The Right View: Treatment of Westbrook councilor exposes media bias

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I wonder what would happen to me (or any Republican) if I lamented, either out loud or in print, that with regard to any Democratic leader “in some countries assassination is a political strategy, but unfortunately not here.”

And what if I tried to lie about it? Then tried to say it was only a joke. Then tried to somehow remove the evidence.

According to widespread news accounts, Westbrook City Councilor Paul Emery will not resign despite being urged to do so by the other six city councilors, after stating at a Democratic town hall-style meeting that he would not be disappointed if Gov. Paul LePage went to “meet his maker,” and then further “joked” that it was unfortunate that assassination is not a political strategy in the United States.

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and state Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, co-hosted the event at Camp Ketcha in Scarborough. They reportedly said nothing when Emery made his comments.

But things went from bad to worse after the meeting, when Emery actually tried to steal the cell phone of the reporter who confronted him with his remarks, which were recorded on the phone.

Those are not the actions of a man who has made a “joke.” Those are the actions of a man who knows he has stepped in it, and is now trying to hide the evidence. Emery didn’t just attempt to take the reporter’s cell phone, he did take it. He also started walking away with it, and only after a number of other people intervened did he return it.

The Bangor City Council voted to formally censure Democratic Councilor Charlie Longo in 2013 for his comments that “folks say Gov. LePage hits the bars pretty heavy.” Now we have a Westbrook city councilor lamenting that assassination of the governor is not a viable option – and virtually nothing more can be done than the City Council’s 6-1 vote in favor of a resolution urging Emery to resign?

While my colleague on the Cumberland County Republican Committee, Chairman Eric Lusk, has also called on Emery to resign, he went further, telling me the local media response is as troubling as Emery’s comments themselves.

“While the Portland Press Herald and The Forecaster’s own Edgar Allen Beem gleefully harrumphed about Gov. LePage getting a prominent Mainer’s tax domicile wrong, neither could find the value in decrying Emery’s advocacy of political assassination, never mind Emery stealing personal property of a member of the press engaged in the exercise of the First Amendment.

“And if someone wants to make the case Emery was not serious in his comments,” Lusk continued, “why would he steal a reporter’s recording device? Emery thought he was serious;why don’t the local media outlets’ Big Thinkers find it concerning? Where is the … defense of civility or the First Amendment? Nowhere to be found, because LePage is a Republican and Emery is a Democrat.

“If we wonder where the incivility in public discourse gathers momentum,” Lusk said, “look no further than the selectively partisan blind eye of the local media. For them the ends justify the means.”

Emery’s offer of an apology is not enough. Saying his words were inappropriate is not enough. A man who displays Emery’s actions is not fit to hold public office. The fact that he is seemingly unaware of this fact, and the media is not calling with one voice for his resignation, only compounds the error. I feel for the residents of Westbrook, who deserve better.

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Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and development chairwoman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.