The Philadelphia Human Relations Commission has launched an investigation at the request of the mayor after a well-known magazine published an essay that explored perspectives of white citizens on the issue of race relations.
Mayor Michael Nutter called on the commission to consider rebuking both Philadelphia Magazine and writer Bob Huber noting that “the First Amendment, like other constitutional rights, is not an unfettered right.”
Nutter’s fury was directed at a cover story titled, “Being White in Philly.” The story included conversations with mostly anonymous white residents who detailed race relations in the City of Brotherly Love.
“In a city that is largely poor and segregated, white people have become afraid to say anything at all about race,” Huber wrote on the cover of the magazine. “Here’s what’s not being said.”
But Mayor Nutter believes it should have remained unsaid.
“This month Philadelphia Magazine has sunk to a new low even for a publication that has long pretended that its suburban readers were the only citizens civically engaged and socially active in the Philadelphia area,” Nutter wrote in a lengthy tirade to the city’s human relations commission.
He called the story “disgusting” and an “uninformed, ill-advised, ill-considered, uninspired, and thoroughly unimaginative.”
And the mayor also had some choice words for the anonymous individuals who were interviewed – some of whom had been victims of crimes perpetrated by blacks. He said they were “too cowardly” to provide their names.
Rue Landau, the Human Relations Committee’s executive director, agreed with the mayor’s concerns regarding what she called, “the racial insensitivity and perpetuation of harmful stereotypes portrayed in the Philadelphia Magazine piece.”
The commission will also conduct an inquiry into racial issues across the city at the request of the mayor.
“We will take up the mayor’s charge,” Landau said in a statement.
Tom McGrath, the magazine’s editor, told me he is very concerned that the government is investigating his publication.
“I find it chilling that he now wants to use the government to censor a news outlet,” he said. “As a journalist – as someone who thinks free speech is really important – I find that really, really troubling.”
McGrath said he stands by the story and the author – and acknowledged it set off a firestorm.