Within hours of the Daily Caller story King, who was hired in October by the New York Daily News as a “senior justice writer," wrote in a second post that he would cease all operations and had already returned “every single donation that we’ve ever received (all the way back to September of 2014).”
In his social media dispatch, King dropped the D-word — distraction — as in, “I refuse to be a distraction in the movement against police brutality in America.”
Where else have we heard the old D-word lately?
Ah, yes. Leading presidential candidates in both major parties have attempted to dismiss reports about less-than-flattering personal or professional episodes as mere distractions getting in the way of conversations about real issues. The press has generally rejected this argument.
Shouldn’t the media apply the same standard to King, now that he is saying essentially the same thing -- that his Justice Together screw-up is nothing but a distraction from more important discussions about racial inequality?
In this case, the circumstances are different.
Some, including conservative Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, have already indicated they don’t agree. On “The O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday, the host cited King’s charity trouble as a reason to be suspicious of the entire Black Lives Matter cause.
And on social media, the Daily Caller report has been used to mock or discredit the whole movement.
The thing is, Black Lives Matter isn't really about Shaun King — or any other individual. He’s a prominent figure, making his actions newsworthy (and undeniably a bad look for BLM). But whether he’s a con man, a poor manager or just overly ambitious has no bearing on whether he and tens of thousands of others raise valid issues about the way black people are viewed and treated by law enforcement.
It's certainly fair to vet leaders of political causes and to watch carefully how they handle other people's money, but it's unreasonable to tear down a movement and its message because of one person. Yet, that seems to be the aim of highlighting King's problems. (Similarly, a video surfaced this week of BLM protesters chanting in a Dartmouth College library and reportedly shouting vulgarities directed at white students. "Black Lives Matter protesters live down to their reputation," declared one conservative blog, and that sentiment was widely circulated.)
A presidential campaign, by contrast, is very much about an individual candidate. Sure, people vote for policy, but they also vote for character. Seemingly trivial inquiries about a candidate’s past are part of a year-and-a-half interview for the biggest job in the country. They help voters decide whether to trust that a candidate can be president.
King isn’t running for anything. And no one needs to trust him before engaging in meaningful discussions about race relations. The charity story, while totally valid, really is a distraction when it comes to the broader political debate.