Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson just dropped the hammer on Shaun King. In a lengthy post published on Medium, Deray offers a long list of organizing and fundraising efforts by King which have either failed or ended without clear indications of where the money went. In fact, Deray comes close to accusing King of fraud. Note that the emphasis below is in the original text:
Shaun has followed a uniform pattern over the years, a pattern that has compelled me to speak up, again. This is not the first time I have done so, and I am not alone. Johnetta Elzie and I were in a previous public disagreement with Shaun about issues of transparency and ethics that ended in his apology. Shaun also deleted all of his tweets and noted that he would focus on journalism and would not engage in attempted organizing or fundraising. Importantly, he made this commitment to others both publicly and privately. It is clear now that he did not keep those commitments and after a brief hiatus, re-emerged and began engaging in the same behaviors that caused the last public conflict.
It is important to note that Shaun’s journalism has done some good by bringing attention to stories that may have gone under-reported or overlooked. But the person who paints your house before he steals your car has still committed theft.
Deray also faults King for his way of avoiding straight answers to questions about his activities, which he says involves denial, claiming to be a victim, and bullying:
I tried previously to engage offline to resolve these tensions, but his behaviors did not change. There is a formula that he employs when people ask questions or highlight contradictions: issue an unconditional denial, attack the character of the person asking questions, argue that white supremacists are attacking him or his family, respond only to the least salient of all points raised, then issue a statement akin to an apology.
But he does not often answer any of the questions or offer any resolution of contradictions raised, but instead, deflects. What’s more, he often bullies and intimidates those who ask questions at all, turning his ire especially at Black women, attempting to scare inquirers into silence.
Deray says King is taking advantage of people but no one wants to admit its happening:
I have seen many people, against their better judgment, defend Shaun. I know because I was once one of those people. We are all apt to defend own decision-making, especially about people. But the love for our people must be greater than the love of any one person. Shaun has continued to thrive because many people cannot believe that they have been duped, used, or taken advantage of.
All of this is just the prelude to the rest of the piece in which Deray lists organizations King has founded and fundraised for, often with no evidence the groups ever accomplished anything in the real world. It’s all worth reading but here’s a sample:
The North Star Seems to have followed a similar pattern of starting an effort, bringing in committed people, fundraising and then questionable follow through.
Launched in November 2018 in partnership with a Black independent media host and podcaster Benjamin Dixon, began fundraising to start an effort built on the legacy of Frederick Douglass and liberatory journalism. While there is an online blog and a podcast, there was promised daily news video programming and other content that does not seem to have been published.
It is unclear how much has been raised since the soft launch in November 2018, but with tens of thousands of members paying monthly it is curious there has not been a daily news program as promised.
Several staffers in the initial phases were hired and then laid off, and it is unclear if the Atlanta studio is still in use.
Several former staffers have reached out to me but were afraid to say anything publicly because of non-disclosure agreements that were signed of which Shaun maintains the sole copies. Even former employees who did not sign NDAs that require their silence were afraid to speak out because they did not want him to use his platform against them.
One of the things that was brought to my attention was that Shaun fundraised for The North Star, in part, by saying that white supremacists were hacking the website but this, in fact, was untrue. Instead, the site had been built poorly and just needed better technological infrastructure.
Deray also mentions King’s history of sloppy allegations including the sensational allegation of rape which he promoted last year. I’m willing to give Deray some credit for speaking the truth about someone close to him. But frankly, Deray himself isn’t blameless when it comes to telling the truth. He was one of the people promoting conspiracy theories about Sandra Bland:
After being here in Waller County, I'm certain that they killed #SandraBland.
— deray (@deray) July 24, 2015
So far, this tweet appears to be the only response from King to Deray’s post on Medium: