Myth # 14

It seems that nearly everyone supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal has, at one time or another, stated that he is an “award-winning journalist”. The cover of the paperback version of his book, “Live From Death Row”, states that Jamal was the recipient of the Peabody Award, a very prestigious broadcast journalism award presented by the University of Georgia.

Jamal’s supporters allege that he was a prominent reporter in Philadelphia who was on a crusade to expose police abuse and governmental corruption throughout the city. Therefore, they contend, Philadelphia’s Police Department and its Mayor, Frank Rizzo, “targeted Mumia Abu-Jamal” and framed him for the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner.



If one spends enough time around Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters they will hear incredible stories of his prowess and exploits as a journalist in 1981. These stories are told with the intention of conjuring up an image of the crusading “voice of the voiceless” who constantly dogged police officials and Mayor Rizzo, constantly embarrassing them by exposing one wrongdoing after another. However, if one looks to articles written about and by Mumia Abu-Jamal in the late 1970s they will find that the truth about his journalistic career is something else all together.

It is easy to find articles written after the murder of Officer Faulkner in which Jamal’s friends and colleagues gush about his talent. It is equally difficult to find any record of his actual work. One would expect that if an individual reporter were consistently exposing rampant misconduct by the Police, the Mayor, and various other city officials, that person’s name would regularly appear in the news. Yet, an internet search on Jamal prior to December 9, 1981, reveals that his name appeared in just one article that had nothing to do with exposing corruption and wrong-doing. When asked to produce copies of reports exposing Police abuse from Jamal’s body of work, he, his attorney and his followers are unable to produce anything concrete. Instead, their one and only example of Jamal’s journalistic prowess seems to be this: Mayor Frank Rizzo once said to a group of reporters that he was displeased with the way they were attacking him in their reports, and Jamal’s supporters insist that Rizzo was “looking right at” Jamal when he said this.

Despite what is claimed on the cover of his book, Jamal has never won a Peabody Award. Though he did win a local media award for his part in a group effort on a report that dealt with social issues in Philadelphia (not police abuse), the simple fact is that Jamal has never won any prestigious award for journalism.



The mythology that Jamal was a talented reporter exposing corruption in Philadelphia is meant to support the paranoid notion that the Mayor and/or the police “targeted” Jamal and framed him for a murder because he had exposed their wrongdoing. There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory. In fact, at the time he committed the murder Jamal was not a journalist anymore, and could scarcely have been called one to begin with.

There is no doubt that, prior to January 1981, Jamal worked at numerous local radio stations in Philadelphia as a part time reporter, and broadcast various spots that aired on the local National Public Radio affiliate there. There is also no doubt that Jamal had a small but loyal local audience. Several prospective jurors were peremptorily challenged by the prosecutor, apparently because they had listened to Jamal on the radio. But by all legitimate accounts, Jamal’s reports were not news reporting. They dealt with his personal perceptions of social issues. Further, he was not the crusader against police abuse that his followers and attorneys make him out to be. The social issues Jamal chose to discuss simply did not include those subjects.

Further, by the time he shot Officer Faulkner to death Jamal had not worked as a journalist for nearly a year. His manager at WUHY has repeatedly told reporters that he fired Mumia Abu-Jamal in January 1981 — nearly a year before the Faulkner murder. In HBO’s 1996 documentary, “A Case for Reasonable Doubt”, Jamal himself admits that he was not working as a reporter when he was arrested. He acknowledges that he was driving a cab, “to make ends meet.”

To further discredit the notion that Jamal was “targeted” by police, it is indisputable that the eyewitnesses who would have been integral to any “frame up” of Jamal gave their signed statements to police within an hour of the murder. These same witnesses gave the same version of events to reporters that morning. (Their accounts can be found in a report published in the evening edition of the Philadelphia Daily News published on December 9,1982). For Jamal’s allegation that he was targeted for a frame up because of his reportage of police abuse to be true, it would have required the police to manufacture consistent stories that incriminated Jamal by four different individuals, within minutes of the killing. This idea seems even more implausible in that there is absolutely no evidence that the arresting officers even had any idea who Jamal was.



On the cover of his book, Jamal announces that he is a Peabody Award winner. The Peabody, awarded yearly by the University of Georgia, is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a broadcast journalist. While doing research on this case, reporters from ABC News contacted officials at the University of Georgia to verify that Jamal had, in fact, received a Peabody Award for his work in broadcast journalism. University officials told ABC that someone had once submitted some of Jamal’s work for consideration, but that Mumia Abu-Jamal had never won the award.

In April 1998, ABC News ran a story about the San Francisco Bay area “free Mumia” movement on their affiliate, KGO-TV. Jamal’s false claim of having been given a Peabody was mentioned in the report. Jamal’s lawyer, Leonard Weinglass, blamed the misinformation on the cover of his client’s book on Jamal’s publicist. Though the paperback version of “Live From Death Row” had been on the shelves for months before ABC ran their piece, Weinglass claimed that both he and Jamal were completely unaware of the Peabody claim. Weinglass further alleged, that upon conferring with Jamal’s publicist, it was determined that the wrong award had “accidentally” been submitted to Jamal’s publisher prior to the book going to print.

While all of this may be true, the fact remains that it was not until after ABC News ran their investigative report, and we displayed it on our web site, that there was any public acknowledgement of the false statement on Jamal’s book. It stands to reason that Jamal must have seen a copy of his own book prior to its release. It thus appears that, had ABC not exposed it, Jamal and his publisher would have been happy to permit the falsehood to go uncorrected, since it so conveniently supported the myth that the establishment was out to “get” Jamal.

Admittedly, this incident has nothing to do with Jamal’s guilt or innocence. And by displaying this information we will undoubtedly be portrayed as mudslingers by Jamal and his supporters. However, we feel that it is important to address this matter and expose it as yet another example of the deceit, which is regularly employed by Mumia Abu-Jamal, his attorney and his supporters.

Latest News



Without the support of Justice for Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, the Faulkner family – and specifically Maureen – could not afford to keep up the vigilant fight.