by Fred Kuhr
The far-right men’s group the Proud Boys call themselves “Western chauvinists” who long for the days when, as Archie Bunker once put it, “girls were girls and men were men.” But if you call them “white supremacists” and “fascists,” you may be threatened with legal action.
That’s what happened when San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter (B.A.R.) ran a column headlined, “Proud Boys not welcome in Oakland,” by writer Christina A. DiEdoardo. The column covered a July 23 protest that occurred after the Bay Area chapter of the Proud Boys allegedly announced on social media a few days earlier that it would meet at a bar in Oakland.
|B.A.R. writer Christina A. DiEdoardo
Proud Boys representative Jason Van Dyke, an attorney in Texas, emailed a cease and desist letter to the B.A.R. August 10, a day after the column was published. In it, he denied that the group of men who met at the bar were Proud Boys, according to a report in the B.A.R.
“We determined that the rumor of a Proud Boy meet-up [in Oakland] was an internet hoax that originated on Twitter and 4Chan,” Van Dyke wrote in the letter, as quoted in the B.A.R. “No meet-up of our Bay Area chapter was ever planned at that establishment or at that time.”
In the letter, Van Dyke asked for a retraction of the words “white supremacists” and “fascists,” which were used to describe the group in the column.
Van Dyke also took issue with the column for insinuating that the Proud Boys intended to meet for the purpose of protesting a vigil for Nia Wilson – an African-American woman who was allegedly killed by a white man on July 22. But the alleged Proud Boys meeting was reportedly planned before the Wilson vigil was announced.
According to the column, six white men did attempt to enter the bar on the night of the protest. While it is unclear if they were Proud Boys, they reportedly did not refute the allegation that they were aligned with the group.
“When the five or six jokers tried to run our lines, the crowd called them out as Proud Boys and they didn’t deny it, claim they were somebody else, etc. They just grinned and tried to force their way through,” DiEdoardo wrote in an email to the B.A.R.
As part of its reporting, the B.A.R. interviewed Van Dyke, during which he said the Proud Boys are not white supremacists. “We certainly respect the right of a publication like the Bay Area Reporter to disagree with some of the views of the Proud Boys, but in the story it’s a statement of fact that we are white supremacists and that’s completely untruthful,” Van Dyke said.
In threatening legal action against the B.A.R., Van Dyke wrote in the email that “failure to respond to this letter in a timely fashion may result in referral of this matter to our attorneys in California for legal action against you.”
Van Dyke has reportedly sent over 150 similar letters to media outlets.
In response, DiEdoardo, who is also an attorney, told the B.A.R., “While it’s cute they think they’re being intimidating, their best efforts will never be sufficient to stop trans and queer columnists and activists like me from doing our job in these times, any more than police harassment deterred our foremothers during the Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall uprisings.”
In the B.A.R.’s story, publisher Michael Yamashita said the column was clearly labeled commentary and that the words are DiEdoardo’s opinion.
“It smacks of press intimidation without any real knowledge of how the press operates in relation to news articles, commentaries, columnists, and reporters,” Yamashita said in the B.A.R. “They each have different parameters and guidelines that they have to abide. If anything, this is a misunderstanding on [Van Dyke’s] part about what constitutes libel and what was actually said in the column.”
B.A.R. did not retract anything in the column, and the newspaper has not heard from the Proud Boys since.
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