Earlier today, Ebony had a rather impressive comeback to critics of its new Trayvon Martin-themed cover, but the very premise of the joke may have been based on nothing more than a rumor. The magazine announced, via a Twitter zinger, that they did not care if the Tea Party was going to boycott their September issue because of the covers. Except there's little-to-no evidence "the Tea Party" had plans to do such a thing.
Let's back up for a moment. Instead of following the September magazine tradition of putting beautiful people in beautiful (expensive) clothes on the cover, Ebony decided to put out a series of covers, featuring celebrities in grey hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin. The models included director Spike Lee, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, actor and model Boris Kodjoe, and the surviving members of Martin's family. The covers are pretty spectacular:
The covers were released yesterday, and Ebony got some deserved praise from Mediaite and Jezebel, among others. But things took a turn for the negative today when talk began spreading online that Tea Party had allegedly called for a boycott against the magazine. Ebony tweeted their defiance:
We have so many Tea Party readers and followers. To lose all zero of them due to our September cover would be devastating.— EBONY (@EBONYMag) August 7, 2013
That's a good response. Unfortunately, a search for the target of the zinger shows that there's almost no evidence suggesting that the Tea Party, however you want to define it, was planning any boycott against the magazine in the first place. (We sent an email to Ebony for comment on the tweet, but did not hear back.)
The first person to mention the boycott on Twitter was this man, Tom Head, who "holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Edith Cowan University, contributes an award-winning column to the Jackson Free Press, and serves as About.com Guide to Civil Liberties," according to his Amazon page.
Heh. Tea Party lynching apologists now threaten to boycott @EBONYMag over the Trayvon cover, as if any of them would have subscribed anyway.— Tom Head, Ph.D. (@_tomhead) August 7, 2013
From there the rumor slowly gained some steam, being passed around as these things are, including a mention by Dreamgirls star Anika Noni Rose, again, on Twitter:
Word about town is that the tea party is boycotting Ebony mag. for having Trayvon on the cover. Wait for it....BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!— Anika Noni Rose (@AnikaNoniRose) August 7, 2013
That's when things really took off, and people started to defend the magazine and make fun of the Tea Party. But those who went searching for evidence beyond that those initial few tweets came up with next to nothing. Gawker reporter (and former fellow for The Atlantic Wire) J.K. Trotter went to the original source, Tom Head, and asked what evidence he had of a pending boycott. He got an cagey and odd response:
@jktrotter 1) I live in Mississippi and have a good ear, 2) Crackpots, and 3) You cited evidence of same yourself; clearly that's not true.— Tom Head, Ph.D. (@_tomhead) August 7, 2013
The evidence Head refers to in this tweet seem to be a single comment out of literally hundreds on a Breitbart article about the covers from yesterday. It reads (emphasis added):
Wonder if this HEAT character is mixing the concoction "Lean" with Arizona Watermelon Tea+Skittles+Robitussin cough sirup to make a "home made" drug called "Lean" which is well known in the African American community to give you a high without the benefit of hard drugs? These people who want to elevate Trayvon are just hurting themselves.
Trayvon was a thug...who mixed everyday items to get himself high. His mother couldn't deal with his excessive behavior and pushed him on to his father. He'd been thrown out of school several times...Duh?
Notice it's in Ebony Magazine. How many white people or white hispanics even bother to look at that? They are just continuing to feed the race baiting community. How sad for America. Those that do not agree should boycott the Heat and the magazine!
That is the only evidence we can find online about a potential Ebony boycott. Head later refused to give Trotter any more information about his "source."
To be fair, there was plenty of online criticism of the Ebony cover, mostly from supporters of George Zimmerman, who still feel aggrieved about the equally loud public support for Martin. And it's always tricky to assign any one idea to the "Tea Party," which itself a loose conglomeration of political groups and ideas. But it does seems Ebony (or more accurately, the people spreading the rumors of the boycott) made a mountain out of a molehill still under construction. Whether or not Head is telling the truth will surely come out soon. There is always a lot of talk online that is nothing more than talk. But, if any kind organized boycott was developing, surely there would be a trace somewhere, some morsel of evidence left behind of a planned protest beyond a single angry and anonymous commenter.