Kirby Delauter has had his name on the ballot. He has his own website – kirbydelauter.com. But he doesn’t want to see his name in the newspaper.
The Frederick County, Maryland, councilman has threatened to sue his local newspaper if they dare put his name on their pages without his permission.
“Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney,” the Republican official told a Frederick News-Post reporter in a Facebook post that’s been ridiculed on the Internet and by the newspaper.
“I just don’t know how to respond to a request that stupid,” Terry Headlee, managing editor of the 33,000 daily circulation newspaper, told The Associated Press on Tuesday in a telephone interview.
The News-Post said in an online editorial Tuesday that the First Amendment prevents Kirby from blocking publication of his name. The editorial drove home the point with its headline: “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter.” And the first letter of each paragraph spelled out: K-I-R-B-Y-D-E-L-A-U-T-E-R.
Mocking messages filled Twitter with the hashtag #kirbydelauter, which was trending among the top 10 most popular subjects in the U.S. on Tuesday evening.
Delauter, a general contractor, didn’t respond to telephone and email messages. News-Post county government reporter Bethany Rodgers – who was the subject of Delauter’s ire – tweeted that the councilman didn’t mention his sudden notoriety during opening comments at a council meeting Tuesday.
Delauter had objected to a recent story by Rodgers that said Delauter shared another councilman’s concern about a shortage of reserved parking spaces for councilmembers at the county office building. Delauter wrote in his Facebook post that he had refused to be interviewed for the story because Rodgers had misrepresented his comments in the past.
This isn’t the first time Delauter’s quick temper and belligerent style have brought him unflattering attention during his four years as a county official. He stormed out of a board meeting in 2012 after telling a county staff member, “I’m not going to sit here and be talked to like some punk because I’m asking questions.” Rodgers reported last year that Delauter called another board member a “moron” for disagreeing with him on an issue.
Headlee said it’s the newspaper’s job to hold elected officials accountable by name for their words and deeds.
“If he doesn’t want to be held accountable, he needs to seriously consider whether he’s cut out to serve the public,” Headlee said.
Even if Delauter does sue, a lawsuit wouldn’t likely go far.
Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law at the University of California in Los Angeles, wrote online Tuesday: “In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.