For the past few days, since a news story of mine was published on Monday, I have been bombarded with dozens of daily e-mails from Republicans calling me a liar, demanding I be fired, and insisting on a retraction.
The grumbling arose partially because my editor took a small part of my story and made it into a headline: "GOP lawyer sold on Dems." Reporters don't write headlines, editors do. And they want to write something catchy so readers will read the darned story.
The story was not about the GOP lawyer; it was about the speeches five Democratic presidential candidates gave to a convention of trial lawyers (those two words "trial lawyers" also make Republicans crazy) last Sunday. As reporters usually do, I asked two attendees after the session what they thought about the speeches.
One of the men I interviewed, Jim Ronca, identified himself as a disgruntled Republican, fed up with the Bush White House, who was going to give his vote and money to Democrats. In my story I called him a "staunch Republican." His wife was standing by his side, and so was a friend, a Democrat from New York, Ted Oshman, neither of whom disputed Ronca's description of himself as a Republican.
Oshman added during our interview that he could "not eliminate one of" the Democrats, they all spoke so well. That line ended up in a subhead on the story.
After the story was published, some Republicans posted to right-wing Web sites the two headlines and the two paragraphs quoting Ronca.
And so the madness began.
Industrious partisans, upset that anyone calling himself a Republican could possibly think of supporting the Democrats, decided to "investigate" Ronca, an attorney from Philadelphia. And what they found, they told me, was a long history of Ronca giving more money to Democrats than Republicans. (In fact, much of the money he donated to Democrats was after George W. Bush was elected.)
Richard Rentfrow sent a "notice" each day demanding I give him "Jim Ronca's GOP credentials" or he would "out" me to other papers and Web sites. After he sent me what he described as his "5th notice" he posted an e-mail decrying me as "a lying liberal Democrat girl reporter." Thank you Richard, at my age it's nice to be thought of as a girl.
"Is this a story or an editorial?" wrote Reg Fennell. "You know your "staunch Republican" is NOTHING OF THE SORT! You know he has a history of not supporting Republicans. Did you really believe this would go unnoticed or are you simply comfortable with intellectual dishonesty to your readers? Maybe you're just lazy and careless." Oh, Reg, calm down.
Here's another from Jeffery Cernekee: "It seems that you must be on the demorats [sic] payroll. Your claim that a prominent republican is changing his ways. Too bad the truth will come out and of course it did that he gave most of his money to the demorats [sic]. Will you please get you [sic] facts straight or quit reporting on things you do not have a clue about. . . . Do you have to lie to give the impression that people are leaving the republicans to vote for the demorats [sic]? How bush of you."
Karen Mango wrote: "Have you been fired yet for your lie about your trial lawyer/staunch republican turned democrat? Are you shamefaced for believing a TRIAL LAWYER??? I hope you finally did the research that the bloggers did with a google entry -- your Ronca has given to democrats all his life. He lied to you, and you printed it. You didn't research, you were salivating over going to print with an anti-republican story, and the truth never mattered. Don't fall back on the ''he said he was a staunch republican,'' because your article does not attribute his political stance as a quote, but as fact.
"I can't wait for your next article: All Trial Lawyers are Lying Jerks."
The final kicker for all you Republicans who read my column with a magnifying glass is a press release issued Wednesday: "One of Chicago's key Republican fund-raisers, CME Group Executive Chairman Terry Duffy today announced that he is endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for the 2008 election."
Duffy says he intends to remain a registered Republican.
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....And The Truth Shall Set Us Free