Strip Your Letters retracts Blakeley racism allegations under threat of lawsuit
The Instagram account issued a statement retracting allegations toward the former Tri Sigma president after receiving a formal demand letter from her family’s attorney.
Oct. 16, 2020
The owners of the “Strip Your Letters Mizzou” Instagram page have retracted allegations of racist behavior by Sigma Sigma Sigma president Caitlin Blakely after receiving a demand letter from her family’s attorney.
MU junior Rachel Obenhaus and senior Hannah Holladay manage Strip Your Letters and sent a statement, along with the retraction, to The Maneater.
“The information we reported was provided to us by anonymous sources whom we believed reported these allegations to us in good faith,” part of the statement reads. “After receiving these allegations from the anonymous sources, we took no actions to independently verify whether they were true.”
The retraction followed a demand letter sent to Obenhaus and Holladay on Sept. 28 by John Sokatch, a Dallas commercial attorney. Sokatch sent a copy of the letter to The Maneater’s Editor-in-Chief, Caitlin Danborn.
In the since-deleted Instagram post, Strip Your Letters alleged Blakeley “has said many problematic things regarding racism,” including expressing support for keeping Confederate flags in Greek Town and displaying a dismissive attitude toward inclusion efforts. The Maneater reported on the post and Blakeley’s almost immediate resignation.
The demand letter included a screenshot of a message sent by an unidentified Sigma Sigma Sigma member to the sorority. The message alleged that Blakeley “terrorized” the sorority chapter while reiterating accusations made in the Strip Your Letters post.
While disputing the allegations, Sokatch called the Instagram post “wanton and reckless,” writing that it “forced” Blakeley’s family to obtain a lawyer.
Defending his client, Sokatch cited her GPA, status on the Dean’s List and absence of previous accusations as proof of Blakeley’s merit.
Sokatch offered context surrounding Blakeley’s remarks mentioned in the Instagram post:
“Blakeley, in a private conversation, actually stated that members of her Sorority (who are majority Caucasian) cannot ‘empathize’ with African Americans because, by definition, their personal experiences (as Caucasians) are dissimilar than those of African Americans, and that they could only and should sympathize with African Americans and the social injustices they presently face and have historically.”
The screenshotted private message in the demand letter alleged that Blakeley told sorority members they shouldn’t “sympathize with [B]lack people,” which contradicts the information provided by Sokatch.
Sokatch’s context also addressed Blakeley’s comments surrounding the Confederate flag’s presence in Greek Town:
“The allegations that Ms. Blakeley ‘supports the confederate flag’ stem from her communication to her chapter of PHA’s [Panhellenic Association] official stance on the removal of confederate flags from Mizzou’s Greektown. PHA’s official stance communicated to sorority presidents (including Ms. Blakeley) was that, while PHA sororities can and should advocate for [the] flag’s removal, the [PHA] cannot require such removal on private property. When Ms. Blakeley communicated this position of PHA to the members of the Sorority, she was, in turn, falsely accused of supporting the confederate flag.”
Immediately following the publication of Strip Your Letters’ post and her resignation, a Maneater reporter spoke with Blakeley multiple times via phone call and text message. Blakeley did not provide the context included in the letter, which arrived more than two weeks after she was contacted.
The Maneater has added a link to this story in each of its previous articles regarding allegations against Blakeley.
Edited by Hope Davis | firstname.lastname@example.org