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Action Alert: WOODTV8 story gives free airtime to White Supremacist group

July 6, 2020

On Thursday night, WOODTV8 ran a story that was essentially free air time for the group known as the Michigan Liberty Militia.

The Michigan Liberty Militia is a group of armed White men who have come to the anti-lockdown protests in Lansing and Grand Rapids since April, as well as having a presence at several Black Lives Matter rallies and the protest against the Civil War monument in Allendale, Michigan.

Here is a link to the story that WOODTV8 aired on Thursday night:

This story was a clear example of poor journalism. First, there is no evidence that the channel 8 reporter even bothered to ask substantive or obvious questions that any reasonable person would ask when inquiring about a group like the Michigan Liberty Militia. Secondly, the reporter did not bother to do any background check on this group or the person they interviewed for the story, Phil Robinson.

The Michigan Liberty Militia Facebook page would have been an obvious place to start, but the WOODTV8 reporter didn’t check that site, which is filled with self promotional posts about how the Michigan Liberty Militia are really “constitutionalists” and that “they are committed to protecting people’s freedom to protest”. Such proclamations are nothing more than a diversion to the real reason that groups like the Michigan Liberty Militia have formed, which is to defend systems of power and privilege, particularly White Supremacy. What I mean by White Supremacy, is based on the definition that long-time anti-racist organizer Elizabeth Martinez uses: 

The channel 8 reporter could also have looked at the Facebook page of Phil Robinson, which is even more revealing the MLM page. For example, Robinson posted a news story about the protest organized by indigenous people attempting to prevent President Trump from coming to Mount Rushmore for a rally. The video Robison posted was not from those protesting, but from Right Side Broadcasting, which is a far right news group that is blatantly pro-Trump.

Interestingly enough, Robinson took a selfie of himself and the WOODTV8 reporter the day of the interview, just like he did with another channel 8 reporter, Leon Hendrix, while attending the anti-lockdown rally in Grand Rapids in May. The organizer of that rally in Grand Rapids and several of the anti-lockdown protests in Lansing is Ryan Kelly, who is very connected to Phil Robinson. 

Ryan Kelly writes for the blog that the American Patriot Rally hosts. In a post that was critical of the recent Black Lives Matter rally in Lansing, it states: 

“Phil Robinson, of the Michigan Liberty Militia, a group known for protecting citizens and businesses from BLM and Antifa rioters.” In that same post, the writer referred to Black organizers as “gang bangers.”

There is no evidence that Robinson does what the above statement says, but it is clear that Robison and Kelly do not support Black Lives Matter and antifa protestors. Kelly also asked Robinson and his fellow MLM members to come to Allendale to intimidate people who came to protest the Civil War monument in Allendale. Kelly sits on the Planning Commission for Allendale and has pressured Allendale officials to not remove the monument, despite its racist implications.  

Another reason why the story is so bad is the fact that, if you could imagine Black community members in Grand Rapids would always come to protests, fully armed and stating that they were merely there to protect everyone’s right to protest. Do you think that WOODTV8 or any other commercial news source would not question Black people showing up with guns, especially if most of the protesters were white? This is exactly why this story is so disingenuous, because WOODTV8 can’t see how they practice White Privilege here. White guys who are heavily armed are not really questioned, but Black guys showing up with guns would be more than channel 8 and most of society could handle.

Now, for reasons that are not clear, WOODTV8 did a follow up story on July 3rd, based on feedback from the Michigan Attorney General’s office, calling into question the motives of the Michigan Liberty Militia. Here is the content of the story at this link

While the revised story is better, the WOODTV8 page still contains the written content from the original story from July 2nd. More importantly, WOODTV8 never apologized for running such a bias and unsubstantiated story that was aired in the West Michigan market, with hundreds of thousands of viewers.

This isn’t the first time such a story was aired on WOODTV8. In 2017, they aired a story about a local White Supremacist who claimed he wasn’t racist, even though there was plenty of information that demonstrates he has a history of being part of a Neo-Nazi group.

We are asking people to contact WOODTV8 and tell them that the story they aired was a poor excuse for journalism, with unsubstantiated claims, and it provided a free platform for a White Supremacist group. Demand that WOODTV8 make a formal apology, especially to the Black community, on air, and during an evening news broadcast, then remove any version of the original story from their website and any other platform it may be on.

Help us pressure WOODTV8 with these demands by going to this Action Alert.

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