An Asian American journalist in Seattle claims he was fired from his local news station after being accused online of promoting “white supremacist propaganda” for covering a Proud Boys protest on his personal Twitter account.
Jonathan Choe, a journalist for more than 20 years, said ABC affiliate KOMO News fired him for live-tweeting about the march, which took place in the Washington state capital of Olympia on March 19.
In a tell-all Medium post, Choe said he recapped March 19’s protest with a photo montage that included “natural sound,” a reporting technique also known as “NAT Pkg” or “natural sound package.” This mode of storytelling includes all the elements of a regular news package except the reporter’s voice, giving viewers a more sensory experience of involvement.
Choe’s final tweet, however, later drew online accusations that he was spreading “white supremacist propaganda.” As it turned out, it had picked up parts of a controversial song.
“One of my videos picked up music blasting from a speaker strapped over the shoulder of one of the protesters. I could not make out the words and had never heard this song in my life,” Choe wrote.
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“Hours later, the critics started pouncing on this final tweet, accusing me of intentionally creating ‘white supremacist propaganda.’ Several people even claimed I went out of my way to rip this music off a CD and lay it under the photos. That is untrue. I wanted to simply capture a moment in time, with authentic visuals and sounds.”
Choe said he later learned that the song is called “We’ll Have Our Home Again” and is often played at white nationalist rallies. In hindsight, he said he wished he provided more context, but his news director allegedly ordered him to “take down all my social media” related to the march before he could respond.
Choe said his boss also told him “not to speak to any outside media.” The next day, he was sacked, he said.
The veteran journalist began his post by declaring that he is “not a neo-Nazi, fascist or white supremacist.” Such accusations were “comical at best,” he said, as a “proud Asian American journalist who’s faced years of discrimination for my race and ethnicity.”
Choe also stressed his awareness about Proud Boys being labeled as an “extremist hate group” and some of its members being prosecuted for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. But this is exactly why he wanted to be an “observer” at the Proud Boys rally, he said.
“I wasn’t taking sides. I wasn’t saying anything was good or bad. In fact, none of the marchers would talk to me on the record because they ‘didn’t trust the mainstream media,’” Choe recalled. “So I just started following the march route.”
Aside from “some middle fingers and heckling from those who opposed the rally,” Choe described the day as ending “peacefully and without incident.” He then pointed out that his problem only arises “when any group or side tries to silence me for simply trying to show what’s happening.”
“I’ve been a journalist now for more than 20 years. If there was a Ku Klux Klan rally and cross burning at Seattle Center in downtown, I would be the first person there to cover the event.
“My job is to present all sides, not just the one that aligns with my values or worldview,” he added.
Despite the odds he has faced, Choe, who was recently targeted with threatening tweets from alleged Antifa members, vowed to continue to stay in the media. “I am not done serving the good people of Seattle. Stay tuned,” he tweeted on Friday.
NextShark has reached out to KOMO News for comment.