We laughed when we learned that the pastor who led the so-called boycott against The Robesonian, accusing this newspaper of being racist and dishonest, was caught on video in South Carolina being racist and dishonest.
But it’s really not funny.
The Rev. Jerrod Moultrie, who is the head the NAACP in Timmonsville, S.C., and pastor of Oakgrove Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmont, last month called this newspaper about our coverage of sheriff’s candidate Ronnie Patterson. He was angry after we published a story sharing the truth that Patterson was a perjurer, having lied repeatedly when being investigated for alleged sexual harassment.
Moultrie was invited to a sit-down at our office, but was a no-show — and didn’t give us a courtesy call that he wasn’t coming. But he did help organize and attend a press conference during which he and some other pastors of color, including a school board member who wants to be a senator, called our coverage racist and an attempt to torpedo the campaign of Patterson, who hoped to become this county’s first African American sheriff.
Patterson’s campaign did sink, but under the weight of the truth becoming known.
What we learned Tuesday is that on April 12, two weeks before the press conference, Moultrie was stopped by a police officer near his Timmonsville home for making a left-hand turn without a proper signal and an issue with his vehicle’s license plate. Hours later, Moultrie put this on his Facebook account: “Tonight I was racially profiled by Timmonsville officer cause I was driving a Mercedes Benz and going home in a nice neighborhood. But you know tomorrow they will hear from me.”
There was also some play-by-play by Moultrie, during which he said the officer asked him about drugs and apparently didn’t believe the Mercedes Benz was his and that he lived in a nice neighborhood. He even said the officer told him he could be taken to jail, and that he was doing Moultrie a favor by not doing so.
Now let’s go to the videotape. The officer was wearing a body camera and the video of the encounter shows that Moultrie is a liar, and that the officer was cordial, as was Moultrie, and that there was no harassment. In fact, Moultrie was not even cited for the traffic violation or registration problem.
Rev. Moultrie needs to brush up on those Ten Commandments, with special attention to No. 8: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
While Moultrie has made himself worthy of mockery, there exists a very real problem beyond his obvious hypocrisy.
Moultrie could have done damage to a police officer’s career, perhaps even ended it. Such allegations, even when they are disproven, can carry a permanent stain because there exist people eager to believe the worst even when exculpatory evidence exists.
It is true that people of color in this country are racially profiled. When there are false claims of harassment such as the one made by Moultrie, that raises the degree of scrutiny for those whose claims are legitimate.
There isn’t a lower card to play than the race card. Charlatans such as Moultrie aren’t interested in racial harmony, and prefer instead to drive wedges between people of different colors. Then they can call press conferences, encourage boycotts, and pass the collection plate.
We know there are those who will side with Moultrie on this, unwilling to believe what the video shows conclusively. We don’t worry about them — just as we can’t be bothered by those who object to us informing voters that a sheriff’s candidate had lied repeatedly under oath.
Perhaps those pastors who joined Moultrie in the call to boycott his newspaper for telling the truth, will condemn him now for his lie and attempt to provoke racial strife. We will just stand over here and wait.