An Arizona State University journalism student became the latest victim of “cancel culture” when she was removed from her role at the school’s radio station for tweeting about Jacob Blake’s past accusations of sexual assault.
Rae’Lee Klein, the 21-year-old former station manager of the student-run station, was first targeted last month when she tweeted a New York Post article revealing the details behind Blake’s arrest warrant.
“Always more to the story, folks,” Klein tweeted on her personal account with a link to The Post’s story. “Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.”
Speaking by phone Friday, the senior said as a woman she was “disgusted” by the Blake claims, which included an alleged violent sexual assault that took place in front of a child, so she decided to tweet about it.
“I was reading through it and I just thought it was super interesting and enlightening and a part of the story we haven’t been told yet,” Klein, a Cheyenne, Wyoming native, said.
As a member of the Cronkite News broadcast station, she’d been told by her instructors in her training to tweet “2-3 times a day” and to share stories she thinks are interesting.
“I was just trying to do A, what I was assigned to do and B, what I thought was my job as a journalist, which is to share an important part of the story,” Klein, who’s on the politics beat, said.
Blake, a Kenosha, Wisconsin dad, was shot repeatedly in the back after he showed up at his alleged rape victim’s home on Aug. 23 — violating a restraining order the person had against him and leading them to call police for help, records show.
The Post’s story detailed why police were called to the home in the first place and why there was a warrant for his arrest. Blake has pleaded not guilty to the allegations.
Following the tweet, Klein was inundated with “a huge amount of backlash” from fellow coeds and her peers within the radio station.
“They said in me sharing that it was very insensitive, offended them and made them feel unsafe and uncomfortable with me being a leader of such a big organization on campus,” Klein recalled. “I was in no way condoning what happened to him, I was just sharing information I thought was relevant.”
Klein quickly apologized for the tweet, which she later deleted, writing “it was not my intent to make an excuse for what happened to Jacob Blake.”
“The incident is tragic in every sense of the word. The point of my tweet was to provide an additional perspective,” she wrote.
“I’m grateful for the conversations I’ve been able to have with people who have offered differing opinions. I, as a student journalist, did not take into account the harm this may have further caused and I am committed to minimizing harm as I try to seek truth. Again, I apologize.”
Within hours, people were calling for her resignation but Klein “refused.”
“I really got into journalism just because I grew up watching everybody talking about fake news and it really being the enemy of the people and I wanted to get into it to change that because I truly believe journalism is supposed to be this linkage institution from the people to the policy and deliver the full truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” the student said.
“And whether people agree or like the truth is irrelevant because it doesn’t make it any less truthful and any less necessary to tell.”
Blaze Radio’s board of directors voted to have her removed from the position but she still refused to budge, insisting she didn’t violate any guidelines or written rules. There were many meetings, including with mediators, but neither side could come to an agreement.
Finally, on Tuesday, an interim dean at the school told Klein she had three options, none of which included staying on as station manager. She was told she could be reassigned to another student worker position, remain on the board to work on diversity issues or start her own station.
Following her removal, Klein was told she’d violated the Cronkite school’s social media guidelines, which students are “encouraged” to abide by.
“Obviously as student journalists, it’s broken all the time as we’re learning to navigate social media,” Klein said. “At the time of the removal I still did not know what I had done wrong.”
The radio station’s board of directors has since “locked” her out of the role and changed all of the passwords so she won’t have access to the system. She’s taking the weekend to mull over her options and decide what to do next.
“People have always asked me ‘why are you staying in this fight? It’d be so much easier to just resign in the first place or now, just take one and essentially shut up’ and I told them obviously that’d be the easy thing to do but it’s not necessarily the right thing to do,” Klein explained.
“It’s the point of doing what’s right and what is just and it’s very reflective of the place we’re in not just in journalism but in the country, we’re very quick to judge each other and if somebody doesn’t agree with our standpoint, our reaction is to bully into them into silence instead of having an open discussion with them,” she continued.
“Since all of this has been happening, I’ve had a lot of students come to me [and say]… ‘this is something that happened to me but I never got a chance to stand up, I never got a chance to have my voice heard so please don’t let this go to waste.
“If I can turn my story into inspiration to others to share their beliefs and views and use their first amendment rights then it’ll all be worth it.”
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