A Cincinnati Enquirer front page cover only spotlighting Black city council candidates with back-tax issues was “racially insensitive,” urged the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP Tuesday.
Photos of six candidates, all of whom are Black, were featured under the banner-style headline, “Tax Troubles Dog Council Candidates” in a story published Monday, The Associated Press reports. Pictures of three more candidates, two of them White who have had tax liens, were featured on an inside page.
The story was a “divisive hit piece” and attempted smear campaign, the historic civil rights organization said before the newspaper issued an apology.
A Facebook post that pointed out a candidate’s imperfection coincided with the Cincinnati NAACP’s statement. “None of us on earth are perfect, so there is NO perfect candidate for Cincinnati City Council but there are some darn GOOD ones and I believe I am one of them,” Pastor Lesley Jones, one of the city council candidates, wrote Tuesday.
Jones paid an owed $207 on a lien issued in 2010, she said, City Beat reported.
Nearly $3,000 owed in 2015 by another candidate, Ozie Davis III, had also been paid off. Less than $300 of debt from nearly a decade ago was paid off by candidate Erica Black-Johnson, records showed.
Some candidates and incumbents owed large amounts in taxes, according to the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts website.
Councilman Wendell Young owed almost $25,000 in tax liens to the state of Ohio. A payment plan was in place to resolve those issues, City Beat reported.
Brian Garry, a white candidate who owed as much as $15,000 in tax liens between 2006 and 2016 but paid them off, was left off the cover.
The newspaper recognized the story “caused pain to many readers” and suggested that internal procedures must be reviewed to “do better in the future,” interim Enquirer editor Michael Kilian wrote in Thursday’s editions.