BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — Sometimes newspapers publish falsehoods by accident. They might use press releases from trusted sources without checking the facts; or they might repeat commonly believed myths.
But sometimes a newspaper knowingly expresses an editorial viewpoint inside what appears to be a neutral news report. One very effective way to do this is to tell a falsehood as though it is a commonly accepted fact, and to mention it merely in passing, in the context of reporting about a related but different topic.
Two recently published news reports are examined below. Readers can decide for themselves whether the truth is murdered with malice aforethought, or whether it is accidental manslaughter.
1. On Sunday October 30 the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published an article by political reporter Derrick DePledge, entitled “Akaka OKs Native Hawaiian recognition strategy.” For those who are subscribers or pay the online entry fee, the article can be seen at
DePledge has many years with the newspaper including several as its Washington D.C. reporter, who frequently wrote about ethnic Hawaiian issues such as the Akaka bill and Supreme Court consideration of whether to hear a desegregation lawsuit against Kamehameha Schools. He clearly has detailed knowledge about such topics. This newspaper, and both of its predecessors (Advertiser and Star-Bulletin), have repeatedly editorialized in favor of the Akaka bill.
This article describes a one-sentence rider inserted into a Department of Interior appropriations bill that would place the ethnic Hawaiian tribe state-recognized under Act 195 onto the list of federally recognized tribes, thus in effect passing the Akaka bill with no testimony or debate.
DePledge asserts one falsehood in 2 different places in his article. In the 11 year history of the Akaka bill it’s the first time this falsehood has been asserted; but apparently we’re now going to hear it over and over again, just like so many other lies.
Derrick DePledge says the rider would allow the federal government to recognize ethnic Hawaiians “in a way similar to how it recognizes American Indian tribes” or “in the way American Indians and Alaska Natives are recognized.”
He reports that as though it’s a matter of fact, although he should be reporting that it’s (merely) what Inouye/Akaka are claiming. The claim is put forward to lull us into thinking there’s nothing unusual or irregular about the stealth procedure. After all, ethnic Hawaiians deserve to be treated just like America’s other “indigenous peoples”; and this is the normal way for tribes to get recognition.
But like so many other things Inouye/Akaka have said about history and law, that’s false. And like so many other things in news reports in this newspaper, the falsehood is asserted in a sneaky way, as though it’s merely a reminder of something well-known and obviously true.
Every federally recognized tribe got federally recognized in one of two ways. In most cases it was done by a petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs proving that the tribe meets every one of 7 mandatory criteria for getting federal recognition spelled out in 25 CFR 83.7. (“Native Hawaiians” would fail on several of them and thus be rejected). In a few cases Congress passed a bill to recognize the tribe, similar to the Akaka bill — but always a free-standing bill publicly debated, not some sneaky piece of garbage buried as a couple of sentences in the middle of an appropriations bill.
To the best of my knowledge there is no tribe that got federal recognition in the manner now being attempted by the newest Inouye/Akaka stealth procedure.
2. On Sunday October 23, 2011 the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hilo) published a news report by staff writer Peter Sur describing a long-delayed birthday celebration for Queen Liliuokalani. The article is at http://tinyurl.com/3dzlqlp
A false sentence in the middle of the article says “Queen Lili’uokalani, the younger sister of King Kalakaua, ruled Hawaii between 1891 and 1893, when she was deposed by a group of Americans in a coup.”
That same day I sent by e-mail a letter to editor, with a copy to Peter Sur, and also requesting that a correction should be printed in the newspaper. Neither the editor nor the reporter replied to me; and neither my letter nor any correction was published. Here’s my letter, which is well within the length allowed by the newspaper:
** TITLE: There were only 4 Americans among the 13 leaders of the Hawaiian revolution of 1893.
Peter Sur’s October 23 news report about the belated birthday bash for Lili’uokalani has a major error.
The article says “Queen Lili’uokalani … was deposed by a group of Americans in a coup.”
That pernicious falsehood stirs anti-American and anti-Caucasian resentment which fuels the Hawaiian sovereignty movement today. It’s not only Peter Sur who believes that falsehood — our public schools are brainwashing the kids with this propaganda in the mandatory “History of Hawaii” course. It was NOT a group of Americans who overthrew Lili’uokalani.
Ralph S. Kuykendal, “The Hawaiian Kingdom” Volume 3 page 597 says: “The Committee of Safety as first appointed was composed of the chairman H.E. Cooper, F.W. McChesney, T.F. Lansing, and J.A. McCandless, who were Americans; W.O. Smith, L.A. Thurston, W.R. Castle and A.S. Wilcox, who were Hawaiian born of American parents; W.C. Wilder, American, C. Bolte, German, and Henry Waterhouse, Tasmanian, who were naturalized Hawaiian citizens; Andrew Brown, Scotchman, and H.F. Glade, German, who were not.”
Thus, among the thirteen-member Committee of Safety, only four were Americans. Seven (a majority) were either native-born or naturalized subjects of the Kingdom with all the rights of natives, and the remaining two were citizens of Scotland and Germany.
You should also note that of the 5500 members of the Annexation Club in Honolulu, only 22% were Americans. An almost equal number were native Hawaiians. The largest number were Portuguese (41%). In 1893, President Grover Cleveland’s “fact finder” to Hawai’i, James H. Blount, wrote in his report that the 5,500 members of the city’s Annexation Club at that time included 1,218 Americans (22 percent of the club); 1,022 Native Hawaiians (19 percent); 251 Englishmen (5 percent); 2,261 Portuguese (41 percent); 69 Norwegians (1 percent); 351 Germans (6 percent), along with 328 persons unclassified but making up the balance.
3. Some other examples of false propaganda masquerading as fact in “news reports”
“Forced assimilation may hurt Hawaiians” published by reporter Gordon Pang in the Honolulu Advertiser of June 20, 2005. Full text, with detailed analysis, at
Full text of several dozen published news reports and editorials falsely claiming that Hawaiian language was made illegal or was suppressed after the Hawaiian revolution of 1893 and throughout the Territorial and early Statehood periods. Extensive analysis and disproof of that scurrilous claim at http://tinyurl.com/83xmb
The Goebbels Award For Outstanding Use of Media for Propaganda Disguised As Fact — Honolulu Star-Bulletin Wednesday April 23 2008, page 2 (The newspaper falsely stated that President Grover Cleveland signed a proclamation in 1894 that set April 30th as a day of prayer and remembrance for Queen Liliuokalani and the overthrown monarchy of Hawaii; and the newspaper refused to publish a correction despite being given proof of falsehood). http://tinyurl.com/44ls4j
“… the only place in Hawaii [Mauna Ala, the Royal Mausoleum] where neither state nor federal land laws apply. These peaceful 3.5 acres are the last surviving remnant of the Kingdom of Hawaii.” And also Mauna Ala remains “royal land under the Hawaiian flag” and when entering the gates of Mauna Ala “the Western world and its laws and customs are left behind on Nu’uanu Avenue.”
The article about that was published in Midweek newspaper in two installments: Volume 20, No. 4 of May 19, 2004 and Volume 20, No. 5 of May 26, 2004. An additional, related article was published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Sunday October 30, 2005. Full text of articles, plus detailed analysis (dis)proving the falsehoods, is at