WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating death threats against Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald, after a column he wrote about black-on-white crime triggered a furor on white supremacist Web sites.
Days after The Herald published Pitts' column, Overthrow.com posted his address, his home phone number and his wife's name. Several other white supremacist Internet sites followed suit, and one gave directions to his house along with a satellite image of the neighborhood.
Pitts said that none of the threats was specific and that "nobody has come to the house." However, he said, someone leafleted his neighborhood with a flier attacking him for the column.
Pitts has received dozens of hostile phone calls at his home and about 400 e-mails, said Dave Wilson, the Herald's managing editor for news.
"An unsettling number of those were threats," Wilson said. The messages, which ranged widely in gravity, included death threats, he said.
Wilson said he'd tried to prevent the incident from escalating by sending an e-mail to Bill White, the site editor for Overthrow.com, asking him to delete Pitts' address and phone number.
He said White replied: "We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts' personal information. Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom."
Reached in Roanoke, Va., where Overthrow.com is based, White said he's 30 years old and is the "commander" of the American National Socialist Workers Party, which aspires to build a nation "modeled on the German Third Reich." He said the group has about 280 contributors.
Told that the FBI is investigating the threats, White said: "I haven't encouraged anybody to do it, but it doesn't bother me one bit ... Law enforcement doesn't care. We have a controversy like this about every two or three months. They don't waste their time contacting me anymore."
Overthrow.com includes such headlines as, "Hate threats in Peoria: Continuing Fun With Jews And Reds" and "Black College Students Are A 'Zoological' Oddity."
Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the FBI's North Miami office, said the bureau "is investigating," but she declined to comment further. Wilson said that an FBI agent had interviewed several employees of The Herald, The McClatchy Co.'s largest newspaper.
Pitts' June 3 column challenged the claims of white supremacists that the recent murders of a white couple in Knoxville, Tenn., reflected a surge in racially motivated violence by African-Americans against whites.
Five African-Americans have been arrested, but Pitts emphasized that the killings weren't being investigated as a hate crime, and he rejected the groups' contention that black-on-white crime is underreported.
Pitts also wrote that African-Americans and Latinos "are underrepresented in news media as victims of crime and significantly overrepresented as perpetrators, based on crime statistics."
Pitts, who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, closed by offering four words to white Americans who feel victimized: "Cry me a river."