Eddie Long’s ‘speak no evil’ strategy seems to be working
OPINION - The once defiant minister has opted out of having his day in court and has instead agreed to mediation set to begin in February...
In years past, Eddie Long’s attendance at any event associated with the Trumpet Awards, an annual event founded by media pioneer and civil rights activist Xernona Clayton in 1993 to honor African-American achievement, would merely serve as a photo opportunity significant to black Atlanta and perhaps the larger Christian community at most. Since explosive allegations of sexual impropriety with four young men surfaced in September 2010, almost any appearance by the scandal plagued preacher, including yesterday’s at the Trumpet Awards Foundation’s annual Prayer Breakfast, can attract a camera. ABC affiliate WSB Channel 2 proved that.
Billed as Long’s “first interview since four young men accused him of sexual misconduct,” the story’s only saving grace is the subject himself. Reporter Jodie Fleischer’s disclaimer that “Bishop Long’s handlers made it very clear he would not answer any questions about the accusations against him,” to her colleague Justin Farmer before the “interview” aired didn’t go far enough. While Long didn’t say anything remotely memorable with his words, to Fleisher’s credit, his body language did speak volumes.
As surprising as it may sound, Long’s humility was hard to miss. Oh it wasn’t so easy to spot when he appeared before his congregation for the first time following the allegations last September, read from an iPad and declared “I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
To date, he hasn’t thrown any rocks but he sure has caught them. The once defiant minister has opted out of having his day in court and has instead agreed to mediation set to begin in February. More than likely, he will settle with the young men and continue as he’s done since September and before — being Bishop Eddie Long, albeit a slightly changed one.
In this appearance, there’s no noticeable smirk on his face. As he touted the word “hope” and emphasized the family reunion feel of the gathering, he did indeed look like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. If his face didn’t reveal one hundred percent guilt, it did at least register some significant concern. Perhaps membership at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has finally tapered off, forcing the beleaguered Bishop to take it down a notch.
When the appearance of a possibly down-low minister overshadows a breakfast where one of the honorees is Michael Pfleger, the white priest from Chicago’s South Side who made national headlines for mocking Hillary Clinton’s frustration over the futility of her white privilege in defeating her now boss in the race to the Democratic nomination, with a mainstream media outlet, there is indeed a problem.
But perhaps that was the most hopeful aspect of the Prayer Breakfast for Long as he looks ahead. Controversy doesn’t last always. Pfleger never received the Reverend Wright treatment but he was in heavy rotation and now his appearance doesn’t seem eventful at all from a news broadcast perspective. Long had to know he would receive a warm reception at the Prayer Breakfast. After all, the odds of this community turning against him are as likely as Switzerland declaring war. Still, rising Gospel radio host Cory “CoCo Brother” Condrey’s reassurance that people were praying for him either way certainly had to relieve Long. It was only a bonus that a camera was there to capture the warm moment, which has to count as a public relations triumph for Long.
No, it won’t shut up the naysayers but it won’t give them much fuel either. At the end of the day, the “speak no evil” strategy Long is employing seems to be working for him. Eventually his harshest critics will only footnote the story. Once he gets those legal agreements banning the gentlemen from speaking on the allegations signed in exchange for a nice monetary sum, this sordid chapter will be behind him.
Unfortunately for the black church, another great opportunity has been missed.
The Bishop Eddie Long scandal presented a prime opportunity to openly address homosexuality in the black church as well as sexual misconduct and sexual molestation in the larger African-American community. Instead, it’s being swept under the rug like so much other so-called “dirty laundry.” Like the many other scandals, this one is also showing signs of fizzling out. In the end, Long might look guilty to some but he’s still getting over like a fat rat on all.