N&R buckles in civil rights museum lawsuit

News broke earlier this week that Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Museum and Center is suing the News & Record for libel for reporting the museum’s $25 million in tax credits as “debt.”

In the Rhino write-up, editor John Hammer can’t help himself, noting that one of the lawsuit’s defendants—ed page editor Allen Johnson–who has no control over straight reporting–“is in effect being sued for believing what was published in the News & Record.”

Museum board member Mayor Nancy Vaughan told the Rhino she believed the museum’s taking a big risk by suing the N&R since discovery could force the museum to open its books so we can all find out how these tax credits work, while Hammer adds the N&R “may be celebrating this lawsuit because it will give the newspaper access to the financial records to the museum at a relatively low cost.”

Then again maybe not—–beneath today’s glowing front-pager about how the museum has not only a turned a profit for the first time but also has ambitious expansion plans is this correction:

The successful retirement of the tax credits that funded the establishment of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum provides us the opportunity to correct statements made by the News & Record about the funds in 2014. On Nov. 20 of that year, we ran a front-page article under the headline “Museum’s debt close to $26M,” based on an audit provided to the Greensboro City Council. We stated again in a column published on Nov. 23, 2014, that the Museum owed $25.9 million in debt. In fact, the nearly $26 million in question was in the form of tax credit grants to the Museum to be used for the Museum’s construction and opening. We regret any misunderstanding and confusion caused by the error.

I guess that’s that. Bottom line is nothing is ever as it seems with the civil rights museum. A successful business–no matter how its funding is structured—doesn’t come to the city begging for $1.5 million to keep the doors open like the museum did in 2013.

Update: Yes! Weekly reporting– and there are four defendants in the suit–New & Record, BH Media, BH Media Holdings and Johnson. The post has been edited to reflect that.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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