Open Letter to Des Moines Register

Open Letter to Des Moines Register

An Open Letter To Carol Hunter,
Senior News Director at the Des Moines Register
RE: The Register’s Media Malfeasance

Dear Carol,
When I announced I was exploring a run for Iowa governor, the Des Moines Register went back seven years in my history to state: “Narcisse is best known for his contentious two years on the Des Moines school board. He faced censure from his peers following his string of stinging public criticisms about fellow board and school leaders.”

In subsequent articles The Register continued to cast me as controversial, despite both a documented record of getting results on the school board, exposing key issues such as the inaccurate reporting of graduation rates, and being recognized for my work on education.

In 2009, my last year on the board, I not only became the youngest and one of the first 40 members of the Iowa African American Hall of Fame (a small fraternity that includes the likes of George Washington Carver, Alexander Clark and Simon Estes), I was given a Pinnacle Leadership Award by the Culver Administration, personally presented by Lt. Gov. Patty Judge at an Historical Building Ceremony.

This despite my being an outspoken critic of his administration.

Meanwhile, years after I was elected to the School Board, Senator Jack Hatch, in an angry, hateful tirade used the term “nigger” repeatedly on the Iowa House floor, until a Black legislative aide got in his face to stop. The publication I edit, the Iowa Bystander, was contacted by the aide and given the full story, versus the sterilized version presented by The Register.

When he was finally forced to apologize Sen. Hatch said it was a teachable moment and that he learned.
(Is he saying, he didn’t know using the word nigger in anger on the floor of the legislature was inappropriate?)

More to the point, since Sen. Hatch announced his 2014 gubernatorial candidacy, this “contentious” and controversial experience has not been referenced in your publication.

In fact searches for The Register’s original coverage of this incident at your website turn up zero results.

The Register’s collective memory is long, as evidenced by the light in which you cast my gubernatorial candidacy.

But the Register’s collective memory is also selective as evidenced by lack of coverage of the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s racist tirade taking place even more recently than any of my efforts on the school board.


In your response to inquiries about the difference in coverage you stated Hatch just used “a little racist language.” Is it really the Register’s position that coverage is not warranted regarding the racist behavior of the first in the nation caucus state’s Democratic nominee for governor?

He wasn’t secretly taped like Donald Sterling, who earned front page coverage from The Register and never used the word nigger. He didn’t say it 25 years ago like Paula Deen who earned ink in The Register. Trent Lott tipped his glass to Strom Thurmand and we read about that and his subsequent demise in The Register.

Yet Jack Hatch both runs for and secures the nomination of his party for governor and not a mention of this controversial history by The Register.

If The Register had not gone back and made reference to things that never happened regarding me I might not ask these questions.

Carol, I was never censured. I raised issues like the district being billed for time that didn’t exist, a proven fact, and my fellow board members wanted to silence me. I raised issues like the Johns Hopkins national study that said Des Moines had more dropout factory high schools than all other Iowa School Districts combined except for Council Bluffs – and my fellow board members wanted to silence me.

I used the school board’s email system to survey staff regarding their input on what Board members should prioritize and The Register lied about the purpose of my email.

The Board subsequently voted to ban me from surveying staff.  We received 2,000 responses from staff in the district to that survey, despite threats from then Superintendent Nancy Sebring who was all the while sexting her lovers using our taxpayer financed system.

But, I was the bad guy, according to your publication.

Carol, during my years on the school board The Register constantly vilified my comments even when I was later vindicated by events such as law enforcement’s raid on the Iowa Association of School Boards and the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of Rice Field and district business partner John Kline.

Even last month The Register, despite providing virtually no coverage of our campaign felt the need to give me a “Thistle” for challenging a Polk County judiciary. This despite the empirical data documenting the disparity in justice based on factors like race and economic status, is beyond refutation.
Yet, Senator Hatch has not been held to account by your publication.Whether it’s his vile, hateful racist tirade, or his clear conflict of interest as a gubernatorial candidate since he is Branstad’s biggest contributor Bruce Rastetter’s business partner, your paper is silent.

Who is the Register really serving with this double standard?

Jonathan Narcisse
(515) 770-1218

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