Reporter's Notebook: Why we cover diverse perspectives

Reporter's Notebook: Why we interviewed a member of the alt-right

Why give someone who believes in white nationalist principles a platform to speak their opinion?

We've been asked that question by many of you over the last 24 hours. I think it is only right for me to answer that question, and to be transparent about my story that aired Monday featuring a Mainer who aligns with the Alt-Right.

WATCH: Uncut interview with Mainer who attended Charlottesville rally

With the violence that transpired in Charlottesville over the weekend, some may not know the original reason many of the protestors who gathered for the Unite the Right Rally say they were there in the first place: (1) to support free speech and (2) to protest the removal of a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

In the aftermath of this tumultuous weekend, three people lost their lives and many were injured. Many people -- including political leaders -- denounced white supremacy in the wake of the rally that turned deadly. Sunday, we aired my interviews with multiple people who gathered in Bangor to speak out against white supremacists, Neo Nazis, and the Alt-Right. I asked some of them for their thoughts on whether the First Amendment should protect those who express ideals that many would call extreme, such as those who wave Nazi flags or those who believes Confederate monuments should be left untouched. Many of those people said these things should not be allowed.

People like Mike, the subject of Monday's interview, disagree completely. 

Some of you are asking what there is to debate.

My response: It's clear we as a nation need to have an open and sincere discussion about the First Amendment, without the violence that occurred in Virginia and other demonstrations throughout our history.

I found Mike on a Facebook group for those who associate with the Alt-Right. I wanted to know why he felt so passionately about free speech and preserving confederate monuments. 

Obviously his viewpoint, and that of others like him, clash with the viewpoint of many people not only in Maine -- but the rest of the country.

However, I cannot as a journalist  -- who is also protected by the First Amendment -- choose to ignore an opinion in favor of another, even an opinion many may find extreme.

There are a few people who asked why NEWS CENTER sent me, an African-American to interview Mike. Let it be known, I sought out Mike. I wanted to be the one to ask him the questions that were presented to him. 

I am not a Nazi Sympathizer nor have I ever pledged allegiance to the Confederacy.

WATCH: Full uncut interview with Pat

In regards to Mike's controversial remarks about segregation, it's important for you to know that people believe this, even in 2017. It's up to us to have those conversations with our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends.

In the full uncut version of my interview with Mike, who says he is not a white supremacist, I asked if he called out the white supremacists at the rally. I asked if he believe all forms of speech should be allowed. I pressed him on why he would not initially call himself a white nationalist at the beginning of our interview. 

Mike gave his opinion Monday. So did many of our viewers who commented on the story's Facebook post.

My job is to present all sides. You choose what you believe. That's what our country was founded upon.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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