How the Coeur d’Alene Press broke the Dolezal story

How the Coeur d’Alene Press broke the Dolezal story

Rachel Dolezal, the white Spokane civil rights leader who was caught masquerading as a black woman, has now resigned as president of the NAACP. Her tale of using disguises to lead a double life has made international news but actually got it’s start as a story in the Coeur d’Alene Press.

That story was broken by veteran reporter Jeff Selle at the Coeur d’Alene Press, where his editors were worried that a rash of hate crimes Dolezal was reporting in Coeur d’Alene might not be legitimate. When Dolezal told police the same type of racial harassment was happening after she moved to Spokane, KXLY and the Coeur d’Alene Press decided to take a closer look.

“I got all of the police reports she had filed in Coeur d’Alene, found out none of them were actually resolved and a lot of them were pretty curious,” Selle said.

Selle was also curious about rumblings he had heard that Dolezal wasn’t even African American, especially after she posted pictures of an African American man Dolezal claimed was her father.

“We started finding all sorts of things that didn’t add up. We laid it all out on a table and took a look at it and said we got a story here,” Selle said.

A story that might not have been relevant if not for the fact that Dolezal was rising to the top of the civil rights movement here in Spokane and continuing to report to police that she had been the victims of new hate crimes.

“You know when they’re using a false premise to achieve greatness and power I think it’s our job as watchdogs to point that out,” Selle said.

The day before Selle published his story I asked Dolezal questions about the man she claimed to be her dad.

“Are you African American,” I asked.

“I don’t understand the question … I did tell you that yes that’s my dad,” Dolezal said.

Dolezal stuck to her story giving Selle an answer to his.

“That really helped to validate my story, having her acknowledge that a picture of Albert Wilkerson was actually her father and to get that lie on the record was spectacular,” Selle said.

Selle’s work on this story helped set the record straight about someone who had made it seem North Idaho’s hate crimes were making a comeback when they really are not.