A Black Thing: What We Learned From The Father Of Fani Willis

A Black Thing: What We Learned From The Father Of Fani Willis

John C. Floyd III

What did we learn from the testimony of John C. Floyd III at last Friday's hearing in Georgia? Floyd, the father of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, was called by prosecutors defending Willis from charges that she has a conflict of interest in her prosecution of 19 defendants, including Donald Trump, that he led a “criminal racketeering enterprise” to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

One of Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, a campaign aide to Trump, alleged that Willis had a personal relationship with Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor Willis had hired to help in the prosecution of Trump and his co-defendants. Roman charged that Willis benefitted financially from the personal relationship with Wade and should be disqualified from prosecuting the case against them.

Floyd was called to testify about what he knew of his daughter’s relationship with Wade, which wasn’t much, and to knock down insinuations by Roman and others that the fact Willis repaid her paramour Wade in cash for her part of several trips they shared, including travel to Belize and the Caribbean island of Aruba, was suspect. Willis and Wade were questioned skeptically about the arrangement yesterday by lawyers for defendants who seemed to be implying that their use of cash, rather than checks, implied a coverup of an illicit arrangement that benefitted Willis.

Floyd finally put an end to the insinuations that Willis could not possibly have had enough cash to repay Wade for luxury travel. He explained that he had counseled his daughter to always keep a good deal of cash on hand and turned to address the judge and said, “I’m not trying to be racist, your honor, but it’s a Black thing. I was trained, and most Black folks, they hide cash or they keep cash, and I was trained you always keep some cash. I gave my daughter her first cash box and told her, ‘Always keep some cash.’”

Floyd went on to tell a story about being out to lunch with his wife and young daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while he was taking a course at Harvard, and having a restaurant refuse to accept his American Express card, another credit card, or the American Express Travelers Checks he offered to pay with. He said he had to pay the $9.51 check with a ten dollar bill from his wallet. He explained that he told his daughter to always take cash with her when she went out on a date with a man in case something happened and she wanted to leave.

Lawyers for Roman and other defendants pressed Floyd on the time he spent living in his daughter’s new house in the Atlanta area. They seemed to be implying that because he lived alone in the house, Willis’ absence was evidence that she was “co-habiting” with Wade, an allegation that defendant Roman has made publicly.

Floyd told the lawyers that his daughter moved out of the house because of protests against her at the home that began shortly after she was sworn in as district attorney in 2021. He said he had called police to Willis’ house in February of 2021 because protesters were standing outside shouting “the B-word and the N-word.” He said racist graffiti had been sprayed on the house, which he cleaned off before Willis could see it. He said Willis had had to move at least four times because of death threats. He was asked if he knew where she was living each time she moved, and he said no, that he didn’t want to know “in case somebody held a gun to my head and asked me.”

It bears noting that the questioning of Willis and Wade yesterday about what in any other circumstance would be considered an office romance, and the questioning of Floyd today about the relationship between a Black father and a Black daughter who followed him into the practice of law, racism wasn’t the subtext, it was the text. At one point, when Floyd was asked why he had moved out of a house he owned, the lawyer questioning him pursued the line of inquiry until Floyd was forced to explain that he had “lost” his house in a dispute with a reverse mortgage company.

The questions were clearly an attempt to humiliate Floyd, as were other questions about why he had lived in his daughter’s house while not owning a home of his own. At one point, Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, asked if he was in Georgia “every day” of the years 2019 and 2020. That question, and many others she asked, had no bearing on the allegations that gave rise to the hearing.

The allegation that Willis had somehow benefitted financially from her private relationship with a lawyer she had hired to work in her office was a page right out of the Donald Trump playbook, that everything in life is transactional and performative, because there is no such thing as acting on real feelings.

It is a measure of how pathetic and meanspirited and racist our politics has become that the hearing in Georgia even took place.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

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