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H-T steps over the line, Democrats run past it

By Scott Tibbs, August 15, 2006

Herald-Times editor Bob Zaltsberg addresses the controversy that followed an August 5 article by Kurt Van der Dussen on a County Council meeting prior to county budget hearings. Zaltsberg admits KVD made a mistake, but takes County Council Democrats to task as well.

First, there is no doubt that KVD made an error in judgment. He got information on a meeting he did not attend and did not verify the events before he reported it. However, one thing that I think this controversy illustrates is the Herald-Times has much higher standards when it comes to negative statements made about Democrats than when negative statements are printed about Republicans.

KVD has been reassigned; it has been a full week since an article with his byline has appeared in the paper. But what happened to Mike Leonard when he lied about Congressman John Hostettler's vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment? Was Leonard reassigned, and did Zaltsberg write a column about why dishonesty and intentional distortions will not be allowed by the Herald-Times? The answer to that question is an emphatic "no". This is not the only example of double standards at the H-T.

When I called in to the AM 1370 Afternoon Edition to bring up this point, Darryl Neher responded by said there are different standards for opinion columnists than for news reporters. This is true to some extent; a columnist attempts to influence opinion while a reporter theoretically offers an unbiased account of what happened at an event or meeting through attending the meeting or doing research on it. The columnist, however, is supposed to base his arguments on truth; Leonard's column was an intentional distortion of Congressman Hostettler's record in an attempt to smear Mike Sodrel. I do not expect opinion columnists to be unbiased, but I do expect them to tell the truth.

The hysterical reaction of the Democrats, however, is far worse than anything Van der Dussen did. Council president Sophia Travis allowed fellow "green" Democrat Mark Stoops to make a partisan and unproven allegation about Marty Hawk, but refused to allow Hawk to respond. In doing this, Travis attempted to effectively give Stoops a free campaign commercial at taxpayer expense. Travis should be ashamed of herself for this brazen abuse of power and misuse of taxpayer resources. Only the intervention of a county attorney stopped this abuse of power.

Two other callers to the Afternoon Edition made an excellent point regarding this tempest in a teapot. Mark Stoops, Sophia Travis and other Democrats are pointing their fingers at Van der Dussen in an attempt to distract from their own inept performance at the budget hearings. The fact of the matter is that Marty Hawk knew the numbers, while Sandy Newmann, the county Auditor, did not. Monroe County Democrats are making themselves look foolish in response to an article for which KVD apologized and was disciplined. They can only hide behind KVD's mistake for so long.