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Rhino Times used as propaganda vehicle for Klan in more than one way

by Jordan Green

The feisty, conservative Greensboro newspaper The Rhinoceros Times has drawn a bright line around its right flank by suing the Arkansas-based Knights Party, a faction of the Ku Klux Klan, after a summer of running rhetorical battles with black elected officials and activists in Guilford County.

The lawsuit, filed on Sept. 5 in Guilford County court, declares that the newspaper “has been identified with defendant’s despicable beliefs, thus causing injury to plaintiff’s reputation and good name.”

Hammer Publications, which owns the newspaper, contends that the Klan through “employees” or “agents” has been distributing its literature by placing it within the free weekly publication, which the lawsuit characterizes as “unfair and deceptive trade practices.” The Klan newsletter espouses racist and anti-semitic views to solicit $35 and $45 membership fees from white Christians, according to the lawsuit.

“By distributing its newsletters with plaintiff’s publications, defendant gives the impression to the public that plaintiff is associated with and agrees with the racist and anti-Semitic principles espoused by the defendant,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff abhors and is disgusted by defendant’s racist and anti-Semitic views.”

Reached by telephone on Sept. 7, Knights Party National Director Thomas Robb said he expects the lawsuit “to fall on the ground,” adding that once a newspaper is distributed what is done with the individual copies falls beyond the publisher’s control.

While denying any personal responsibility for inserting Klan literature into copies of The Rhinoceros Times, Robb acknowledged that it is not uncommon for members to distribute newsletters by rolling them up in previously published newspapers. He has been threatened with lawsuits numerous times for the practice, he added, but this is the first time a newspaper has followed through.

“Newspapers are easy to use to contain fliers,” Robb said. “They just use them for weight. The flier itself would be too light to throw up on someone’s porch.”

Robb dismissed The Rhinoceros Times contention that their newspaper would be damaged by the perception among readers and advertisers that it is somehow associated with the Klan, saying, “I think very few people would think any newspaper is endorsing the Klan. If readers think that, they need to get some smarter readers.”

While news stories and editorials – often interchangeable in the openly ideological newspaper – generally take care to use race-neutral language, The Rhinoceros Times has not been entirely successful at remaining above the fray of Guilford County’s enduring racial discord.

Guilford County School Board member Deena Hayes, who is black, has been the target of heavy scrutiny by The Rhinoceros Times for her alleged influence over school contract awards, which the newspaper suggested might have benefited a friend. Hayes lashed out by calling The Rhinoceros Times “a white racist newspaper” at a July 7 demonstration held by the Guilford County Coalition Against Intolerable Racism, according to a report by Editor John Hammer.

Hammer fired back in his article by denouncing one of the demonstration’s organizers, the Rev. Nelson Johnson, who has long been an object of fear and distrust among Greensboro’s white establishment because of his role in the NC A&T University student insurrection of 1969, and in organizing the ill-fated 1979 Communist Workers Party march against the Klan.

“If the black leaders in Greensboro allow Johnson to take over, we in this city are in for more trouble and more violence,” Hammer wrote. “Johnson once again got on the front page of the newspapers because of this truth and reconciliation project [sic], which is really a Johnson publicity project. We have many fine, upstanding, successful black members of this community, but if they step aside and allow Johnson to take charge he will, and Greensboro will once again be torn apart. The only purpose served by all of this racial divisiveness is so that Johnson can see his name in headlines and see his image on television.”

Lest anyone come away with the impression that The Rhinoceros Times sympathized with the Klan for their role in the 1979 confrontation with Johnson’s group, the newspaper is now on record in the courts as opposing the right-wing group’s agenda.

Complaining about the inserted fliers, publisher William Hammer told the News & Record on Sept. 6 that “some people are going to think it’s an advertisement we accepted’…. We would never in a million years, for any amount of money, accept any form of advertisement from an organization like the KKK.”

In fact, technically speaking, the conservative newspaper has accepted an advertisement from an organization of the Klan’s ilk, although the monetary amount appears to be small and there is no evidence that the transaction was anything but an unintentional oversight. An item in the classified section of the newspaper’s Aug. 24 issue advertises the website putthetroopsontheborder.com, which consists mainly of a polemical tract that invokes the Bible and the Constitution to decry illegal emigration from Mexico to the United States.

The newspaper charges $20 for a three-line advertisement that runs for four weeks. Hammer did not return phone calls regarding the advertisement or his publication’s lawsuit against the Klan.

Robb readily acknowledged that his group was responsible for setting up the website, which has links to the Knights Party, Thomas Robb Ministries and a “cool jewelry” page that offers visitors the opportunity to buy a “Klansman statue with or without lighted eyes.”

The Klan leader said his group has advocated placing US troops on the Mexican border for more 20 years – a view that has recently attracted vocal support among national Republican leaders and became official state policy when President Bush announced in May that National Guard members would be deployed to assist with border patrol.

The Klan leader said he did not pay The Rhinoceros Times to place the ad, but said it was plausible that a member or supporter did so.

As to whether the Arkansas Klan group shares common cause with Greensboro’s conservative weekly newspaper, readers will have to decide for themselves.

The Klan newsletter attached to The Rhinoceros Times lawsuit as “Exhibit A” includes tracts attacking the Rev. Martin Luther King and civil rights activist Rosa Parks as agents of an international communist conspiracy, draws attention to King’s reported philandering and alleged homosexuality, and celebrates the Knights Party “as a living instrument of the ideals of Western Christian civilization and the one element that makes it possible: the white race.”

On the other hand, the Klan takes a far more critical stance on the Bush administration than The Rhinoceros Times’s editorial page. The Knights Party literature slams “the homosexual direction of the Democrats” and the “one world agenda of the Republicans.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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