Published Monday, April 3, 2000, in the Miami Herald
on Denzel's parade
By SUE REISINGER
The morning after the Oscar ceremonies, Fort Lauderdale businessman
Cal Deal started receiving e-mails of congratulations from across
the country. No, he did not win an Oscar. But he played a key
role in making sure that actor Denzel Washington didn't get one
for The Hurricane.
``I openly opposed an Oscar for Denzel Washington because
of his disinterest in the truth and his public endorsements of
[Rubin] Carter,'' Deal says.Billed as a true story, The Hurricane
tells the powerful tale of Rubin``Hurricane'' Carter's relentless
fight for freedom after twice being convicted of a triple murder
at a Paterson, N.J., bar.
Deal's response also became a classic tale of one man's relentless
dedication to a cause. And when that man knows how to use the
Internet, a grass-roots movement can become a national one.
Deal, 50, runs a trial graphics business now, but was once
a reporter/photographer for The Passaic Herald-News in New Jersey.
He had written about the murders and interviewed Carter in prison
in 1975. Deal later moved to Florida where he worked with me
at the late Miami News, and then at The Herald in Broward.
When The Hurricane came out last December, Deal was outraged
at its inaccuracies and at the TV talk shows that glorified Carter
as a hero.Film critics were accepting without question the film's
premise: That Carter was an innocent man who served 19 years
in prison for murders he did not commit because he was framed
by a racist New Jersey cop.
So Deal started a controversial Web site -- www.graphicwitness.com/carter
-- to offer another view. It contains court and police documents,
newspaper articles, photos and more.
He also won the support and added the voices of key witnesses
and relatives of the murder victims. The Web site grew to 150
pages, including his No Oscar statement.
In early January, I took Deal and three other people who had
been involved in the case to view the movie and then wrote about
their reactions.They strongly attacked the film's credibility
and insisted that Carter was guilty. They noted that no court
ever found Carter not guilty of the murders, or found that the
police had framed him.
The popular Drudge Report on the Internet linked to The Herald's
story,which included Deal's Web site, and an avalanche began.
Soon, Deal said, he was inundated with ``thousands of e-mails''
from the United States, Canada,Australia and elsewhere.
Later, The Los Angeles Times would credit that Herald story,
as well as one in The New York Times, with first questioning
the film's integrity and endangering its Oscar chances.
Deal was invited to do more than 40 radio, TV and newspaper
interviews,including The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian
Science Monitor,Polish Daily News, Irish Times, London Telegraph,
Court TV, Fox News Network, BBC, Dick Cavett show, Playboy.com
He helped to arrange protests in Hollywood and New York, and
created a No Oscar ad to run in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter.
Both refused to publish it. ``We believe they were pressured
by Universal,'' Deal says.In the end, the rejected ads did not
Deal watched on TV as Denzel Washington sat glumly while the
Oscar went to Kevin Spacey. Deal recalls: ``I felt relieved and
a sense of satisfaction, but no joy. There is nothing happy about
any of this.''
The next morning, Deal received among his many e-mails this
one from Reid Collins, a former CNN and CBS news correspondent:
``More than anybody in this grim and grimy business, you have
helped restore the adage that `one man can make a difference.' ''