Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Clerk's Blog Spells Trouble

It all started with a simple video rental. Who knows where it will end?

Potomac Video store clerk Charles Williamson, 28, posted a message on his blog, Freelance Genius, Dec. 23 that described how he set up a movie rental account for MSNBC host Tucker Carlson at the MacArthur Boulevard store the day before.

"I could tell you what he and his ridiculously wasped-out female companion (wife?) rented if you really want to know," he wrote. "I won't tell you where he lives, though. That would be wrong and stupid." Williamson also joked that he wouldn't send 10,000 copies of Jon Stewart's best-selling political satire, "America (The Book)," to Carlson's home; Stewart ridiculed Carlson on "Crossfire" before the 2004 election.

A week later, Williamson had forgotten all about it, he told us yesterday. That is, until Carlson, 37, reappeared at the video store and, said Williamson, "got pretty aggressive." According to Williamson, Carlson confronted him about the blog and said he viewed the post as a threat to him and his wife. "He said, 'If you keep this [expletive] up, I will [expletive] destroy you,' " Williamson recalled.

Williamson said he agreed to remove the blog post and did so later that night: "All I remember thinking was I was worried about what this guy was going to do." He consulted a lawyer friend and was told he had probably not broken any laws. "What I said was pretty juvenile, I'll admit," he said.

In a phone interview Thursday, Carlson acknowledged that he approached Williamson in the store and said he was "very aggressive" because he wanted the post removed: "I don't like to call the police or call his boss. . . . I'm a libertarian. I'm not into that."

On Monday, Williamson said, his Potomac Video manager called and fired him. Williamson said he was told the company was threatened with legal action "and the owner doesn't like that." He re-posted the original Carlson item later that day. Williamson said he later learned that a man who identified himself as a lawyer for Carlson had been in the store and asked Potomac Video employees questions about him.

Carlson told us that he was concerned for the safety of his family, but did not threaten legal action against the company or push to have Williamson, who still has his office-manager day job, fired.

"He implied he was going to come and do something to my house," Carlson said. "I've got four kids at home and I've had serious problems with stalkers twice. . . . This guy is threatening to come to my house and I'm on the road all the time. What would you do? This guy is threatening my family."

Carlson said he took no further action and said he couldn't have called his lawyer because he doesn't have one.

"He's trying to make it sound like I'm this big, bad guy trying to hurt the video store clerk," he said. "I don't understand why he's hassling me. I just wanted to rent a Woody Allen movie."

A manager at Potomac Video told us the situation was "absurd" but refused to answer questions. The company's lawyer, Steven Kramer, said he is investigating the matter, but would not comment further.

Williamson told us Thursday that before the incident his blog usually received a handful of hits a day from friends and a few other bloggers. linked to the post on Tuesday and, as of yesterday, over 6,700 readers had checked in.

"I'm just a guy with a blog," he said. "I live over MacArthur Boulevard and I go to work and sometimes I see famous people. . . . I blogged about seeing Karl Rove, and the Secret Service didn't knock down my door."

Spotted . . .

ยท Dick Gephardt taking advantage of D.C. Restaurant Week Thursday with his wife and a pal at Indique in Cleveland Park. We heard the former House minority leader's crew split a bottle of sauvignon blanc during their two-hour, three-course meal.

-- Korin Miller

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