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HomeNewsArchivesWSJ Piece Showcases St. Croix Political Battles to Worldwide Audience

WSJ Piece Showcases St. Croix Political Battles to Worldwide Audience

July 14, 2007 — More than two million Wall Street Journal readers worldwide began their day Friday with a glimpse into the political life of St. Croix and the Virgin Islands.
The WSJ ran a front page story Friday about Roger Morgan, the controversial senate pay-increase bill, this spring’s recall drive against several senators and the senators’ efforts to block Roger Morgan’s FCC license.
Written by Conor Dougherty, the article takes great pains to present both sides of the case regarding Morgan’s FCC license to air his show “Free Speech”. It paints a colorful, friendly portrait of Morgan, gives an overview of the issues, and allots plenty of space to those who feel Morgan is too arrogant and should not be allowed “Free Speech”.
“Roger W. Morgan is of modest height, a little pudgy, and on a recent morning his workday uniform consisted of shorts, sandals and a flower-print shirt. He doesn't look like a revolutionary, but a group of Virgin Islands senators say he's that kind of threat,” Dougherty opens, setting the tone of the piece, which then hits the highlights of the events leading to the FCC complaint.
The story began when the Legislature passed a large pay increase for itself and the governor, late at night on the last day of the session. The pay increases were retroactive and included increased retirement benefits for senators who were not reelected and for outgoing governor Charles Turnbull. (See "Post-Election Senate Passes Bold Pay Raises for Senators, Governor, Lieutenant Governor.")
This caused an uproar and several area people began circulating recall petitions against the senators who supported the pay raises: St. Croix Sens. Ronald Russell, Juan Figueroa-Serville and Norman Jn Baptiste; and on St. Thomas Sen. Louis Hill. They also began a recall petition against St. Croix Sen. Neville James, who did not attend the hearing and so did not vote on the bill.
Many callers to Morgan’s show promoted the recall, which ultimately failed.
Dougherty recounts how during the height of the recall effort, Russell, along with a number of other senators, their family members and employees signed a petition to the FCC asking it to deny Morgan the license to broadcast. (See "Group of Senators Petition FCC to Deny Station License for 'Free Speech' Host.")
“Rain Broadcasting [Morgan]. . . has used the airwaves to lodge personal attacks on sitting senators, their family members, supporters and individuals that oppose their views . . . malign the character of senators . . . used the station to promote . . . political instability . . . raised issues with racial overtones and showed disrespect for this multi-ethnic community,” says the FCC petition in part. The petition also alleges that the radio station has denied access to those holding opposing views.
Dougherty devotes more space to Morgan, his show, his biography and his business successes than to Morgan’s critics or to the underlying issues. But he does interview Russell and provides quotes from residents, such as Roy Rodgers of Neighborhood Shipping, about why they find Morgan’s show objectionable. "People get on the radio and they want us to do everything they do in California and Oklahoma and Texas," Rodgers is quoted as saying. "We've got some problems like everybody got problems. They compare our bad to their good. They never compare our good to their bad."
Dougherty also mentions that Figueroa Serville accused Morgan of being in the Ku Klux Klan.
“Sen. Figueroa-Serville swung back in March, when he delivered a five-minute statement in which he made multiple references to "Roger W. Morgan and his Ku Klux Klan cronies and puppets,"” Dougherty wrote. “He also framed his newly raised salary in racial terms: "To them, black people should not make money."”
Dougherty says residents find the racial claim dubious.
“The claims of racism have rung hollow to residents on the island,” he writes. “Around St. Croix it's tough to find anyone, white or black, newcomer or native, who wasn't opposed to the senators' raises.” “It was ridiculous,” says Frances Molloy, who has lived on St. Croix since 1946 and owns a clothing store here, about the racial charges. “We don't have that kind of tension here, so we don't need anyone to start it.”
Dougherty leaves out some pertinent facts which he is not in a position to know. He does not mention that Russell also has called his critics Klan supporters while speaking in the Legislature, for example. And in another instance he presents the issue of who is a “true” Virgin Islander as if it were Morgan’s creation, rather than a long-standing issue of local debate, originally raised by V.I. natives.
“Mr. Morgan does his best to rile them up,” Dougherty writes. “When the calls aren't coming, he'll pose a question to listeners. One morning recently he asked callers what makes a person a "true" Virgin Islander. (One caller suggested at least 10 years of residency).”
The article ultimately is a story about Morgan; Morgan getting into controversy, Morgan being attacked and Morgan’s ratings and income going up and up all the while. It is a business newspaper piece highlighting the travails and successes of a businessman — the Wall Street Journal’s stock in trade. With their circulation being more than two million every day, potentially 20 times as many people now know about this particular piece of inside St. Croix and Virgin Islands politics than actually live in the territory.
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