Texas Media Bias: The Silsbee Bee Downplays Child Rape Case Even After Assailant Pleads Guilty to Assault
by David Bellow on July 7, 2011 at 1:50 PM
Media Bias in Small Town America... the Residents of Silsbee Deserve Better from their Local Paper!
I first heard of what the Beaumont Enterprise dubbed the Silsbee Rape Case a couple of years ago from reading about it in one of the local newspapers, The Silsbee Bee. For over a year I read articles that gave me the impression that this alleged rape victim was not really a victim at all and she was probably just making it all up. Over the last few months, I started to hear some of the facts of the case, and it really started to get me thinking that maybe there was more to this story than what was being told. I have since found out that there was much more to the story and, just this past month, Liberal Caroline Heldman and Conservative Brandon Darby published shocking stories that shed light on the real facts of the Silsbee Rape Case.
We were all wrong in our assumptions of the case thanks to The Silsbee Bee and their questionable reporting of the case. There is a great injustice that has been done to the victim as a result of everyone believing the advocacy disguised as journalism of The Silsbee Bee instead of looking deeper to find the truth.
Did Gerry Dickert, Editor of The Silsbee Bee, downplay the Rape Case and Side with the Assailant in the Silsbee Bee Articles?
Media bias is real, and in a small town like Silsbee, Texas, the bias of the local newspaper can allow for massive cover ups and one-sided reporting.
In October, 2008, a minor girl claimed she was raped at a party. Two men, Rakheem Bolton and Chris Rountree (plus a minor male) were arrested on charges of rape of a minor. In September, 2010, Bolton was finally convicted of assaulting the minor girl.
Since the 2008 assault, the case made national headlines when the minor girl was kicked off of the school’s cheerleading team when she stood silent and did not cheer while her assailant was at the free throw line. The victim was being forced to yell, “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on Rahkeem, put it in!”
You would expect the local newspaper to present both sides, but they did not. In over two years of covering the case, Gerry Dickert never once published any interviews with the victim or her family to get their side of the story. However, numerous articles featured interviews with the defendants and their families. For comparison, the nearby Beaumont Enterprise covered the case more comprehensively and frequently included statements from both sides like this article.
One of the most egregious examples of bias at The Silsbee Bee involves their coverage of an NAACP press conference held one week after Bolton and Rountree were indicted. The Bee posted a video of this NAACP meeting online with no context and no opposing views. And of course the paper also did not reveal that the President of the Jasper NAACP, Billy Ray Robinson, is the Great Uncle of Bolton (the convicted assailant) and Robinson used the NAACP to try to get these guys off the hook. See Brandon Darby’s Article, NAACP Chapter President Plays Race Card to Cover-up Child-Rape Charges Against His Relative. Is this ethical?
Similarly, The Silsbee Bee posted a video featuring a statement from Rountree’s mother, again without context, that was filmed right after the NAACP press conference. The caption reads, “Martha Jordan, the mother of Chris Rountree, speaks out about the support she and her family have received from the community of Silsbee. She is joined by Chris, center, and his sister, Chelsea Morgan, left.” This video is sheer promotion of one side of the story, not journalism.
Silsbee Bee Editor Dickert even went on a National News show trying to defend the school’s decision to kick the victim off of the cheerleading team, and he tried to discredit the accusations of the minor female victim. Notice how the interviewer is frustrated with his line of reasoning and cuts him off. Gerry Dickert also wrote an article slamming the national media for the attention it was giving the Silsbee rape case. He even claimed that the school did not ask the victim to limit her activities at the high school, even though this claim by the victim is backed by a school official and another member of her cheer squad.
Newspapers have an obligation to report on all sides in a story, not advocate for one side while essentially making the other side silent. This is especially true in small towns like Silsbee where opinions can be set by coverage in the local paper. Not once did I find that The Silsbee Bee presented the full facts about the story, despite the fact that the details are publicly available in the police records. Not once did The Silsbee Bee report the fact that the witnesses at the party heard the minor girl say “no” and “stop,” that these witnesses broke through the door, that the accused fled out a window, or that the girl was found on the floor under a pool table half naked and crying. The Silsbee Bee never reported that Bolton was heard by several witnesses threatening to come back and kill the people at the house where the rape occurred. The Silsbee Bee has all the police records about the Silsbee case and knows all of these facts but never reported them. See the facts of the case in Caroline Heldman’s article, A Cheerleader’s Rape in Silsbee, Texas: The Victim on Trial.
The Silsbee Bee did however report that a principal from Silsbee got a threatening email from an unidentified person after the school kicked the victim off of the cheerleading team. And after Bolton plead guilty to assaulting the minor female, they ran a story in which the men accused of rape were portrayed as the real victims. And in their unusual form, The Silsbee Bee did not interview the victim or her family. The Silsbee Bee also ran a story showing how much the county spent to convict Rakheem for assault, and The Silsbee Bee suggested that the $20,000 spent on the rape case wasn’t worth it.
WHY Would The Silsbee Bee Trick us With Their Biased Reporting?
Why would Gerry Dickert and The Silsbee Bee purposely slant their coverage of the Silsbee rape case? Dickert’s political and family ties tell an interesting story. Dickert previously worked on the political campaign of a county-wide elected official and was on the Silsbee Economic Development Board so it would seem that he has an interest in covering up bad publicity for the City of Silsbee. Dickert also worked with Silsbee Councilman Thomas Tyler while on the Silsbee Economic Development Board that granted Tyler’s employer, Cowboy Autoplex, a grant of $200,000 taxpayer money to build a new car dealership. Tyler is cousin to both Bolton, the convicted assailant, and Shannon Robinson, the man who drove the accused away from the scene of the crime that night. And this isn’t the first time The Silsbee Bee covered up a Tyler family problem. Thomas Tyler Jr., Thomas Tyler’s son, ran for Justice of the Peace against Robert Ward, Jr. whose father issued the arrest warrants in the Silsbee rape case. When Tyler, Jr. was running for Justice of the Peace, The Silsbee Bee refused to publish the police report of an incident where Thomas Tyler Jr. had an arrest warrant requested for him for allegedly beating his girlfriend even though the Hardin County News allowed the police report in their newspaper.
In the same election though, The Silsbee Bee had no problem reporting that a Republican candidate in Hardin County had some speeding tickets past due.
Lastly, although it is not uncommon for random people to be your friends on Facebook, the fact that Rakheem Bolton’s stepfather is Facebook friends with Gerry Dickert AND Gerry Dickert’s kids AND siblings shows that the Dickert family has close ties with the Bolton Family.
The bottom line is that it appears Gerry Dickert has unrevealed ties to the Silsbee assault case, and given his biased coverage, it seems that he slanted his reporting of the rape case to favor the admitted assailant. And this isn’t the first time his coverage has been affected by his politics and friendships. The residents of Silsbee deserve better from their local paper.