Congressional District 6 candidate Joe Chow responded to The Ellis County Press March 29, 2012 article titled "Congressional hopeful attends pro-Muslim events."
In a press conference on April 5, Chow stated "A local newspaper has drawn a skewed version of a past event I attended, which has created a false impression." Click here for the raw audio of Chow's press conference.
The Ellis County Press provided the Chow campaign the opportunity to comment on the subject matter, which they did and which was published with the original article. The Ellis County Press included factual information that can be easily verified on the Internet and also comments from the Chow campaign and the Itamar Gelbman campaign. Gelbman is another candidate running for Congressional District 6 against Joe Barton.
In what was really a non-issue, Gelbman made an issue with his comments. The Ellis County Press merely reported both sides of the issue and included facts to support or deny each candidate’s comments.
While defending his attendance and clarifying that he does not support one religion over another, Chow quoted the First Amendment and stated "The First Amendment offers solid guidance for situations such as this action called into question."
Considering that the First Amendment also prohibits the "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," Ellis RTK finds it troublesome that the Chow campaign would threaten to sue The Ellis County Press.
The Ellis County Press released an article on April 5 titled "Chow campaign threatens to sue newspaper over story."
The article quotes a letter sent by Alexandra Fincher, campaign manager for Chow, that accuses The Ellis County Press of slanderous, defamatory and libelous statements. However, The Ellis County Press only reported factual information and quotes from each candidate’s campaign.
The Chow campaign should have an issue with Gelbman over his quotes rather than a media organization whose duty it is to report information that interests the public, but then again, Gelbman provided factual information as well. Despite the quotes and facts, it was still a non-issue, but was of public interest.
A candidate running for Congress should consider the ramifications to his or her campaign when threatening a media organization with a lawsuit. This can be construed as ignoring the First Amendment by attempting to silence the media. The Chow campaign provided no evidence or claim as to what specifically was slanderous, libelous, or defamatory other than they were just unhappy with the subject of the article.
The letter also provided The Ellis County Press a deadline in which to retract the original article and provide Chow an opportunity to respond. However, The Ellis county Press is not under any obligation to retract the story because it is factual. Additionally, Chow already had his opportunity to comment when the original story was written. Finally, Chow's campaign was provided additional time for comment in the latest article reporting about the threat of legal action.
In what was a non-issue, now has become an issue. This editor doubts many people cared that Chow attended the Unity Day celebration, but people will care that a congressional candidate is threatening to silence a media organization. The lack of care should have been evident by the lack of media present at Chow's press conference. Other than a radio station and this editor (and this editor is just a blogger), no other members of the media were observed at the press conference.
It is this editor's opinion that Chow should have ignored the original article and focused on his campaign. Instead, a non-issue has become the center of his campaign's attention and may very well mushroom into a real, larger issue.
Frank Kuchar is the third republican candidate running against Joe Barton.