“It’s time for the government to pay us reparations for the 500 years of slavery that they put on us,” declared a marcher in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., on October 16. I attended the march on assignment for Rush Limbaugh, The Television Show. My coverage of the march aired on Mr. Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated program on October 18. The focus of my coverage was exclusively on the marchers who came from all across the United States. The interviews that I conducted with the marchers revealed a Million Man March that was far different from the one portrayed by the mainstream media.

The press coverage of the Million Man March was highly selective, portraying the marchers as a unified group, without controversy. The national news reports focused on superficial feel-good sentiments about why the marchers attended. As in the past, the mainstream media failed to delve into any of the issues surrounding the march.

While the participants were generally friendly and dedicated to the concept of the march, several divisive issues boiled beneath the surface. The responses were far from unifying. Many of the participants expressed hostility to white people, if not downright hatred. A sample of the comments: “We don’t listen to white people no more”; “Shame on you White America, Shame on you”; “Whites, if you are willing to apologize, we are willing to forgive.” I was referred to at one point during an interview as “you people.”

I was refused literature from one man passing out “Afrikan Liberation” tracts because I was white. When I asked for his leaflet he looked at me and said, “You’re not African,” and turned his back. I found one of his leaflets on the ground; it was a call to “National Liberation.” It stated, “black people could never be free in Amerikkka [sic]—our state of neo-slavery . . . our liberation is tied to Amerikkka’s destruction.”

Other marchers displayed this same attitude. A group of men marched under an upside down American flag. A sticker being distributed at the march read, “100 Million Africans died for America’s sins.” One man railed against what he termed “the Republican Fuhrmanistic attitude” that prevailed in America. Another man expressed his distrust of police officers by explaining how we have traded “white sheets for blue uniforms.”

The mainstream press referred to the “controversial” Nation of Islam without fully examining its charter beliefs. The literature distributed at the Million Man March provided the details. The Final Call is the bimonthly publication of the Nation of Islam. In every issue, the back page is a reprint of their platform entitled, “What the Muslims Want.” It states in part: “We want our people in America whose parents or grandparents were descendants from slaves to be allowed to establish a separate state or territory of their own. . . . We believe that our former slave masters are obligated to provide such land . . . and that our former slave masters are obligated to maintain and supply our needs… for the next 20 to 25 years—until we are able to produce and supply our own needs. . . . We do not believe that after 400 years of free or nearly free labor, sweat and blood, which has helped America become rich and powerful, that so many thousands of Black people should subsist on relief, charity or live in poor houses.” The platform also states, “We believe that intermarriage or race mixing should be prohibited.”

Even though the marchers I spoke with did not mention the establishment of a separate nation, many of them agreed with the sentiments expressed in the Nation of Islam platform. One man proclaimed, “We deserve reparations . . . we were enslaved and beat down for over 439 years in this country, a lot of man hours, a lot of free labor. That’s how this country got so rich and powerful so fast, they had no overhead. Me and my ancestors and the seed that come after me are owed something.” Another man stated, “How can we forget the past when the past continues to haunt us today? How can you tell me to forget the past when you continue to afflict with the same thing that we have been afflicted with for 400 years?” Another marcher agreed, commenting that nothing has changed since the days of slavery. He stated, “You take us from my native land, you put us in shacks behind your big mansions . . . and today you take big buildings and put us in projects.”

One man explained why many of the marchers believe the odds are stacked against them in America today. “You don’t want to give us no jobs. You don’t want to give us no way to take care of ourselves. But you want to give us drugs and guns and then you want to arrest us and put us in jail for it.”

Successful blacks in America were explained away as either flukes or traitors for turning on their fellow blacks. One man used the following analogy to illustrate how some blacks can become successful: “It’s like if I step on an ant mound, the masses are going to be at my feet and only so many are going to get up around my neck and I’ll knock those off as they come: O.J., Tyson, I’ll flick them off.” Another man lamented, “What’s wrong with most of the black men who do make it? They become sellouts. They become what we call house niggers. They’re just ‘yes’ men, not for the people.”

Race-mixing comments and signs were in evidence. One T-shirt had a picture of O.J. Simpson on it with the words, “Take it from me, leave them white bitches alone.” One man explained that interracial marriage was harmful, because “that which you seek outside the community, weakens the community.” He urged black men and women to “marry people that look like our mothers and look like our fathers.”

Another theme that prevailed was black economic separatism. There was resentment toward Asian-Americans for the perception that they profit unfairly from businesses in black neighborhoods. In addition, one man deplored that blacks are “totally dependent on the white community,” saying “blacks have got to hand another black dollar to another black hand.”

Alternative views of American history were abundant. A group of men calling themselves Moroccan Moors claimed to be the Founding Fathers of America. A member of the group stated, “Our flag, the Moroccan flag, was cut down in 1776 by General George Washington on Six Chestnut Street in Philadelphia This is the Moroccan empire of the West. . . . We helped frame the Constitution of the United States. Thomas Jefferson was Moorish, Alexander Hamilton was Moorish.”

Several marchers seemed to express anger regarding the historical prominence of the holocaust. One marcher observed, “Jews can say never forget the Holocaust, but we’re supposed to forget the past. How come one holocaust is more important than another?” Another man added, “How could I possibly let six million deaths outweigh 400 million of my people who died coming here?”

The messages of the Million Man March are contradictory. One message was about unity, pride, and self-reliance. The other message was racial division and government dependence. Some participants virtually begged for government assistance. One man stated, “Please give us money and let us do something.”

Did the news media report any of this division and controversy surrounding the march? Sadly, the national news media chose to ignore these significant issues. The Million Man March provided the latest example of how the mainstream media cannot be trusted to tell the public the whole story.

The media coverage of this event was far from unique. As a freelance journalist, I have worked for a variety of news outlets, including the major network news organizations and alternative news outlets such as National Empowerment Television. I have witnessed firsthand the media selectivity at event after event. From abortion rights marches, gay rights rallies, to environmental marches, the media filter the proceedings in favor of shallow feel-good coverage.

The mainstream press has lulled the left in Washington into expecting rubber-stamp press coverage of every event. Liberal elected officials and advocacy groups have always been able to look at the media as an extension of their public relation efforts. Conservatives view the media as adversarial, out to trip them up at every turn. Any reporter who bucks this system pays the price. In 1993, I became the first reporter in history to have my camera seized at the White House, solely because I was working for Rush Limbaugh. Last November, I was assigned to cover a Democratic fund-raiser at a hotel in Washington, D.C. Upon learning I was working with Mr. Limbaugh’s television program, Democratic party officials had security officers escort me out of the hotel lobby. The Washington Times commented that, “Democratic senators and party officials reacted as if they had spotted Count Dracula” when I revealed I was working for Rush Limbaugh. Imagine the outcry if conservatives seized equipment and forcibly removed reporters they considered to be adversarial. What would the reaction have been if a Richard Nixon or a Newt Gingrich had treated a reporter in this manner?

As a result of this media selectivity and bias, there has been a rise of alternative news and information sources. Talk radio, led by Rush Limbaugh, has emerged as a powerful alternative to the established media. Other new and emerging information outlets include Paul Weyrich’s National Empowerment Television and the coming Conservative Television Network. In addition, the explosion of the information superhighway has helped make the established media increasingly irrelevant. Let us hope these fledgling news and information sources force the mainstream media’s coverage of events like the Million Man March into proper balance.