The Houston Chronicle and local NBC-affiliate KPRC-TV published stories claiming a right-wing group, Texas Antifa, would rally in favor of removing a statue of former Texas governor Sam Houston because he owned slaves. The problem is the rally isn’t real and the group isn’t related to the real local anti-fascist (Antifa) organization, which is the Houston Antifa. Now, the Chronicle has published a correction acknowledging the rally announcement it reported on is fake and the Texas Antifa group is an “alt-right troll job.”
The alt-weekly Houston Press flagged the fake rally, noting that if the two outlets looked at the real Antifa organization, the Houston Antifa group on Facebook, they would have learned the Texas Antifa isn’t legit. The Houston Press reported:
“Unfortunately, KPRC and the Chronicle failed to dig a little deeper. If they had, they might have found the real Houston Antifa page, which has warned people to “unlike and unfollow this fake ass Texas Antifa page. Do NOT attend the June 10th Rally! This account was started a month ago and is in NO way, shape, or form affiliated with any actual Antifa Organization.”
iMediaEthics contacted Houston Antifa, which confirmed that neither KPRC or the Chronicle contacted it for comment, so Houston Antifa provided a statement to the Houston Press about the two outlets’ stories. According to Houston Antifa, it alerted both the Chronicle and KPRC about the problems in their stories but hasn’t heard back, “and they should be ashamed for pursuing clicks over the higher importance of journalistic integrity, fact-checking and even a cursory sense of investigation.”
Houston Antifa explained to iMediaEthics it typically doesn’t “discuss things with media, however in this instance with so many lives being put unnecessarily and egregiously in danger and so much anger being drummed up, we want to do whatever we can to ensure the safety of our community both Left and Right.”
Houston Antifa noted to iMediaEthics it “immediately denounced the ‘Texas Antifa’ page, asking folks to unfollow and unlike it” and advising against participating in the Texas Antifa’s events.
Houston Antifa also told iMediaEthics it isn’t sure who is behind the Texas Antifa page; however, they suspect trolls. “Ah, the beauty and the horror of anonymous decentralized community organizing,” Houston Antifa wrote iMediaEthics.
“As Houstonians, we are ashamed of these institutions for letting Texans down in such a blatant and irresponsible way, but as Leftists, we unfortunately have accepted that this is what to expect from larger media outlets looking for clicks and controversy on hot button issues,” Houston Antifa e-mailed iMediaEthics. “We encourage the public, both Right and Left, to use their critical thinking in these trying times, to pay attention to the rise of white supremacy terrorism and recruiting and the damage it is doing to the world and to America.”
After the original KPRC and Chronicle stories, the Houston Antifa group, which is affiliated with the worldwide ANTIFA organization, posted on its Facebook that the two outlets “should contact us and revise or retract their inaccurate reporting as they are putting many folks in unnecessary danger, but until that time, we encourage the public to think critically for themselves.”
Houston Antifa also published a Facebook post May 31 stating “Texas Antifa is a fake page” and on May 30, a post calling the page “fake,” advising against attending the alleged rally, and noting the Texas Antifa page is “in NO way, shape, or form affiliated with any actual Antifa Organization, PERIOD.”
The Chronicle published a correction June 1 that reads:
“A story on page A2 on Wednesday concerning calls to remove the Sam Houston statue from Hermann Park was based on a fake announcement on Facebook by a right-wing activist organization calling itself Texas Antifa. The group said a rally would be held June 10 at the statue in support of removing it because Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, was a slave owner. There is no such rally and Texas Antifa is in no way connected to Houston Antifa, a chapter of a national grass-roots anti-fascist organization.”
The Chronicle‘s June 1 story, “Texas group calls for removal of iconic Sam Houston statue from Hermann Park,” reported on the alleged June 10 rally to remove Houston’s statue. Supposedly, the rally was capitalizing on the momentum around the country to remove Confederate memorials. The article quoted from the Texas Antifa’s Facebook page and cited local NBC-affiliate KPRC-TV’s report about the group’s call.
The Chronicle‘s article now carries an editor’s note claiming the newspaper’s original story was “covered in a tongue-in-cheek manner, which was probably lost on a few people.”
KPRC’s article doesn’t carry any correction or editor’s note, iMediaEthics notes.
iMediaEthics has written to both the Chronicle and KPRC to ask how they found the now-known-to-be fake rally announcement — Were they tipped off to the story, for example?
Also, we asked the Chronicle‘s reporter if the newspaper contacted the Texas Antifa group for comment before publication and asked the KPRC reporter if television station will run any correction or editor’s note. In addition, a Facebook message was sent to Texas Antifa to ask if the Chronicle contacted the group before publication and for a response to the correction.