After a few days of black activists demanding St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver denounce and stop advertising with a blogger who sent a racist email to a subscriber, Shaver said she’s discontinued their professional relationship and condemned the “name calling.”
The subscriber, Daniel Carter, used profanity in an email asking to unsubscribe to Historic City News after he was sent a message asking him to support city commission candidate Jill Pacetti.
“Calling out a news outlet for being a racist piece of sh** and in turn, the editor in chief responds with overt racist remarks confirming that he is, in fact, a racist piece of sh**,” Carter wrote on a post on his Facebook including screenshots of the email.
According to his website, Michael Gold, who also consults and does campaign outreach for political candidates, began the blog as an email newsletter in 2000 and over the years it morphed into a city news site that includes public announcements, entertainment and local politics. Historic City News often publishes far-right letters to the editor and opinion pieces and Gold generally supports more conservative candidates.
According to screenshots posted by Carter, Gold responded to him by calling his comments “vulgar” and using racially-coded and antiquated language.
“When someone as public as you makes vulgar remarks like that, you give all colored people a black eye,” he wrote. “Since you were so niggardly with your time, you failed to look at the bottom of the page where you could have unsubscribed yourself from our mail list. Gold also called Carter “lazy.”
“Niggardly” is a word that’s rarely used in modern parlance because of its pejorative homophone. The word means “grudgingly mean about spending,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It has elicited controversy in recent years because of its misuse or perceived misuse.
Last week, Rev. Ron Rawls of St. Paul AME Church told WJCT that Gold’s comments unfortunately did not shock him.
“I’m not surprised at all. That’s St. Augustine. That’s why I’ll always have an issue to fight when dealing with racism, injustice and white supremacy,” he said. “That’s the DNA of St. Augustine.”
Rawls, who said he was an early backer of Shaver’s first campaign for mayor, has since been a thorn in the Democratic mayor’s side recently because of her decision to “recontextualize” the city’s lone Confederate monument instead of removing it. Rawls has led protests against the city’s decision and accused Shaver of cozying up to pro-monument interests to keep in office.
“We bloc voted and got her a victory no one ever saw coming, but soon she began to associate herself with people like the owner of this publication and then you started seeing the real person come out,” he said.
Reached Friday, Shaver put distance between her and Gold, but said she had only “skimmed” Carter’s post and that she “advertises on many websites,” including the St. Augustine Record’s staugustine.com.
But over the weekend, Shaver revised her previous position, calling Gold’s email “vile” and pledging to pull her ads from his blog. On Tuesday, Shaver told WJCT the exchange between Carter and Gold represented a worsening of political discourse.
“It was not a knee jerk reaction to it because for me it reflected a lot of the tone that has been floating up and down and around in our city,” she said. “Name calling and labeling people in various ways is not helpful to anybody. So, pulling the advertising was really only a piece of it. It was really saying ‘I’m not going to support this kind of dialogue in any way.’”
Shaver, who’s contributed opinion pieces to the website in the past, said although there was no excuse for Gold’s escalation, she too has been called racist for not agreeing to pull down Confederate monuments.
Carter believes Shaver is equivocating. In an email late Tuesday, he wrote that Shaver “was not the same woman who we elected to lead St. Augustine” and that she “ignored promises to hold the city accountable for pushing back against the black community.”
“In her response to what happened between Michael Gold and I, she wrote ‘Ugly, hateful name calling is not who we are,’ but it is. It always has been that way in St. Augustine. Rev. Rawls has been called many hateful names by HCN and his supporters-The “N” word among others. So have I. Nancy Shaver has decided to normalize and be comfortable with this racism in St. Augustine,” he wrote.
Carter also denied that he subscribed to Historic City News and theorized that Gold got his information from voter rolls.
This isn’t Gold’s first racially connected controversy. The St. Augustine Record reported in 2012 that a political email sent to an unknown number of St. Johns County residents accused County Commissioner Ken Bryan, who is black, of being a “common thug” and made references to his speaking “Ebonics: in a YouTube video linked to the message.
The email was sent under the pseudonym Hiram Abiff, who in history was the architect of the Temple of Solomon and from the address firstname.lastname@example.org But the address traces back to two websites that were owned by Michael Gold at the time.
Gold denied a connection to the emails then and today has not responded to WJCT’s attempts to contact him.