The scrutiny that activist and journalist Shaun King was facing this week took a new turn on Friday when his wife broke her silence to address the multiple claims against her husband. King has come under fire for apparently threatening a Black woman college student with legal action over a tweet she posted.
Many people took to social media to heap shame on King for what they called cyberbullying a woman. But now, King’s wife, Rai-Tonicia King, has broken her silence to say that it was she who advised her husband to take legal action.
“I encouraged Shaun to seek legal action against those who are spreading the lies,” she wrote in a statement she published on Medium.com.
Among those “lies” Rai-Tonicia King was referring to were accusations that Shaun King raised funds to help the families of victims of violence before keeping the money for himself.
Clarissa Brooks, the aforementioned college student whose tweet set off the social media firestorm, said Shaun King misappropriated funds raised for Cyntoia Brown. Shaun King demanded she delete the tweet — which she complied with — and publicly apologize and retract her statement — which she refused to comply with. That prompted Shaun King to tweet at her and CC several prominent civil rights lawyers, with the implication being he might sue her for some sort of defamation.
While similar allegations have circulated for years, they have never prompted any investigation from law enforcement, something Rai-Tonicia King wanted to remind people of.
“And anyone demanding that Shaun ‘prove’ the allegations are false, clearly doesn’t understand the way justice works,” she wrote. “The burden of proof lies with the accuser, not the accused. When a woman posted asking ‘Are folks going to hold Shaun King accountable to money he raised for Cyntoia? Or is that going to disappear as well?’ — she wasn’t asking a friendly question. How can people even hold Shaun accountable for money he never ‘raised’ for Cyntoia. What money are you saying that Shaun raised that disappeared? For who? Shaun had nothing to do with any fundraisers for Cyntoia Brown. It simply never happened.
Lastly, Rai-Tonicia King saved a lot of her apparent scorn for those who have reacted to the episode by mocking her husband’s skin color, questioning his racial status and claiming he was picking on Black women in particular.
“I saw one prominent person state that the primary reason he was willing to believe that Shaun has stolen money-without evidence to back up such claims- is because there are Black women saying so and he is choosing to ‘believe Black women,’” she wrote. “And while that sounds nice, and while it is also my hope that Black women are no longer silenced and ignored when they bravely speak their truth, I would like to put forth that I am also a Black woman. Do you believe me? Or is my Blackness somehow also in question?”
Rai-Tonicia King’s post came one day after her husband wrote an open letter to address the controversy.
“Listen, as we head into MLK Day, it does help me to remember that all of our leaders have endured lies and hate and slander. Knowing that in theory is one thing, but enduring it is altogether different,” he wrote in the letter that was published on Black Americ Web. “People tell so many lies about me online – that it has just become a daily part of my life to endure them and push through, but a few months ago, we started noticing that some of the lies were not just out of hand, and outrageous, but that they were actually doing real damage to my reputation and livelihood.”