Public service is supposed to be a noble calling, but running for office can bring out the worst in people.
In an editorial two weeks ago, this newspaper criticized campaign ads that slighted the incumbent sheriff as homophobic. The statement was a blatant lie and we said so.
Citing a half dozen affirmative outreaches and overtures to the LGBT community, we congratulated Al Lamberti's for being LGBT supportive. We said nothing bad about Scott Israel, a good and decent man who won a tough and bitter race last night. We simply wrote a few commendable things about Sheriff Lamberti, a Republican candidate in a Democratic county.
The Sun Sentinel picked up on the editorial, and political columnist Anthony Man wrote a weekend feature titled “Gay leader condemns attack on Lamberti,” citing my remarks. Unfortunately, the bitter campaign took a turn for the worse after the article. Attempting to deflect the damage my column had done, certain Dolphin Democratic leaders foolishly tried to turn the tables on me.
One person, a Robert Bernhardt went off the chart, writing in the Sun Sentinel that I “personally profit by not being arrested for marijuana possession. The BSO won’t touch you- by order of Al Lamberti- those are the facts.”
No, the facts are that Bernhardt is a few croutons short of a salad.
It is incumbent upon me to interrupt the column at this point and share a note I received from Robert Bernhardt, who publishes the Gay and Lesbian Democratic News.
The comment I referred to in the Sun Sentinel appeared under the name of Robert Bernhardt. However, the Robert connected with the GLBT Dem News has sent me an email saying he did not author it and an impostor is using his name and his identity.
This makes a slimy campaign even slimier. It is bad enough that campaigns now get populated with anonymous slurs about candidates on the Internet. It is worse if instead of being anonymous, people are using other people's identities to post remarks in their name.
There is a way to trace this though, and culprits should be forewarned. If necessary, to prevent false postings, this newspaper, backed by my law office, will sue and subpoena those records which identify the email source and IP address of the computers used to commit this fraud.
Whether it is you, me, a candidate, or Robert Bernhardt, no one should be subject to this fraud without a consequence.
Imploring their minions to remain supportive of Israel, this irresponsible duo subsequently also went on the Dolphin Democratic club Facebook page to suggest that my editorial should be disregarded because I was being ‘paid off by Sheriff Lamberti.’
I hope the children had their fun, but now it’s my turn.
First of all, SFGN, and our magazine, The Mirror, is wrapping up its third year of publication. Our last issue, our largest ever, was 76 pages, and had about 100 ads. Those are facts. Implying that a couple of ads worth a few hundred dollars from the sheriff 'bought me off’ is professionally offensive and personally insulting.
We have no differences with Scott Israel. As a gay community, we had the fortune to have BOTH candidates for sheriff, Republican and Democratic, reach out to the LGBT community, for support. Twenty years ago they were arresting us. Today they are courting us. And what do we do? Turn on each other with stupid comments by incompetent leaders who are unworthy of maintaining their posts. To suggest that I gave up my long-standing principles for some cheap profits was outrageous. What I did was stand by a good man who was being tarnished without cause.
As a journalist, you learn early on that if you are going to become credible and get credentialed, you maintain independence. You don't let advertisers control your content. You print facts, not fluff. If people want to wipe their ass, they have toilet paper for that. You print the news, good or bad, pleasant or hurtful, with all its warts and wounds.
We are media partners with the Sun Sentinel, and we wear the mantle proudly. We are affiliates with the Associated Press, members of the Florida Press Association, and partners with the Society of Professional Journalists. We take those responsibilities seriously and protect them jealously. If you want to suggest otherwise, you do so at your own peril.
When and where necessary, SFGN will protect the LGBT community in situations calling for the same. When and where necessary, we will also criticize it as appropriate, regardless of party affiliation or political label.
None of us has a toehold on the truth, but all of us can try to be faithful to facts. No one, ever, will buy this newspaper off. That is a promise, and to say otherwise is a lie. Expect to be called out for it if you do.