Yesterday, I made the toughest decision I've had to make as one of the editors of bilerico.com. (Jerame Davis is the other editor. We jointly own bilerico...) After the threat of litigation for libel, I decided to take down a post by one of our most popular authors at the request of the Kris Kiser for Congress campaign.
As the main editor of bilerico.com, I feel compelled to remain above the fray. I've not posted on the Kiser vs Carson primary battle. I realize that various contributors to our blog do have strong feelings one way or another about this fight, however, and have encouraged the contributors to share their thoughts on the issue. After all, the point of bilerico.com is to allow for the free exchange of ideas and to start a dialogue with some of the leaders of the Indiana LGBT community.
When the call came in yesterday morning from Rick Sutton, the Kiser campaign manager, I was immediately concerned - not only from the threat of litigation but the integrity of our blog. As those who follow the blog will have noticed, I haven't posted for a few days - I've been incredibly busy with work. I hadn't even read the entry. I informed Mr. Sutton that I hadn't read the posting and would review it when I got back to my computer.
I immediately called Gary Welsh, from Advance Indiana. Not only is Gary a top-class attorney, he's also a first-rate blogger. Gary advised me to remove the posting from bilerico.com at least temporarily since there were no named sources for the story. As a part-time worker on disability, I do not have the means to fight Mr. Kiser in court over a posting someone else wrote. This does not mean that I believe Marla's allegations were true or false. It means I'm not wealthy and Marla only had unnamed sources.
Let me be clear. The only other time I have pulled a post from bilerico.com was during the Indy HRO battle and the post gave away strategy for passage of the HRO. And I called the blogger beforehand, discussed the post, and we agreed to take it down. Yesterday, I talked with Marla about her sources and realized that none of her sources were willing to go on the record. Without named sources - or at least two or three independent anonymous sources - we are reduced to gossip and innuendo.
Jerame and I met with the Kiser campaign yesterday afternoon in downtown Indy to discuss the post and the threatened litigation. The post had already been pulled down and the editor's note put up in it's place. The campaign assured us that they would not pursue legal satisfaction against Jerame and I (as the the owners of the blog) since the post had been removed. They stated there are at least three "outright lies" in Marla's post and have reserved the right to pursue legal action against Marla based on those assertions.
But by the time we got home from the meeting, the blogosphere had started buzzing with the news that we'd pulled a post. Free speech is one of the tenets of our society as Americans. Never before has a post generated such immediate phone calls and emails. I have now spoken with several bilerico contributors, bloggers, and political and media personalities about my decision to remove the post. Other bilerico contributors have posted their thoughts on the kerfuffle. (See "Kiser, Kiser, Kiser" by Jerame Davis and "Kiser v/s Carson Some Thoughts" by Bruce Parker.) I'm sure other contributors will post their thoughts either as their own posts or in the comments to older posts. And we, of course, always welcome reader comments.
In a later email to me, the campaign asked that I post this to the blog after other blogs picked up on the story (including the original posting pulled off a saved RSS feed). In the interests of fairness, I believe Mr. Kiser has the right to respond to the charges made against him by Marla. The email complained about three things with the original entry:
"1. There is only one polling firm used by the Kiser campaign--ever. Ms. Stevens insists there were two.
2. A former campaign worker advocated the use of "push polls" and other tactics which the candidate dislikes. That person is no longer with the campaign. The candidate and all associated with its management, abhor the use of push polls and have not/will not use them in this campaign.
3. Allegations about the candidate's partner are completely false."
As someone who preaches daily about equality, I am compelled to offer both Mr. Kiser and Ms. Carson equal opportunity to talk about some issues that bilerico readers would be interested in. To that end, I have prepared five questions for both candidates and have submitted them to their respective campaigns. The candidates can go head-to-head on something I think we'd all like to see more focus on - the issues.
Again, I'm not here to campaign for either candidate; I have no horse in this race. My opinion on the best candidate will remain my opinion. But there are a few things I am interested in and - really - how often do you get to ask direct questions of Congressional candidates? I will post their answers on Monday. Stay tuned.