National Press Club Condemns Oklahoma Officials for Threatening Journalists and Black People

Ted Rivers

An audio recording published by the McCurtain Gazette-News has exposed local officials in McCurtain County, Oklahoma making violent threats against journalists and Black people.

The recording captured a conversation between the county sheriff and several officials, revealing their racist and expletive-laden discussions about hiring hitmen to kill newspaper owners and journalists, as well as lynching Black citizens.

Eileen O'Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, issued a statement expressing shock and condemnation of the threats.

"Threats of violence against journalists have no place in the United States, or anywhere. We are shocked and appalled by the threats against journalists made by local officials in McCurtain County, Oklahoma in an audio recording published this week by the McCurtain Gazette-News.
We condemn these threats in the strongest possible terms. We are also concerned by statements made by those same officials threatening to file charges against the journalists for the making of the recording. We also condemn the threats against Black people made in the same recording by a local official."

Both O'Reilly and Klein emphasized the importance of holding government officials accountable for violent threats against journalists. They expressed appreciation for Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt's leadership in condemning the threats and calling for the resignation of the local officials involved.

The statement also acknowledged that federal and state authorities are reportedly investigating the situation and called for a swift and thorough investigation.

In response to the release of the recording, dozens of McCurtain County residents protested at the sheriff's office in Idabel, echoing calls from Governor Stitt and Mayor Craig Young for the officials to resign.

The recording was captured after a county commission meeting in March and features Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix discussing the hiring of "mafia hitmen" to kill the newspaper's owners and journalists.

Your thoughts

The deeply concerning audio recording from McCurtain County, Oklahoma, underscores the ongoing struggle for press freedom and racial equality in the United States.

What are your thoughts on this situation and the measures being taken to hold the officials accountable?

Share your opinions and ideas in the comments below.


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