Clinton, Michigan, could not be reached for comment.
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