Susan Hathaway issued her statement on the recent issue surrounding the Southern Flaggers and filmmaker/student Rob Walker, Jr. For those late to the game, Hathaway circulated a story asserting that Rob Walker defended a Confederate monument by subduing two “punks” using a cattle prod, until the police took them away. Of course the story seemed too good to be true. Inquiries made to the Richmond Police Department revealed that the police had no record of any arrests taking place under those circumstances. This brought the story into question, as well as the reputation of the Flaggers and their leader Susan Hathaway. Until now, Hathaway has been silent. Susan issued this today:
On Thursday, May 9th, I was on my way back from the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at Guinea Station when I received a message from Va Flagger and friend, TriPp Lewis. He stated that Rob Walker, the VCU student who had been following the Va Flaggers for the past 6 months and filming our efforts for a documentary, had just called him to report that he had thwarted an attempted vandalism at the Jefferson Davis Statue on Monument Ave., on his way home from his final exam at VCU.
Shortly thereafter, I was phoned into a three way call, and Rob repeated the description of his story. As you can imagine, we were taken in by his dramatic and breathless account of the events. He even sent us these photos of the taser/club that was used at the scene.
At the end of the phone call, I asked Rob for permission to post the account, and he gave me permission to do so.
My intention in sharing the post was twofold: 1) I wanted Rob to get recognition for his efforts…and 2) I hoped it would serve as a deterrent for others who might attempt the same. As you might know, our monuments have been the subject of several attacks over the past months.
Our first indications that there may be a problem came in the form of an email from Navy Personnel who had seen the report and questioned Mr. Walker’s claim of Military Service on the USS Cole. At this point, we had no reason to doubt Mr. Walker, and simply asked him to provide the necessary proof to the gentlemen who had made the request. When Mr. Walker was not forthcoming with documents that could prove his service, we felt that while we considered it a private matter, it did create some doubt in our minds as to whether he was being truthful.
At this point, we decided we needed to further investigate the claims he had made regarding the incident at the monument, but it was Saturday…I was out of town for my son’s college graduation from Liberty University, and our Flaggers were all very busy, attending no less than three Confederate events in the Richmond area that day.
Sunday was Mother’s Day, so Sunday evening was the first chance we had to meet and we began researching his claims. We could find no mention of the event on the Richmond Police Department’s incident report and contacted Mr. Walker to question this. He insisted that he WAS telling the truth and promised to produce the police report on the next day, Monday, May 13th.
At noon Monday, we contacted Mr. Walker again, and he told us that they would not give him the report over the phone and that he would not be able to pick it up in person as he was out of town for the summer.
Assuming by now that we had been royally duped, we decided to make absolutely sure of the facts before we made any further statements. At 8:45 a.m. this morning, Tuesday, May 14th,I went to the Richmond Police Headquarters at 200 N. Grace Street and inquired as to whether there were any incidents reported at the monument location, during the time frame Mr. Walker had told us it happened. RPD officials searched and found no record of any report filed.
As I put pen to hand, we still have no idea why Mr. Walker went to such lengths to create such an elaborate story, or what his intentions were. He will still not admit that the account was false and we are left with the task of cleaning up the mess he has created with his fabrication and (apparent) outright lies.
I cannot properly express my sincere apologies for having released this story without first getting police corroboration. I honestly can say that I never imagined anyone would go to all the trouble of fabricating such a tale, and am sad to have learned another hard lesson in having to question everyone’s motives, and trusting no one.
We are officially retracting our statements in the release of May 10th, and respectfully request that if you forwarded that email, that you do the same with this one so that we might reach everyone who received the false report.
I hope and pray that you will not consider this misplaced trust a reflection on any of the men and women who make up the Va Flaggers. Although the Anti-Confederate Bloggers (affectionately referred to as “Floggers”) are attempting to suggest otherwise, Mr. Walker was not a Va Flagger. He had chosen us as the subject of his documentary work and we had allowed him the freedom to travel with us and film our activities. Up until the evening of May 10th, we never had any reason to believe that he was anything other than honest with us, and are still shocked at this turn of events.
As of today, we are severing all ties with Mr. Walker, as we have no desire to be even associated with anyone who does not know the value of honesty and truth, something that we work hard every day to promote, in our defense of the Confederate Soldier.
This revelation, and the personal attacks which have ensued, were a punch in the gut to me, and it is obvious that our enemies intend to attempt to use the incident to continue their quest to silence us and squelch the Flagging movement… a movement that, despite their best efforts, has taken a foothold among Southerners who are fed up with the constant attacks on our heritage, and is growing in numbers and support every day. Please know, that while we take away a valuable lesson in this, it will in no way deter us from continuing the work that we have begun… protecting the honor of the Confederate Soldier and the flags under which he fought and died…and defending the heritage.
Finally, I can’t end this narrative without thanking the Anti-Confederate “Floggers” referred to earlier. Although their motive in covering this incident on their blogs was obviously to cast negative attention on the Virginia Flaggers, which is their habit and history, their posting about it has nevertheless helped to bring awareness of the incident to a wider audience, which will now also be aware of this clarification.
It appears that Susan and by connection the Flaggers, are distancing themselves from Mr. Walker. Although this retraction does make steps to rescue the Flaggers’ image, it continues to damage the objectivity of filmmaker Rob Walker, Jr. I am curious as to what his intentions were, or even if he has a voice on this issue. What happens when Rob Walker comes forward and declares he told no such story? That the Flaggers are in fact the fabricators? We may never know. Hopefully, using this event as an example, Heritage advocates in the future may take things with a dose of skepticism, and research certain claims and statements instead of taking them on their face. Even though Susan did continue a false story via (supposedly) Rob Walker Jr., the real tragedy is how many people believed such an epic tale of Confederate defense on its face.
Finally, h/t to Connie Chastain for pointing out Susan’s post. Although I think it was Connie’s gratification in pointing out that the fault fell on Rob Walker and not the Flaggers that brought her to do so.