Frederick County Council member Kirby Delauter (R) apologized Wednesday for threatening to sue the local newspaper if it used his name without permission, an ultimatum that earned him a two-day skewering in the blogosphere as a national laughingstock.
In an afternoon statement to the Frederick News-Post, Delauter said he’d acted abruptly and out of frustration.
“I thought I had long ago learned the lesson of waiting 24 hours before I hit the ‘send’ key, but apparently I didn’t learn that lesson as well as I should have,” he said.
Delauter said that because he is an elected official, the paper had the right to use his name “in any article related to the running of the county — that comes with the job. So yes, my statement to the Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.”
Terry Headlee, the newspaper’s managing editor, said he was not concerned by what appeared to be wiggle room in Delauter’s statement. The News-Post, Headlee said, would continue to cover the council member as it saw fit.
“There’s not very many times where we would use his name when it wasn’t somehow connected to county government,” Headlee said.
Delauter issued his threat in response to a Jan. 3 story about petty scuffling between council members and County Executive Jan Gardner (D) over parking-space assignments and office keys. Under the county’s new governing charter, which went into effect last month, Gardner has broad administrative powers that previously belonged to the five elected county commissioners, one of whom was Delauter.
“Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an Attorney,” Delauter said in a Jan. 3 Facebook post addressed to News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers. “Your rights stop where mine start.”
The news reverberated on Twitter and other social-media sites, with enough people linking to articles about it that Delauter’s name was listed under topics that were trending. In some cases, people simply posted the council member’s name to Twitter or Facebook — as if to prove that there could not be a ban on doing so.