A Black Lives Matter activist is now being forced to justify his race after national media fell for a false story fueled by Breitbart News, a conservative website with a history of reporting falsities.
An August 19 article on Breitbart News hyped “explosive new racial allegations” against Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, citing a June 29 post on Re-NewsIt!, a blog that appears to primarily conduct opposition research on black victims of crime, to assert that King misrepresented himself as black when he is actually white. Right-wing media seized on the story, and Breitbart News repeatedly claimed that King “has been lying to the public about his race” and “has two white parents” listed on his birth certificate.
In an article titled “Why White People Seek Black Privilege,” Breitbart's Ben Shapiro asserted that King “demonstrates one undeniable fact: being black in American in 2015 is perceived as a status symbol and an advantage.”
The August 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hyped the Re-NewsIt! “report” to claim that King “is not biracial, he is white,” and guest host Anna Kooiman lamented that “it doesn't seem fair” that King was “deceiving people in order to raise [him]self to a higher level.” Hosts on The Five used the report to declare it “sacrifices [the] credibility” of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On CNN, host Don Lemon reported that King is “facing some very tough questions today and tonight about his own race,” adding that a source told CNN “that both King's parents are white.” Lemon cited Breitbart News, asking, “Is this Rachel Dolezal 2.0?”
By August 20, the story started to unravel. As Gawker noted, MSNBC's Joy Reid provided a crucial piece of context reporting that the father listed on King's birth certificate is not his biological father. King later published an essay on DailyKos explaining his father was a black man with whom his mother had an affair.
The next day, CNN reversed course, backing off hyping “questions” surrounding King's race and instead reporting that “the source that bullied him into this story” intended “to discredit the [Black Lives Matter] movement.”
Yet Breitbart News is still attacking King, arguing “if there was confusion about Shaun King's race, it's because he allowed it.”