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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: SLRC takes information service to task for circulating libelous “news release” about Lee observance in Statuary Hall

Friday, April 06, 2007

SLRC takes information service to task for circulating libelous “news release” about Lee observance in Statuary Hall

The Southern Legal Resource Center News Release

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

BLACK MOUNTAIN, NC – Officials of The Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC) on Wednesday sharply criticized a New York-based public relations service for distributing an unedited “news release” that libels an SLRC staff member in connection with an upcoming Robert E. Lee observance to be held in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

The release, distributed by media service PR Newswire and its companion group US Newswire, was written by PR Newswire subscriber John Edward Hurley, who identifies himself as the President of the Confederate Memorial Association. It alleges that “white supremacists” are behind the Lee memorial observance, which is set for April 7 and was organized by units of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The release was issued March 29 to the news service’s contact list, which it says consists of more than 4,000 print, broadcast and online media outlets worldwide. The release has been cited by numerous news sources including Yahoo News and several major newspapers.

The news release notes that the Commander of the SCV chapter co-sponsoring the event is Washington lobbyist Richard T. Hines, who Hurley calls “the major sponsor of Kirk Lyons, the white supremacist lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan nations.” However, Roger McCredie, Executive Director of the SLRC, where Lyons is employed as Chief Trial Counsel, says both those statements are “totally off the wall” and that Hurley knows it. In fact, McCredie said, the item is provably nothing more than a falsehood-riddled diatribe by Hurley against some individuals he doesn’t like, and that the news service failed to exercise due diligence by passing the story along for public consumption without examination.

“A quick background check shows that Mr. Hurley has been waging a vendetta against Mr. Hines for lo these many years,” McCredie said. “He engaged in a 17-year legal battle with Mr. Hines that apparently ended with [Hurley’s] having to sell the building that housed his museum in order to pay lawyer fees, and he’s been on the rampage ever since.”

McCredie added that SLRC records show Hines made three small donations to that organization over a four-year period.

As for Hurley’s comments about Lyons, McCredie called them “the same shopworn defamation that has circulated on that subject for years. Nearly 20 years ago Mr. Lyons represented a former KKK member, and his client was acquitted. Morris Dees [the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center] represented KKK members who beat up a freedom rider, but nobody ever mentions that.” Likewise, McCredie said, Lyons has no connection whatsoever to the Aryan Nations group, beyond having been married in a church on Aryan Nations property.

McCredie said the SLRC sees Hurley’s inclusion of Lyons in his news release as a smear tactic. “The author Thomas Woods observed in a recent article that hardly anyone who makes these types of accusations is stupid enough to actually believe them; they are said purely for shock value and character assassination. That certainly seems to be the case here. Mr. Hurley saw what he felt was an opportunity to sling mud at Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Hines and Mr. Lyons – all of whom he despises -- at the same time, and this was his means of doing it. While he was at it, he also managed to insult two of the oldest and most respected civic organizations in America, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” McCredie said.

But the real culprit, according to the SLRC, is PR Newswire. ”We live in an age where truth in journalism is at the mercy of the malicious, the ambitious and the clueless,” McCredie, a former newspaperman, said. “This incident shows how somebody with a personal grudge can write a page of hate-filled screed, call it a news release, and rely on his news service to disperse it, without a shred of oversight, to thousands of media outlets who in turn will scoff it up and report it as gospel. People should find this very, very disturbing.”

McCredie said he was told by PR Newswire Vice President/Public Relations Rachael Marenus that the organization does not edit members’ news releases for content. “We understand that news circulation services exist to serve their clients and that they don’t exercise the same level of editorial supervision a news publication is supposed to, but we would expect some degree of scrutiny of a piece whose subject matter appears to be blatantly partisan or controversial. You’d think this piece’s headline, ‘White Supremacists Plan Celebration at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol’ would have been a clue,” McCredie said.

McCredie noted that the SLRC is not mentioned by name in Hurley’s news release, but said that Lyons’ position with the organization is common knowledge. He declined to say what action, if any, the SLRC contemplates against either Hurley or the news service.

The SLRC is a registered U. S. 501 ( c ) (3) nonprofit organization governed by a nine-member board of directors, five of whom are attorneys.


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