Carnival of Sorts: Wyclef Denies Journo Attack

Wyclef Jean denies threatening New York music critic

August 14, 1998 12:00 AM ET

Hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean staunchly denies reports that he pointed a pistol at the editor of an upstart urban magazine titled Blaze last month in New York.

The editor, Jesse Washington, claims that the Fugees member threatened him with a gun after reading an unfavorable Canibus review scheduled to appear in the premier issue of Blaze, due out this month. Wyclef, who produced the Can-I-Bus album, refuted Washington's statement Friday and suggested that the former Associated Press assistant bureau chief made the allegation in order to publicize his magazine.

"I'm very proud of what I have accomplished as a writer and a producer in the hip-hop community," Wyclef said in a prepared statement. "I don't preach violence, and anyone who knows me knows that I carry a guitar, not a gun. I attack with my pen, not a pistol. I'm all about making music. The editor of Blaze is all about selling magazines."

Washington says he will not press charges and decided not to print the controversial review, but insists his accusation was not politically or economically charged.

"I would never fabricate something for the sake of sales, especially something of this magnitude," Washington said Friday. "I'm not going to put my career in jeopardy at the launch of the magazine by making false accusations against Wyclef. I'm a journalist."

Washington has written a letter to his readers stating that Wyclef threatened bodily harm if he printed a negative review of Can-I-Bus. He said he wrote the missive, which will be printed in the magazine's debut issue, because Blaze needed to explain why it was not printing the long-awaited Canibus story. That album critique was based on an unfinished copy of the rapper's upcoming album, and Wyclef reportedly insisted that Blaze wait for the finished copy.

According to USA Today, Washington's letter reads, in part: "I'm sitting in a conference room at the Hit Factory studios [in New York], sunk deep into a leather swivel chair. A 9-millimeter pistol is pointed at my chest. At the trigger end of the gun barrel stands platinum artist Wyclef, tipsy off the vodka. He's heated."

Washington claims that Wyclef taped the entire conversation in question, and that numerous people witnessed the altercation. "It makes me laugh to hear people say this didn't happen," he says. "If I'm not telling the truth, why doesn't he sue me for libel?"

A spokesman for Wyclef scoffs at Washington's report, asserting that the Fugee would never threaten anyone with violence. "'Clef doesn't own a gun; he doesn't need one," he says. "He has a bodyguard named Beast, who's much more impacting than a gun. He looks like a Samoan biker."

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