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Richard Land offers 2 apologies; ERLC initiates investigationcomment (0)

April 26, 2012

Richard Land’s recent controversial and allegedly plagiarized comments about the Trayvon Martin case have landed him in the pit of public scrutiny. They also resulted in the long-time leader of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) issuing two official apologies and being the target of an official investigation by ERLC’s governing board. 

The plagiarism charge came to light when blogger and Baylor University Ph.D. student Aaron Weaver posted a partial transcript from one of Land’s shows on his blog, TheBigDaddyWeave.com. The unattributed remarks were made on Land’s March 31 Richard Land Live! show about media, race and Martin, the unarmed black Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a neighborhood security guard.

Weaver discovered that more than half the material for Land’s short segment was quoted nearly verbatim from Jeffrey Kuhner’s March 29 Washington Times Op-Ed, “Obama foments racial division.”

Land said it is his practice to post the articles he uses on his website, and the show for March 31 does include a link to the Kuhner column on the “full show notes” page. 

When presented with the charge, Land quickly apologized in the statement for failing to give proper attribution for material he used on his radio show in which he criticized President Obama and black civil rights leaders for exploiting the shooting.

“On occasion I have failed to provide appropriate verbal attributions on my radio broadcast … and for that I sincerely apologize,” he wrote. “I regret if anyone feels they were deceived or misled. That was not my intent nor has it ever been.”

Land also issued an official apology for his controversial remarks. 

On his radio show, Land described activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as “racial ambulance chasers” who, along with fringe groups like the Black Panthers, are fomenting a “mob mentality” in the Martin case that is akin to what the Ku Klux Klan used to do to blacks in the South.

“This situation is getting out of hand,” Land said on the show. “When there is violence it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault. It’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault. It’s going to be Louis Farrakhan’s fault, and to a certain degree it’s going to be President Obama’s fault.”

Following a conversation with Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright in which Wright related how offended many African Americans and fellow Christians were over his comments, Land issued a formal apology. He wrote, in part, “I am writing to express my deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding my comments ... have generated. It grieves me to hear that any comments of mine have to any degree set back the cause of racial reconciliation in Southern Baptist or American life. … Clearly I overestimated the progress that has been made in slaying the ugly racist ghosts of the past in our history. I also clearly underestimated the extent to which we must go out of our way not to be misunderstood when we speak to issues where race is a factor.”  

In response, a prominent African-American pastor — Fred Luter Jr., of New Orleans — issued a statement accepting Land’s apology. Luter is the SBC’s first vice president who will be nominated for SBC president during the June annual meeting in New Orleans. 

Luter said, “I commend Richard Land for his letter of apology pertaining to his comments about the Trayvon Martin case. His comments certainly were a concern for many of us across the (SBC). 

“Our convention has made a lot of progress in the area of racial reconciliation and we want to continue this effort,” Luter continued. “Land’s letter of apology will hopefully keep us on track.” 

But Land’s comment fell short for one prominent black pastor. Dwight McKissic, of Texas, charged that Land apologized for the response to his words and not the comments themselves. 

McKissic called for Land’s remarks to be repudiated by the SBC or for Land to be removed. 

Responding to the turmoil, ERLC’s executive committee issued a statement acknowledging that Land’s comments “have angered many and opened wounds from the past.” The statement said the executive committee regrets “any harm that may have been done to race relations with the SBC” by Land’s remarks. 

The statement also announced that an ad hoc committee had been appointed to “investigate the allegations of plagiarism and recommend appropriate action.” 

“We expect Dr. Land and ERLC to embody the highest moral and ethical standards,” the statement said. “Though the source citation standards prevailing among talk radio shows are different from those applicable to journalistic work or to scholarly work in the academic setting, we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area.” 

(Compiled from wire services)

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