Here are excerpts from an email conversation between the Rapid City Journal and KOTA TV reporter Taisha Walker, who filed a complaint with the city about City Council member Bill Clayton over racist comments made to Walker. The comments reportedly came in a phone interview when Walker called Clayton for comment on a city taxation issue.
According to Walker, who is black, Clayton, who is white, reportedly said to her: "Should we deport you back to Kenya with Obama?” and “Are you even American, are you American?” Clayton has not denied making the statements. The city attorney investigated the incident; the city council has taken no action against Clayton over the remarks.
Rapid City Journal: "Clayton says that 'Taisha Walker and I put this to rest.' Have you forgiven him and put it behind you?
Walker: "Bill Clayton has apologized for the comments he made to me but after I requested in my August 31, 2012 letter to the mayor (which he was carbon copied on) that he do so. The first time, he called to apologize and dispute the accuracy of one sentence in my letter – which had to do with comments he made about opinions and sexuality. He did not dispute the racist comments or those accusing me of being un-American. Weeks later, his attorney Pat Duffy initiated the second apology, which took place in person. He apologized a second time but followed it with excuses as to why he said what he said to me on August 31st.
I have accepted Bill Clayton’s apology but that does not mean that I have put the issue to rest. The alderman has made it difficult for me to do so when he admits his wrongs to me behind closed doors but when questioned about it by others, he fails to come clean. He did not deny my accusations because he knows what I said he said was true."
RCJ: Clayton has not denied saying what he allegedly said to you; nor has he said whether he thinks your account was accurate. And he also said that “Reporters do their best to get quotes as accurate as possible. Generally, they’re not complete and not always accurate.” That seems to imply that your version of what happened might not be entirely accurate.
Walker: "I’m offended by that statement. That was Alderman Clayton’s opportunity to come clean about what he said to me, but instead of giving an honest answer, he turned the tables on me and portrayed me to be a less than capable journalist. That is not the case. In the two years I have been reporting at KOTA, I can count on one hand the number of times an interviewee has called or emailed to say my account of their quotes were 'inaccurate' but I do have correspondences that say quite the opposite."
RCJ: Are you considering further action, rather than just the complaint? And can you tell me what process you went through in filing the complaint?
Walker: It was never my intent to file a formal complaint or to make the issue public. I was contacted by the City Attorney, who was looking into another incident involving Alderman Clayton, as well as other aldermen about using my letter to file a formal complaint. My purpose in doing so was to make the mayor and city council members aware of what was said to me. I also wanted Bill Clayton to issue me an apology.
Do I feel his apologies were sincere? No. How could they be when he can’t even publicly admit his wrongs and come clean to the citizens of Rapid City? While I am a news reporter, I am also a Rapid City citizen. He owes the truth to me, his constituents in Ward 1 and the city. And I’m hoping he will come through with the truth soon.
RCJ: "Can you talk a little bit about your background, how you came to Rapid City and what your general impression of the place?"
Walker: "You can refer to the bio on KOTA’s website which I’ll provide you a link. My family originates from Jamaica (not Kenya) and I was born and raised in New York City. I moved to Rapid City in August of 2010 to work for KOTA. While the night life and the food diversity doesn’t compare to New York, I enjoy living in Rapid City. I enjoy the friendliness of the people, the lack of traffic and the amazing places to hike and explore."
To read the full conversation and more about race in Rapid City, pick up Sunday's Rapid City Journal or read online Sunday morning at rapidcityjournal.com.