Houston lawyer Keryl Douglas responded to allegations Thursday that her campaign emailed an anti-gay letter on Monday.
The letter attacked her opponent for Harris County Democratic Party chair, Lane Lewis, who is the interim chair, and stated that gays in the party would eventually lead to its demise.
At a press conference Thursday, Douglas said that her campaign was not responsible for the emailed letter and questioned the existence of the Rev. Willie J. Howard, who wrote on behalf of the group “Ministers for Keryl.”
“At no time in my campaign to date has there ever existed a group called Ministers for Keryl. This is a fabricated group just as I strongly assert that the letter is also a fabricated letter,” reads Thursday’s press release from Douglas’ campaign. “I have absolutely no knowledge of having ever met a Willie J. Howard, let alone a Reverend by that name. It is my firm belief that Willie J. Howard does not exist. If he does exist, then I both challenge him to come forward AND I challenge ‘Team Whitmarsh’ and other responders to the letter to produce this Willie J. Howard.”
Douglas said “numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign” since the email’s distribution. Her campaign has reported it to law enforcement because they could not track how the email was sent or where it originated.
“It cannot ever be truthfully linked to any ministers I know of nor with the only e-mail and website established by me or my campaign,” the statement reads.
Douglas then indirectly alleges Lewis’ campaign is responsible for the email after explaining that any religious leader and her campaign would not benefit from the hateful message. She claims that “the identification of the source of this letter would be identical to who gained the most from it being produced and distributed.”
Spokesman for Lewis’s campaign Michael Kolenc called the statements from Douglas’ campaign as insincere as her congratulatory email in December 2011 when Lewis was named interim party chair.
“Her ‘blame everyone but Keryl’ strategy is as disingenuous as her December statement when she pledged to avoid ‘personal attacks and character assassination,’” Kolenc wrote in an email to Dallas Voice. “Chairman Lewis has said he will not play divisive identity politics. He is working every day to bring people together so we can elect Democrats up and down the ballot in November.”
Douglas also maintained that her campaign and life as an advocate and Democrat has been inclusive of all diversity. She said she helped write a grant to bring Ryan White HIV/AIDS funding to Houston, as well as help create a legal assistance program for those with HIV/AIDS and their families.
“I have never treated the gay community worse nor better because they are homosexual,” the statement said. “I have treated them equally because, like me, they are human.”
Read Douglas’ full statement after the jump.
April 12, 2012
Re: Press Statement of Keryl Douglas, Candidate for Harris County Democratic Party Chair
I want to begin by thanking all of our members of the media for being here this afternoon. Without you, it would be practically impossible to classify an event such as this as a “press conference” and reasonably difficult to get the intended message out to the intended audience. So, thank you.
I also want to thank Rev. Nash for hosting the Press conference at his Marcie Keys Activity Center and for being here to speak to the issue at hand today. I express appreciation to all the other members of clergy and the religious community who took time out of their busy schedules to be here this afternoon.
Thank you also to the members of the community, our voters who were able to take time away from work and other obligations to be here for this press event.
This press conference was called so that I, Attorney Keryl L. Douglas, Candidate for Harris County Democratic Party Chair, may formally respond to a fabricated Willie Lynch style letter falsely attributed to my campaign to become the next Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party in the upcoming May 29, 2012 Primary election.
Let me begin by stating immediately and unequivocally that I did not write, nor cause to be written the letter allegedly penned by a Reverend Willie J. Howard on behalf of a group of ministers for Keryl. Neither did I have knowledge that such a letter was being written.
From the onset, the tone of my campaign has mirrored the record of my decades long volunteer and professional work – the firm commitment to inclusion, diversity, and the eradication of racism, discrimination, bigotry, inequality and hate. My work across ALL communities has often been celebrated and awarded by community based organizations, FBI, The Jaycees “Five Top Houstonians” and “Five Top Texans, churches, and institutions of learning, etc. I have always conducted my endeavors with professionalism, principle, integrity, character, morality and ethics. My firm commitment has always been to bring these same characteristics to the campaign and to my administration as HCDP Chair. I have not diverted from that course.
The Democratic Party is, in my firm belief, the Party of the people, comprised of many diverse communities with myriad issues, interests, and persuasions. I have worked with and on behalf of ALL communities throughout my life. I worked diligently with the gay community on significant issues, including directly bringing Ryan White AIDS/HIV funding to Houston. I was the very first in Houston to conceptualize, write the grant, secure the funding and implement the first Legal Assistance for AIDS/HIV affected individuals and their families here in Houston.
To assure the success of the Democratic Party, we need ALL hands on deck in a unified effort to advance the Democratic Platform. That has always been and shall remain my focus. I have never treated the gay community worse nor better because they are homosexual; I have treated them equally because, like me, they are human. I seek to work collaboratively with all people as was proven in my work for years with the Unity Awards fostering peaceful partnering relationships between diverse communities.
I AM A BRIDGEBUILDER; NOT A BRIDGE BURNER. This is evident in my record of service.
I am not running against Lane Lewis because he is gay; nor do I ask anyone to vote for me or against him on that premise. I am running because I believe that I am the best and most experienced for the job, as my record supports. I ask for the voters to vote for me because I believe that I am the most passionate and the most prepared to achieve the progress the Democratic Party needs across ALL communities in order to reelect President Barack Obama and to elect Democrats up and down the Ballot in the 2012 General Election and beyond.
I ask for the Democratic vote because my political passion is bridled by principle; my campaign is one of character, NOT character assassination; it is one of integrity, not incendiary or insulting strategies. I would never write nor be associated with the Willie Lynch style letter at issue today.
On or about Monday, April 9, 2012, this Willie Lynch style letter began to be widely distributed and was falsely blamed on or attributed to my campaign. Prior to this letter and responding e-mails being widely distributed by Carl Whitmarsh and/or others, I had absolutely no knowledge of such a letter, nor did I distribute or cause it to be distributed. From the onset, numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law. I urge everyone to immediately cease and desist from these false, libelous accusations against me and my campaign.
My immediate response after learning of the letter’s existence and the attempts by numerous persons to associate the letter with me or my campaign, was to immediately act to report the letter to law enforcement . I strongly believe that as it relates to fabricating this letter and its writer, creating an e-mail and possibly a P.O. Box for the purpose of falsely associating these to me or my campaign, if such conduct is not a crime, it should be. As a result of the distribution of this “Willie” letter, I have received hundreds of mean-spirited and accusatory, attacking e-mails which, at minimum, should qualify as cyber-bullying and harassment.
At no time in my campaign to date has there ever existed a group called Ministers for Keryl. This is a fabricated group just as I strongly assert that the letter is also a fabricated letter. I have absolutely no knowledge of having ever met a Willie J. Howard, let alone a Reverend by that name. It is my firm belief that Willie J. Howard does not exist. If he does exist, then I both challenge him to come forward AND I challenge “Team Whitmarsh” and other responders to the letter to produce this Willie J. Howard.
The letter, a copy of which accompanies my press advisory and statement, is not only an attack on me and my campaign, but also on Ministers, the Religious Community, and the African American Community in general. I strongly assert that it originated with neither of us, nor could or would serve either of us any benefit. I assert that the identification of the source of this letter would be identical to who gained the most from it being produced and distributed.
This letter was written and distributed as a despicably desperate attempt to distract or derail my substantive campaign on the issues, while at the same time intended to demean, disrespect and denigrate ministers and the religious community. The Church is a traditional pillar of the community which deserves respect and reverence. Even such a base, depraved attempt to compete with my campaign on the issues should not have also targeted the ministers. I believe that only those who are morally and ethically bankrupt could concoct and distribute such a letter, and especially to blame it on one or more ministers.
I cannot recall even once in my life when one or more ministers have expressed their views or concerns under the cloak of an alias or anonymity. A google search does not show the existence of a Reverend Willie J. Howard. In a search to determine the origin of the letter, the path actually grows cold for us at the forwarded e-mails of Carl Whitmarsh and an internet link where the letter can be accessed. It cannot ever be truthfully linked to any ministers I know of nor with the only e-mail and website established by me or my campaign. Whoever initiated, distributed and/or attributed to me this letter, lacks the affirmative defense of TRUTH in any potential civil litigation. This letter has or will be reported to all agencies that may be of assistance in determining its origin and holding accountable its originators.
The strategy of the incendiary and inflammatory letter of unknown origin is unfortunately not a new one. It was used in the Mayoral election in 2009, as well as prior mayoral elections. It has been used to incite defeat of other measures. It is not a new strategy, but it is definitely time that it becomes an unsuccessful and unacceptable strategy.
Let me assure you that neither I nor anyone representing or acting on behalf of my campaign wrote this letter; nor do we embrace or approve of the spirit and intent of it. I will continue to endeavor to include and work with ALL people from ALL walks of life across our myriad diverse communities. I will continue to focus my campaign on the critical issues our voters and our nation face, educating and empowering our voters on the Democratic platform, mobilizing and inspiring them to turnout to vote and protecting them from voter intimidation, suppression or civil rights violations as they exercise their right to vote.
From the onset, I have run a campaign built on the issues, integrity, substance, experience and a clear vision for where the Democratic Party can and must immediately grow to in order to re-elect President Barack Obama and to elect quality Democratic candidates up and down the Ballot across Harris County. My campaign has from day one been solidly focused on how I as Chair would ensure that we advance the Democratic Platform; register, mobilize, educate, empower, engage and protect ALL eligible voters; raise the funds necessary to effectively position our Democratic Party as the premier and successful Party in our County, State, and nation.
I invite all to work with me in this regard, even those who may have erred from the path in igniting the storm caused by this fabricated letter.