Subject: How the media trashed Faye Williams
Source: People's Daily World (212) 924-2523
235 West 23 St., New York, NY 10011
(Available at the super-low subscription price of
$15 per year, for more info, contact the above.)
No one expected Faye Williams to win the 1986 Democratic primary primary in
Louisiana's 8th Congressional District. So she was ignored. But when she beat
five white male democrats in that race, the campaign of lies and innuendo
This is Ms. Williams' story, as told to PDW Detroit reporter Pat Fry.
I ran in 1986 for the first time. Everyone said I would only get 10
percent of the vote. Obviously, I was perceived as no threat when I got into
the race with five white males. So no one paid attention that there were
times when reporters did not even use my name; they would refer to me as a
Black liberal, female lawyer from Alexandria.
As time went by it became clear that I would be in the runoff. And the
assumption was that if I could get into the runoff with the one Republican in
the race, then I would win, because this was a 90-percent plus Democratic
district and I was the loyal Democrat in the race.
However, that was not to be. Immediately after I won the primary, the
negative campaign started. Not just by my opponent -- he had very little to
do with it, actually. Much of it was promoted in the press. The first thing
that was done was to research every place I had lived. They couldn't find
anything wrong with my education, my experience, everything I had been doing
was right on. I had more education and better experience than all the people
running against me.
But in researching my background it was found out that some 15 years
before the election I had been living in Los Angeles. I had been married
briefly and had a very stormy marriage. It ended very traumatically. My
ex-husband tried to kill me. On the evening that he tried to kill me --
because I was getting a divorce -- he broke into my home. I was dating a
gentleman who just happened to be white. We had been out to dinner and a
movie. My ex-husband did not know he was there on this particular evening.
He came to my house, sat outside, saw a gentleman who was my tenant come in
about 11:30 to pay his rent. When he saw this man come in he "knew" there was
a man in my house. This was his opportunity to gain sympathy because if he
beat me up or killed me, it would make it appear that it was because I was
with this other man and he was a poor, abused husband.
He did kill my friend. I had five stitches in my lip and other
bruises. I was able to get out of the house, so I was spared.
That was in all the press everywhere across the country because we
were all public figures; the man that I was dating was a radio announcer and a
college professor, my ex-husband was a news reporter and I was a community
figure involved in many things. It was no secret that it happened but some 15
years later, once I'd won the primary, the newspaper in my hometown
editorialized on the fact that I'd had this problem in a divorce. What they
were trying to get at was the fact that on the night that this had happened I
was typing a news release for a group that I chaired called the Black
Educators. We were sponsoring a forum raising the question, "Is Angela Davis
being framed?" That was in my typewriter that night. The police department
picked it up and gave it to the newspaper. The newspaper came out on the next
day saying, "Williams says Angela Davis is being framed." Since all Black
people know each other and I knew Angela Davis and she was Black, I had to be
a Communist or at least a Communist sympathizer. And if there is anything
that inflames white people in the South more than being anti-military, it's
being a Communist.
I came out of the primary running 20 points ahead of my opponent. But
about 20 percent of the people were undecided. So it was chipping away at the
undecided vote. Almost every day after that a negative story ran, from the
time I won the primary all the way up through the general election. Once that
story came out it was a free for all. Everybody got into the act.
The next story that came down was from the pro-Israel lobby. My
campaign manager was Arab-American. A letter was sent out that asked all Black
elected officials, all white elected officials, everybody to withdraw their
support for me because I was a PLO terrorist sympathizer and also because I
was being supported by OPEC. (I wish that part of it had been true. I would
not have had a $100,000 campaign debt.) That was another form of Arab
bashing. If I had an Arab friend then I had to be anti-Israel. In fact, my
policy was so mild at that point -- I've learned a lot since then, my position
has sort of shifted, but at that point I knew so little about the Middle East.
I had a Jewish friend who was also on my campaign committee who wrote my
policy statement for me. It was sent out by Congressman Mickey Leland, who was
one of the most pro-Israel people in the Congress.
That chipped away at my ability to raise money. In this district, the
pro-Israel lobby was thought to be progressive and I was the progressive
candidate. My opponent was a person who just five years before had called for
the burning down of schools before allowing Black and white children to go to
school together. That's not a position that the Jews I know would take.
They're generally more progressive than that and my positions were certainly
closer to theirs than my opponents' was. But they picked a fight with me to
make it look like it was something other than racism.
On the eve of the election I was still running 20 points ahead of my
opponent. We had to take a helicopter to get around to each of the parishes.
As we were approaching the last stop, we suddenly found ourselves over a
military base and the pilot says he was ordered to land. He had on the
headset, so I didn't hear the conversation. He was told to land where he was.
He landed and we were in the middle of a full show of military readiness. We
were surrounded by guns, armored personnel carriers and ordered out of the
helicopter at gun point. We were held up past the evening news, which was the
last opportunity I would have to get at the undecided voters. We were finally
released, but someone from the base had already called someone in the media
and to report that my helicopter had dropped in and that I had been rude,
abusive and threatening. They had the guns, but I was threatening.
So now I'm this Communist person, I'm this bad femme fatale and I'm
The negative press continued in other ways. They picked up the
National Rifle Association letter. The NRA wrote really nasty letters about
how I wanted to take away all the guns from all the sportsmen in Louisiana.
My posistion was exactly the same as that of George Bush -- while I support
the Constitution and the right to bear arms, I'm concerned about the use of
Saturday night specials that are taking the lives of so many people and I feel
there ought to be a monitoring period before some crazy person is able to walk
in to buy a gun.
I was perhaps the first and only pro-choice person in the state. They
made it appear that I was taking everybody's hand and saying, "Come on, girl,
let's go have us an abortion." That's the way they played it out.
I'd worked for the National Football League Players Association. They
were on record opposed to mandatory drug testing and that was my position. So
that made me for the use of illegal drugs. That put me on the far left side
and whether the position was mine or not, that's the way the news played it
out. I'm on the far left, he's on the far right. There's no in-between.
There was no attempt after that even to ask me my position on anything. They
just attributed all radical left positions to me and they almost became my
opponent's campaign manager for the five-week period between the primary and
the general election.
We thought that was the end of it and people were still voting very
strongly [on Election Day]. Because the high turnout tends to support the
Democratic candidate, we had every reason to believe that we would win. CBS,
ABC, NBC, everyone was projecting that I would win. There was a computer
breakdown, which has never been explained, and when the computers came back
on, instead of winning, I lost by seven-tenths of 1 percent.
I received 99.9 percent of the Black vote [but] only 27 percent of the
white vote -- not quite enough to win. What's good about the eleciton is the
fact that I was the first real progressive candidate to run in Louisiana. I
received 97,000 votes in my first effort. We got a lot of people out. We got
a lot of ideas out that had never been discussed in campaigns before, so I
feel pretty good about it. And many people treat me as though I did win.
--- RAAE 1.11
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