Published Monday, April 3, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Ex-reporter rains
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 and MSNBC.

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 matter.
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.' ''