Liberia: Mr. Stanton Witherspooon, You Have A Friend in Ben, But If You Do Not Want Betrayal, Find A Friend Like Me
By Amos Songor (ASONGOR@AOL.COM)
Oh, how time flies and how fleeting life itself is! In my over a half century of life, I have seen people rise and fall from stardom but not as quickly, far-reaching and effective as Stanton Witherspoon. While this may be an anomaly, especially within the Liberian community, it can happen to anyone—a good, kind-hearted, people loving, country loving, and, of course, family loving man falling from grace in a matter of days in real time. But before I delve into what I want to say here, let me give a brief history of how Mr. Stanton Alexander Witherspoon, the sole owner of Spoon Network and its most popular show, Spoon Talk, emerged on the political and social radar within the Liberian community.
THE BEGINNING OF SPOON TALK
Liberia’s premier radio and internet show, Spoon Talk, emerged in 2020 during the height of the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic here in the United States. During those days, many people in this country were working from home while millions of others were out of jobs. For the most part, we were all more worried about the dead bodies being loaded onto extra freezers than we thought about going to work. Freezers were brought in to compensate for the full morgues throughout the country. While I do not remember the exact day or month, it was then that Spoon Talk debuted. I discovered the Facebook platform while scouring the internet for content, especially anything related to Liberia.
On my first day watching Spoon Talk, I remember seeing three strange guys with a Liberian accent discussing COVID 19 and its effects both in the United States and Liberia. Those men were Stanton A. Witherspoon, Henry Peabody, and, of course, the no-nonsense, rambunctious, and self-styled reverend, Mr. Charles Levi Martin. During those days, there was little or no politics discussed on the platform. But as time went by and more Liberians started to tune in, political tentacles began to emerge on the now popular platform. Then invited guests began to participate, and subsequently, the now infamous panelists also came on board when Levi Martin exited the scene for being muted on the show by the CEO.
THE INFAMOUS TETRAD PANELISTS AND THEIR IMPACT
The tetrad (four) panelists, Benjamin Sanvee, Timolin George, Henry Peabody and the now famous CDC fanatic Keff Hassan have had an impact on the show, no doubt. And of course, the lone, smart female educator on the show, Dr. Francien C. Richardson, has had an impact as well. She’s well mannered, articulate and passionate about her beliefs. She is an unapologetic believer in the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and yet she facilitates others to express their views as well.
STANTON ALEXANDER WITHERSPOON, THE CEO AND TALK-SHOW HOST
The CEO himself, Stanton Witherspoon, is a naturally gifted talk show host. I wonder why he chose a different career path! The young man makes something politically interesting out of nothing. Watch what you say on Spoon Talk when Witherspoon is on the microphone, he will catch your verbal misspeaks and capitalize on them. Truth be told, he did that to everyone regardless of the individual’s political leaning. In fact up to this date, it is difficult for one to tell Stanton’s political leaning. The first talk of the town about him was that he was a CDCian incognito, but when he bashed the CDC led government in recent times, others said he was in the ANC camp. To many others, he is for old man Boakai and the Unity Party. Not surprisingly then, Stanton Witherspoon has created quite a phenomenon in a relatively short span of time.
On January 25, 2023, the United States Department of Justice announced fraud charges against Mr. Witherspoon and 24 others in the Southern District of Florida. He and the others were accused of selling fake nursing diplomas to people who did not complete the required courses. Mr. Witherspoon has pleaded not guilty to the charges, however. Meanwhile, this case against the CEO has not only generated division among Liberians both home and abroad based on their political leaning, it has also exposed the hatred, jealousy, and yet love that we Liberians have for one another, especially when wealth or money is involved. As I write this article, there are talk shows that are thriving, breathing and salivating on the downfall of this young man. Let me be the first to say that I am by no means condoning or cherishing what Stanton is accused of, by no means. These accusations are grievous and horrible, yet they are accusations and not convictions. So for any Liberian to make himself or herself because of the young man’s sudden fall from grace is a confirmation of the old adage that Liberians hate one another.
STANTON, YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN BEN BUT IF YOU DO NOT WANT BETRAYAL, FIND A FRIEND LIKE ME!
When the charges against Witherspoon were announced, everyone was in shock and it happened while the CEO was celebrating his wife’s birthday. Bad timing, wasn’t it? Mr. Witherspoon has since been off the most popular Liberian talk show except for snippets of appearances during which he makes announcements or thanks the panelists. One of such appearances occurred on the evening of February 17, a Friday evening like no other. As Dr. Richardson was moderating the show ably and proudly with a seemingly unaffected viewership numbering close to 5k, the mostly cherished CEO came on and announced the departure of the show’s most controversial panelist Keff Hassan. Little did he know, at least from my perspective, that there was a machete being primed to figuratively stab him in the back. Aye mehn!!!! Imagine the stab coming from someone or people who ate, flew in business class, lodged in the most expensive hotel in Liberia, traveled to Florida, Georgia and other states, took vacations, and most importantly, gained fame all from your sweat, labor and generosity! May Jehovah God forbid this, but isn’t this something that carries people to the grave early, being betrayed by your very own? Doesn’t this kill people or at the very least gives one a heart attack, stroke or depression? May that NEVER be the case with the Liberian people’s CEO!
Yes, minutes after Stanton’s announcement and the subsequent end of the Spoon Talk for the day 21, a Facebook feed appeared featuring the Chairman, Ben Sanvee. Writing on behalf of the quaternate panelists, Ben said that they have left the Spoon Talk due to internal disagreement. But wait, folks, the CEO had just announced a few minutes ago that he spoke with Ben Sanvee a day ago and Ben assured him that he was working on a schedule to return to the show. This is the same Ben that has just commandeered a panelist team of four into quitting the most popular show in the middle of a crisis, yes a crisis that has reduced the once generous employer of many Liberians into heartache and pain. And now to crown it all, those that thrived off of his sweat have dashed him, with Benjamin Sanvee leading the group according to my own analysis. Prior to their appearances on the Spoon Talk, how many people knew Dr. Peabody, Tomalin George, the politically notorious Keff Hassan, or even Ben Sanvee? The only Sanvee I ever heard about or knew was a lady that worked at a Beer Factory, although I do not know if they are related.
THE PAIN AND ANGUISH RESULTING FROM WITHERSPOON’S FALL
The CEO Witherspoon may think that the case against him affects him alone, but the truth is that it has a far-reaching impact than he knows. Having impacted the social, political and humanitarian aspects of the suffering Liberian people, it goes without saying that many in and out of our country are spending sleepless nights thinking and praying for Stanton. As for me, I cried for two days in bewilderment when I first heard about this case. My wife almost did not go to work on Saturday because she was crying all night for Stanton, she didn’t sleep. Suffice it to say that there are many others going through the same ordeal simply because of the impact that Stanton Alexander Witherspoon has made to Liberia and its people. As I said earlier, this is no endorsement of what he’s accused of, but for Ben and the trio to leave Witherspoon, desert him, I think that’s a better phrase, in the middle of an upheaval such as this after benefiting from his sweat immensely is a heart wrenching blow. It is indeed a killer!
MY OPINION ON THE SCENARIO
My gut feeling is that, having considered what is happening to Stanton Witherspoon after his indictment, and particularly as it relates to the former four panelists led by Ben Sanvee, I would say to Mr. Witherspoon that “you have a friend in Ben, but find a friend like me if you do not want betrayal”.
Who knew that Judas would betray Jesus? Who knew that Keff Hassan would leave Spoon talk at the behest of his master in the middle of a turmoil affecting the CEO? Who knew that Peabody, who helped create the show, would exit the platform during the period when his good-old friend needs him the most? Who knew that Tomalin, a former CDCian who reunited with President George Weah through the dime, nickel, penny and sweat of Witherspoon, would trash him out in the middle of this quagmire? Who ever gave consideration to the fact that Chairman Ben, the once chairman of Liberty Party who recently declared on Spoon Talk that it was the show that offered him the opportunity to regain his political voice, the man who only few in Liberia knew a few months back, the young man who was introduced into the political scene by former President Charles Taylor, a notorious killer currently serving life imprisonment in the Hague, a Sanvee who publicly acknowledged taking a loan from the Liberian taxpayers’ money that he never paid back, a young man who traveled to Liberia in business class for the first time in his 40 year life through the generosity of Mr. Witherspoon, a man who recently dined and spent a day with President Weah and flew with Vice President Jowel Taylor to another African country, a student trying to gain traction in the United States, would become the lead betrayer of the Liberian people’s CEO?
Again, let me repeat that if Mr. Witherspoon is guilty of what he’s accused of, the law will take its course. I am in no way supporting criminality. However, running away from a friend when he most needs your support is savagery, cruelty, evil, wickedness, selfishness, and such a person is an ingrate. At the very least, wait until a friend is convicted before you make such a rash decision. But even if, and if a friend is convicted, supporting him through the ordeal does not amount to supporting his behavior. In fact, being on Spoon Talk does not mean that you support Witherspoon. All it indicates is that you are impacting the Liberian people through your coverage of important issues and offering your opinions as well.
In all honesty Mr. Witherspoon, you have a friend in Ben, but if you do not want betrayal find a friend like me, Amos Songor.