Rae’Lee Klein, who was recently asked to step down as station manager for Arizona State University’s student-run Blaze Radio, said she will not resign.
Klein has taken to Twitter to show conservative politicians support her after she tweeted about Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed after Kenosha police officers shot him seven times in the back.
Klein deleted and apologized for a tweet where she shared a New York Post article with the caption “Always more to the story, folks. Please read this article to get background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.” The article contained graphic details from a police report accusing Blake of sexual assault.
Many people, primarily students of ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, replied to her tweet saying it seemed Klein was justifying police brutality against black people — a topic that has been central to a national conversation about systemic racism in the country.
Klein said she thinks the backlash she has received is a product of “cancel culture” and “mob mentality.” Since the initial tweet, she said she has received an outpouring of support both locally and nationally to stand up for her right to free speech, becoming the subject of local and national headlines.
“It feels like a slap in the face,” said Luis Torres, a graduate student at the Cronkite School. In response to Klein tagging news organizations and Republican lawmakers in a tweet, he wrote, “‘Your job as a journalist is to report the news — never be the news’ A forgotten journalism proverb apparently.”
“I’ve always felt as a journalist I’m tasked with the job to get the truth and I was trying to do just that, so that’s why I’m not hesitating to fight it,” said Klein.
Arizona Republican Representative Bob Thorpe shared a statement on Twitter Wednesday condemning ASU and Michael Crow for firing Klein from her position.
However, Klein has not been removed from her position as station manager. The university said in a statement Friday that the student board is working its way toward a resolution.
Klein shared Thorpe’s statement and thanked him for his strong leadership and tagged local news stations and other Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Martha McSally and U.S. Representative Andy Biggs. She did not address any inaccuracies in his statement.
Klein soon received criticism from her peers for using the truth as her defense for her initial tweet but not advocating for truth in regards to Thorpe’s statement.
Klein said the statement was made without consulting her, and she didn’t have anything to do with them other than sharing them.
“I don’t have to explain myself to them or the choices that I make on the internet, it’s all open for interpretation,” said Klein. “You’re going to piss people off one way or another, so you might as well just do what you deem best.”
Kiarra Spottsville, president of ASU’s National Association for Black Journalists, vice president of ASU’s Native American Journalist Association and public relations for the Multicultural Student Journalists Coalition at Cronkite, said that this showed that Klein’s apology for her original tweet was not genuine.
“It was just an attempt to save face,” said Spottsville. She said it’s perfectly fine to thank someone for showing support, but without checking this support it allows misinformation to continue to spread to larger audiences.
Klein is a politics reporter for Cronkite News, the news organization run by the Cronkite School. She said Cronkite News and the school have been supportive of her and that she has not violated their social media policy.
Misha Jones, who completed Cronkite News and graduated with a masters in August, said she hopes Klein can learn from what she did and not take it as a moment to profit and amplify her platform.
“Everything they teach us in Cronkite News is make sure you paint a full picture, make sure you’re not becoming the story, make sure that everything you have is factually accurate and make sure that you issue corrections if need be, and clearly none of those things happened in this situation which is really unfortunate,” said Jones.
The Cronkite News policy states “On your Twitter account, you represent Cronkite News, and you want to protect your personal brand. Recognize that sharing opinions can alienate sources, harm your reporting efforts and turn off future employers: We advise you to abstain from sharing your personal views on political and social issues. You must earn audience trust by offering smart, insightful, accurate, fair and ethical social messaging.”
Jones also said tagging and soliciting support from local politicians is a clear conflict of interest for a politics reporter.
Spottsville said she feels there’s a double standard when it comes to students of color and social media, and that students of color have to be afraid for their futures if they speak out about certain issues. She said she felt she would have to sacrifice issues that are important to her to pursue a news track, so she decided to pursue public relations.
The Review, a weekly news analysis and student lifestyle podcast on Blaze Radio, tweeted Wednesday that if Klein did not resign, it would leave the station and become independent.
Alejandro De La Cerda, a sophomore at the Cronkite School who runs the account, said the show does not see how they can continue operating after seeing Klein’s leadership and the way she has carried herself throughout the week. He said he felt frustrated that in a Zoom meeting Wednesday she would not take accountability for what she did and that her apology to the people she hurt was not enough.
He said there needs to be more equal treatment in Cronkite, and that it if the school is going to criticize students of color for what they are talking about on social media the same needs to happen for white students.
“I just would like for students of color, and specifically Black students, to be able to feel safer and to be able to be in Cronkite without having to fight against these situations,” he said.