Social justice activist Shaun King has appeared at the center of a hot-button controversy yet again, this time for comments he made on Twitter, saying that statues of Jesus Christ that portray him as a “white European” should be torn down.
“Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down,” he said earlier this week. “They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been. In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went? EGYPT! Not Denmark. Tear them down.”
His comments come as tearing down statues has once again become a rallying cry. Protesters and governments in recent weeks have either approved the removal of or directly torn down tributes to individuals who fought with the Confederacy, Founding Fathers who owned slaves and even Christopher Columbus. Protesters also want to take down an emancipation statue in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., saying the depiction of a slave appearing to get up — but still positioned crouching in front of the 16th president, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and defeated the Confederacy — is racist.
King has also gotten behind the more general movement to remove statues.
“Let me be clear,” he tweeted last week. “Every statue or monument of every person who owned human beings should be torn down. By governments or by the people. Period. Including all statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They were despicable human beings. Monsters.”
The statue-removal movement has been repeatedly addressed by President Trump, including in Rose Garden comments Wednesday.
“I think many of the people that are knocking down these statues don’t even have any idea what the statue is,” Trump said. “… Now they’re looking at Jesus Christ. They’re looking at George Washington. They’re looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. Not going to happen. Not going to happen.”
Here’s what to know about King and some of the controversies he’s been involved with over the years.
Who is King?
King is a liberal activist who was previously a surrogate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and has amassed a large social media following through his activism.
Shaun King visits SiriusXM Studios on September 04, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
He’s also the founder of The North Star, a reboot of an 1800s abolitionist newspaper that calls itself a “hub for liberation journalism.”
While King does not hold an official position with the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the organization widely recognized as the central hub for the movement, he has been active in that and adjacent causes since its inception.
Questions over fundraising
One of the most common allegations against King is that he has not properly used funds he has raised for various causes, including The North Star. The Daily Beast ran a lengthy piece last month on King which raised questions on where the money King has claimed to raise for various causes has gone.
The apparent lack of consistency in King’s work led Deray Mckesson, a prominent civil rights activist, to question King’s “integrity” in a Medium post.
“We never aim to replicate the power dynamic of the system we are up against — a system that embraces a devious lack of transparency, willingly sacrifices the vulnerable to protect itself, and replaces truth with convenient lies. Yet Shaun King has done just that,” Mckesson wrote in 2019. “Shaun has followed a uniform pattern over the years, a pattern that has compelled me to speak up, again.”
In the post, Mckesson details a number of King’s initiatives that have followed a “pattern of starting an effort, bringing in committed people, fundraising and then questionable follow through.” These included The North Star, which began with promises of digital, video and audio journalism, but has turned into more of a blog; a group called Justice Together, which was formed soon after the initial Black Lives Matter movement began in 2014; a 2019 report designed to audit King’s fundraising activities but instead was put together by a number of King allies; and more.
Activist Aurielle Marie, whose Twitter handle is @yesaurielle, in 2017 accused King of essentially stealing her work after bringing her in on a podcasting project.
She said that she “contributed COUNTLESS ideas for content” and that King said he would provide space and support for an organization she was running in exchange for her participation.
Then, however, Marie alleged that King essentially ghosted her and went ahead with the podcast using her ideas without her collaboration or crediting her.
“He lied to us, y’all. He lied, he manipulated me & he let organizers down,” she alleged in a tweet.
King was asked about these accusations on “The Clay Cane Show” on Sirius XM’s Urban View Radio.
“For a lot of people, this perception of you, it really goes beyond money. Some of your detractors were once your supporters. I think of Aurielle Marie, Leslie Mack, and there were reports that you stole content from black women,” host Clay Cane said to King. “What do you feel happened to alienate such a large group of supporters?”
“After this report, we may very well create another team, there is a whole separate thread of people saying that I have plagiarized articles, that I have stolen content. It has never happened. Not once. I am as sure and confident in that as I am saying that I have never touched a dollar that I’ve ever raised for any family, not just in this report, but before the report,” King said.
He added: “I’ve never borrowed content and not properly credited it.”
Allegations against officer
King in 2018 pushed a story about a state trooper sexually assaulting a woman that was later been discredited when police body camera footage did not corroborate the story. King backtracked and deleted damaging social media posts in which he said the trooper committed “rape.”
“The officer first communicated to Sherita that he would be willing to let her go if she performed sexual favors for him, then proceeded to sexually assault her, touching her under her skirt,” King declared in an interview on Radio 103.9 in New York at the time. “When her fiancé arrived, the officer asked Sherita if he had a gun, and threatened to kill him if she said anything about what had just happened.”
But the Texas Department of Safety released the bodycam footage that completely contradicted Dixon-Cole’s story that was pushed by King on a variety of platforms in addition to the radio, including several posts on Facebook and Twitter.
King made his displeasure with the situation known, publishing a blog post headlined, “When the ‘victim’ you fought for turns out to be the victimizer: Sherita Dixon-Cole and the painful consequences of a false report of sexual assault and police misconduct,” in which he backtracked his attacks on the trooper and admitted he was duped by Dixon-Cole.
“An awful tendency exists in this country to hold all people of color responsible for the transgressions of one person in that group. That’s racism and it must be rejected here,” he wrote. King also said at the time that he wanted to apologize to the officer who “was actually a model example of a good cop in this situation. He was patient and thorough.”
Sparring with Rachel Maddow over her reporting
King earlier this year said that Rachel Maddow, the host of MSNBC’s most-watched program “reported that multiple ‘senior officials’ within the Democratic Party are interfering with the primaries” in an effort to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“BREAKING: @MSNBC & @maddow just reported that multiple ‘senior officials’ within the Democratic Party are interfering with the primaries to stop @BernieSanders,” King wrote. “They reported that the party has asked Bloomberg to drop out so that Biden would have an easier time against Bernie.”
Maddow responded, “What? No. I didn’t report any such thing.”
King then shared a clip of MSNBC’s Super Tuesday coverage.
“It’s striking to hear [NBC News reporter Josh] Lederman say that the Bloomberg campaign is experiencing intense pressure from multiple sources inside the Democratic party that he needs to quit,” Maddow said in the clip.
“This is you, right @maddow?” King captioned the post. “Do you not say, ‘The Bloomberg campaign is experiencing INTENSE PRESSURE from multiple sources from inside of the Democratic Party that he needs to quit?’ Seems like you. And seems like you literally said those words.”
Maddow, of course, was not reporting that DNC officials were intervening against Sanders or for Biden. She was quoting a colleague’s report, which she said was surprising, and did not give a reason for why DNC officials were allegedly pressuring Bloomberg to exit the presidential race.
Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report.