Update: WDSU just caught up with Superindendent Riley and he appears to be meekly backing off. It makes his comments on the radio last week all the more slanderous.
Off-camera, Riley told WDSU that he doesn't believe the e-mail is a big deal, that he's never seen the message and he doesn't have proof that Head actually sent it.
Update II: Seriously, I cannot believe how pathetic this walk back is by Riley. Unbelievable. He should apologize to WBOK's listeners and to Councilwoman Head.
Warren Riley leveled some pretty serious and racially charged allegations in an interview with WBOK last week. I really wish WBOK archived its broadcasts. Thankfully, the T-P's Brendan McCarthy was tuned in.
The allegations about Head's e-mail came up when a radio station caller, who went by the name Malcolm, mentioned the alleged message.
The caller said: "I hear some of our council members are sending e-mails out -- one in particular, Ms. Head, sent an e-mail saying she hopes you fail and let's not approve your budget. But anyway, she's the failure in all of this anyway.
Riley responded: "You forgot the N-word that was in that e-mail, from what I understand."
"Well, yeah, you heard about it," the caller responded. "She said 'Let's make this Negro, not Negro, but she used that other one."
The caller then lambasted the media for ignoring the message. "The news (media) did not, nobody else put that out, nobody else interviewed, nobody made a big story about that. And if it was somebody of color that sat on the City Council who had that kind of behavior, would have been asked to step down."
Those who know Stacy Head personally have been quick to insist that this allegation is baseless and that such behavior would be unimaginable. But considering Stacy Head's history of off-color and, in a general sense, prejudiced language, Riley's allegation must at least be considered plausible.
Saying something that reflects ignorance, prejudice, or bias is different from saying something indisputably racist with malicious intent. Riley's accusations, if true, would be far more condemning of Head's character than her casually offensive observations in the Walmart checkout aisle.
If Head indeed used that epithet toward anyone, she would have to resign. She should not and cannot represent a population for which she has such an expressed, visceral hatred. The public pressure would be intense and well-deserved.
Luckily, we don't have to live in a world of 'what ifs.' Warren Riley claims Councilwoman Head used that particular slur in an e-mail. He should immediately produce the email. Regardless, news organizations should submit a public-records request to Head to obtain it.
Head's colleagues should hold immediate hearings to demand Riley produce the email, to censure Head if he can come through, or to call for Riley's ouster if he cannot.
If this email does not exist, Riley would be guilty of an extraordinarily insidious, divisive and manipulative slander. He knew that the forum he chose to air this allegation, WBOK, would not challenge him. He knew he was speaking to an audience predisposed - because of Head's past intransigence and WBOK's listener base - to believe a plausible, even if baseless, allegation of racism about the councilwoman.
And maybe he thought Head would prefer to ignore the story and minimize its media echo amid a tough reelection fight instead of throwing down the gauntlet to make him prove his charge.
Stacy Head should not and cannot simply ignore this story. Merely asserting that the allegations are totally baseless and false, as she did to the Times-Picayune, is not enough. Because of her salty language in the past, there is a special burden on her to substantively prove her innocence to the extent that she is able. When the e-mail controversy first began, Head took it upon herself to release a large set of emails to the public by publishing them for download on her website. Those emails have since been taken down. She owes it to herself and her supporters to more substantively address her views on race, language, and the allegations being leveled by Warren Riley, perhaps first by reopening her email outbox to additional public scrutiny.
As someone who has interacted with Stacy Head and parsed all of her emails released to date, I personally, have an extraordinarily hard time believing Riley's accusations.
This is different than a blind caller on talk radio throwing out an accusation. This is the Police Superintendent, one of the most important and powerful people in the city.
For someone of that stature to level this kind of accusation without prepared evidence is irresponsible, dangerous, and wrong.
It's not just manipulative.
Mr. Riley seems... a bit... delusional, and here's what I mean:
Riley said the recent release of a poll - showing that only 33 percent of citizens are satisfied with the NOPD - was timed to dissuade him from entering politics. The poll was unveiled by business leaders shortly before the political qualifying period. Riley also alleged The Times-Picayune chose that week to release several negative stories about him.
"There's a revolution going on, and we are missing it," he said.
Riley also criticized the slate of mayoral candidates and promoted his tenure as police chief.
"You know, I listen to the mayoral candidates," he said. "I run a bigger organization, and have had bigger budgets than any of these individuals. And I'm not knocking any of them. I'm just saying, I have had the ultimate challenge. The only person ... there are two people who have bigger challenges than I. And that's Mayor Nagin and President Obama."
Riley appears to be saying that he was all set to enter the mayor's race until that poll, which showed faith in the police force at an all-time low, was released.
Riley apparently put out feelers for a mayor's race over the summer before explicitly announcing in August that he would not seek that office, saying that he had "absolutely no interest."
So Riley is essentially saying that just weeks before the qualifying deadline, with no money raised, and with no campaign team assembled, he was considering swooping into the mayor's race. That is, until, a poll was strategically released to demonstrate his department's almost cartoonishly low approval ratings. Riley is intoning that he had a really great shot at raising money and gaining popular traction had it not been for that poll.
Think about how crazy that is.
Objectively speaking, Riley has presided over one of the most dysfunctional police forces in the country, to say nothing of his own conduct during his career on the force. The feds are looming over the NOPD for its unjustifiable pattern of police brutality, missing evidence, and who knows what else. Hasn't Riley been one of the most unpopular figures in local politics for over two years? Would people argue that the poll released in early December said something they didn't already really know?
If Riley had assembled his record of sloppy, ineffective catch-and-release, fire-when-ready police work during a Presidential administration that put any effort into exercising the powers of the Clinton administration's COPS bill, the NOPD might currently be in the control of a federal receiver right now because systemically discriminatory pattern and practice.
He's not just delusional and silly. He's not just calculating and manipulative.
Riley's plans, given that this conspiracy of unpopularity dissuaded him from seeking the Mayor's office?
"I'm looking at a public venture ... with a couple people here in the city that I think would be profound and lucrative," he said. "I also am looking at another position that I will absolutely not talk about. Regardless, I am going to do well no matter what. As I stated, my future is bright. If I don't work another day in my life I'll be OK. I'm not just a police chief."