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7 Jan, 2015 20:32

​Maryland lawmaker’s name goes viral after threatening local paper

​Maryland lawmaker’s name goes viral after threatening local paper

A Maryland lawmaker largely unknown outside of the region has become the focus of internet onslaught – and an accidental online celebrity – after he threatened a local newspaper because they wrote about him without permission.

Kirby Delauter, a Republican council member elected to represent a southern part of the state inhabited with more than a half-million constituents, is now making headlines – and more than likely much to his chagrin – after vowing to do what the managing editor of a local paper called “pointless,” “misguided,” and “so ridiculously stupid” that he wasn’t sure how to respond.

The latest drama surrounding the Frederick County, MD politician started over the weekend when Delauter complained on Facebook about a recent article in the local News-Post in which a journalist reported on the lawmaker without apparently asking permission.

Delauter said he was upset with reporter Bethany Rodgers for “an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article,” the paper reported on Monday this week, prompting him to announce to his social network audience:

“So let me be clear............do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future.”

Rodgers was quick to counter back in a Facebook comment: “First of all, there is no requirement to get a person's authorization in order to mention them in the paper, particularly if that person is an elected official.”

“It is not just our right but our responsibility to report on people like you, who occupy positions of trust in our government, and I make no apologies for doing that.”

According to the News-Post, Delauter responded publicly with a warning: “Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an Attorney.”

“Kirby Delauter can certainly decline to comment on any story," managing editor Terry Headlee said on Monday. "But to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I'm speechless.”

The News-Post editorial board wasn’t at a loss for words, however, and an op-ed published online by the paper on Tuesday – and the subsequent firestorm provoked by Delauter’s request – has propelled the councilman into the national spotlight.

Tuesday’s editorial, titled 'Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter,' evokes the councilman’s full name roughly 30 times, including in one instance achieved by way of an acrostic formed by taking the first letter from the nearly 1,000-word article’s satirical 13 paragraphs.

“Delauter's ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda,” the paper wrote in part. “Edifying as it may be to lapse into name calling -- and yes, we allowed ourselves a little childishness above and maybe a little bit below -- we need to make one serious point the councilman needs to hear and understand: We will not bow to petty intimidation tactics because a local politician thinks he can score political points with his base throwing around empty threats.”

“Uh, Council Member: In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avant-garde experiment, to be sure, but we’ve had some success with it,” legal blogger Eugene Volokh wrote for the Washington Post on Tuesday.

In addition to the Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, NPR, BBC, and MSNBC quickly became the more wide-reaching outlets to run with stories this week on Delauter’s unusual war over words with the News-Post, and that added attention helped the District 5 representative achieve viral status on Tuesday when his name started trending across the United States on Twitter.

Today is the day the Internet put its foot on Kirby Delauter's neck.

— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) January 6, 2015

“Today is the day the Internet put its foot on Kirby Delauter's neck,” DC-based journalist Jack Shafer tweeted on Tuesday.