The Slatest

Paper Strikes Back Against Politician Threatening to Sue for Printing His Name—Kirby Delauter

Freedom of the printing press.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s a saying: There is no such thing as bad publicity. Kirby Delauter did not start this saying. The local councilman in Frederick, Maryland, believes there is a difference between good and bad press—so much so that he has gone to great, inadvertent lengths to prove it.

In Delauter’s world the press in question is The Frederick News-Post. Over the weekend the paper published a story about county politicians bickering over the allocation of parking spaces. Sentences like this were written by journalist Bethany Rodgers: Councilman Kirby Delauter, who is also a former commissioner, has joined [Councilman] Shreve in concern over parking for elected officials.” Grave concern over parking privileges was perhaps not the vibe Delauter was trying put out. So the Republican fired back on Facebook.

“Shame on Bethany Rodgers for an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article today,” Delauter wrote, apparently confusing the local paper with the Pirate Bay. “I did not return her call and did not authorize any use of my name or reference in her article.” Delauter then goes on a pretty standard politician rant: He accuses the reporter of generally having no morals or journalistic ability before this final flourish. “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start.”

The News-Post, as a newspaper does, covered the online dustup. Delauter did not comment. But the other parking crusader in the original story, Billy Shreve, backed his colleague’s call for legal action. “I did not see his post, but I think The News-Post is extremely biased and someone should sue them,” Shreve said.

The Frederick News-Post responded with a wry editorial skewering Delauter’s legal activism, titled “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter.”

Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right? … we wondered, if it’s not a joke, how should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can’t use his name (Kirby Delauter)? Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but “Kirby Delauter” repeated over and over again – Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter? OK, imagine we agreed because of temporary madness or something funny in the water that week, how would we reference “Kirby Delauter” and do our job as journalists without running afoul of our lack of authorization?

Blanks? Sure, we sometimes use hyphens in the case of expletives. Perhaps we could do that: “K—- D——-.” Or, perhaps, “Councilman [Unauthorized].” We giggled a bit more than we should have when we came up with “the Councilman Formerly Known as Commissioner Kirby Delauter,” which doesn’t seem as funny written down in black and white and includes his name, which defeats the point. Maybe we should just put his initials, “KD,” with an asterisk to a footnote (KD*), or refer to him as GLAT, the acronym for his campaign: “Govern Like A Taxpayer.” We could even make it sound a little hip-hop with a well-placed hyphen: G-Lat. Speaking of, could we get away with “K-Del”? Or we could simply go with the Harry Potter-esque “He Who Shall Not be Named.” (Cue the lightning strike and peal of thunder.) …

Enough. Seriously. What’s Kirby Delauter going to do? Sue everyone who’s making fun of him on Twitter using the #kirbydelauter hashtag, or on Facebook? Boy, his attorney will be able to retire off that.

You can read the whole editorial here.