GREENSBORO — Tired of hate mail on your lawn, wrapped in the Rhinoceros Times?
The Rhino sure is.
The weekly newspaper filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan alleging the group engages in “unfair and deceptive” trade practices by rolling racist leaflets within the conservative tabloid and throwing them on lawns.
By distributing the newsletters in such a manner, the lawsuit claims, the public gets the impression that the Rhino supports its anti-Semitic and racist principles. The Rhino publishes in Greensboro and Charlotte.
“Some people are going to think it’s an advertisement we accepted,” publisher William Hammer said. “We would never in a million years, for any amount of money, accept any form of advertisement from an organization like the KKK.
“We believe in freedom of the press, but when it comes to the stuff they’re putting out there, and damaging legitimate publications, that’s a whole other thing.”
The Rhino has fielded complaints for “at least six months” from homeowners who found the leaflets on their property. Similar complaints have been made to the News & Record for leaflets distributed in the same manner.
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which does business as “The Knights Party,” is based in Arkansas and led by Thomas Robb, a white supremacist who called the lawsuit “laughable.”
“That is so ludicrous it’s pathetic,” Robb said. “That lawsuit will go no further than the hot air the guy is using. … Our attorney will take care of it. It means nothing.”
Robb defended the way his newsletters are distributed, saying that no newspaper has perpetual ownership of its product and that, over time, anyone with copies can do with them as they please.
“If a person was going to a newspaper box and stealing them, that would be wrong,” he said. “We tell people, ‘Don’t do that.’ “
One expert said that, to his knowledge, no court has ruled on the legality of the distribution method and that the Rhino lawsuit filed in Guilford County Superior Court may establish a precedent.
“Many owners of these free papers have been very upset — and justifiably so — by this practice,” said Mark Potok, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups and extremist activity. “We don’t know how the courts ultimately will rule.”