Councillor Kirby Delauter’s lawyers are going to be very, very busy if the US local government councillor follows through on his threat to sue for the “unauthorized” use of his name.
Delauter, from Frederick County (population circa 240,000) in Maryland on the east coast of the US, has become an internet meme, trending globally, after he took to Facebook on the weekend and threatened to sue a local newspaper for the “unauthorized” use of his name in a story about County Council parking spaces.
“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,” Delauter wrote, singling out journalist Bethany Rodgers at the 135-year-old daily, The Fredrick News-Post, his grievance dating back to what he called a “hit piece” by Rodgers in the lead up to last year’s Frederick County elections.
Rodgers responded (see the snapshot of the now-deleted post, below) saying “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.”
Delauter bit back, writing “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney. Your rights stop where mine start.”
The Presidency may still be some distance away for the Republican father of four, US Army veteran and excavation and construction business proprietor, but after years of toil at the coalface of county officialdom on the Thurmont Police Commission and as Chairman of the Thurmont Board of Appeals, Delauter’s name is now on everyone’s lips, especially after an hilarious and remarkable editorial on Tuesday by The Fredrick News-Post, simply titled “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter”.
Knowing Councilman Kirby Delauter as we do, we weren’t surprised that he threatened The Frederick News-Post with a lawsuit because we had, he says — and we’re not making this up — been putting Kirby Delauter’s name in the paper without Kirby Delauter’s authorization. Attorneys would be called, Kirby Delauter said.
In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?
Round about then, 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.)
Keen-eyed fans of anagrams may have noticed that each paragraph begins with a letters that begin spelling out Delauter’s Christian name. It continues through D-E-L-A-U-T-E-R, concluding
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.
Reasonable men (and women) are required to move Frederick County forward. All Kirby Delauter is doing yet again is displaying his inability to control his temper, embarrassing himself, his district, the county and those who voted him into office. If he wants to govern like a taxpayer, he needs to respect the taxpayers whose money provides his paycheck, stop this silly, inflammatory nonsense, and get to work.
The News-Post’s managing editor Terry Headlee was quoted in his paper, saying “to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I’m speechless. It’s just a pointless, misguided attempt to intimidate and bully the press and shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant”.
The stoush between the elected official and the paper was picked up by The Washington Post, where UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh concluded:
In our country, newspapers are actually allowed to write about elected officials (and others) without their permission. It’s an avantgarde experiment, to be sure, but we’ve had some success with it.
The Internet has since picked up its cudgels, with #KirbyDelauter trending on Twitter and leaving reporter Bethany Rodgers feeling emboldened
Appreciate all the love today, Twitterverse. Thanks to you, I type the name of #KirbyDelauter without any fear tonight ;)
— Bethany Rodgers (@BethRodgersFNP) January 7, 2015
While Delauter hasn’t returned calls to the paper to let people know how he feels about it all, he can at least brag to his friends that he now has his own parody account on Twitter:
— Kirby Delauter (@KirbyDelauter) January 7, 2015
Here’s the Kirby Delauter post that’s made him famous:
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