GOP Politician Threatens Journo; Newspaper Publicly Mocks Him

In Depth

Republican politicians, especially low-level ones long on the crazy but short on PR teams telling them how stupid they would look if they displayed said crazy, do goofy, hilarious shit all the time. Rarely, however, does the target of their goofy, hilarious shit respond in a way that slyly obliterates them with unrestrained snark. Earlier today, Frederick, Maryland’s Frederick News-Post did just that.

First, a little bit of background: Frederick is Maryland’s second-largest city (which is a statement that will never stop being hilarious to me on the face of it), and it’s a bit of an odd duck. The city proper is, like most cities (and pseudo-cities), quite liberal, but when you leave the city limits, Frederick County turns into rural Alabama with startling rapidity. Unfortunately, this means that frequently, total lunatic conservatives get elected to positions of power within Frederick City itself. The funny part is that they then have to deal with the actual sane people in Frederick proper, including pesky journalists who do things like ask them questions about why they are so crazy. The case of Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter is no exception.

The incident at hand started when Delauter apparently became angry at the Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers for, and I swear I am not making this up, using his name in an article about him without his permission, as well as having the temerity (and journalistic integrity) to call him for a comment on said article, and posted a facebook rant about it (linking Rodgers directly). In Delauter’s world, a journalist is not allowed to report on a public figure’s action’s unless the public figure tells them they can do so, and Delauter was already miffed at an article Rodgers’ had written about him during the election campaign. Among other things, he accused her of having no credibility. I swear to God this really happened.

Rodgers responded on Facebook with a frankly startling amount of grace, pointing out that a) there is no requirement to have a public official’s permission in order to write about their public affairs, b) journalists have a responsibility to report on public officials, and c) that it’s a journalistic principle to call people involved in an article for comment, even if they’ve told you not to. Delauter’s response was, and I’m quoting here, “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney. Your rights stop where mine start” (emphasis mine).

From what I can tell from Delauter’s Facebook page, the post has either been made private or deleted, but thanks to the magic of the internet, there exists a screenshot of the whole thing via the Washington Post:

Predictably, this backfired. In the words of The Vane‘s Dennis Mersereau, “They should require learning about the Streisand Effect before graduating high school.” This case was no exception to the notion that attempting to suppress information (in this case, Kirby Delauter’s actual name) only makes it show up a lot more. First, there was the linked WaPo piece, and then, just after midnight this morning, the FNP responded to Delauter by posting an editorial (with a byline attributed to the Editorial Board as a whole) titled “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter.”

Just wait, it gets funnier from here.

This is so good, you guys. I want to frame this article and preserve it for all time as a truly glorious example of journalists failing to give even a semblance of a fuck about the unhinged rantings of a colossally stupid manbabby. The Frederick News-Post, the paper of record for Frederick, Maryland, basically posted a big ol’ middle finger to Kirby Delauter, using his name 27 times over the course of the article (including footnoting to “Kirby Delauter” at the end of the article, which was a particularly nice touch, and the number is 28 if you count the fact that the first letter of each paragraph spells out “Kirby Delauter,” as astute Kinja user OregonBeast points out). The high water mark might be this paragraph:

In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?

Although I’m also partial to the paragraph where the Frederick News-Post starts proposing alternate solutions to using Kirby Delauter’s name:

Yet we could take the low road down even further and childishly mangle “Kirby Delauter” into references you, the reader, would still understand. “Sherbert Deluder,” say. Or “Derby Kelauter.” “Shirley Delaughter” (and don’t call me Shirley). We found a great automatic online anagrammer that generated all kinds of alternatives and could make it a challenge for our readers to decode each time we have to reference the councilman: “Rebuked artily.” That was a good one. “Bakery diluter” is just silly but does have a ring about it. “Keyed rural bit” was another that caught our eye as somewhat telling, because Kirby Delauter’s pretty keyed up. We’re sure there’s a joke in “Brutelike Yard” somewhere.

The FNP then makes absolutely clear that they will not bow to Delauter’s “petty intimidation tactics,” and make it just as transparent that Delauter’s idea of the US legal code (one in which “freedom of the press” is a non-existent concept) is patently absurd. Seriously, read the whole thing; it’s the most fantastic newspaper editorial I’ve read in years.

On a personal note, I am fully aware that this story had nothing to do with food, but as a former Frederick resident and an unabashed lover of smartassery, I could not possibly resist writing about it. I salute you, Bethany Rodgers and the Frederick News-Post. Fantastically well-played.

Screencap via Facebook.

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