Md. council member Kirby Delauter: I was wrong in threat to sue over use of name

Why are people in Australia and Cambodia reading an article from a small Maryland newspaper? The editorial that has been written has only been posted online. It hasn't even been published in the print edition of the Frederick News-Post.

Yet, it is breaking all kinds of records by making a point and getting some laughs too.

Kirby Delauter is a Frederick County council member. On Facebook, he threatened a reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He told her he would sue if she put his name in the newspaper.

"Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an attorney," Delauter wrote.

"It's just a blatant violation of disrespect of the First Amendment," said Terry Headlee, the managing editor for the Frederick News-Post.

So editorial page editor Cliff Cumber wrote an editorial where they used his name -- a lot.

"Oh, it was obvious, wasn't it?" he laughed.

The headline: "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter"

The first letter of each paragraph spells out his name too.

"That was kind of an Easter egg for observant readers to find," said Cumber.

The editorial took off. Since then, the newspaper has six times the typical number of people on its website. The editorial has trended on Twitter with the hashtag #KirbyDelauter.

"Sixth in the world yesterday," said Headlee. "Bang, it just took off."

They are hearing from people from all over the world.

"Germany, Canada, Australia," said Headlee.

We wanted to know what Kirby Delauter thinks of all this, so we went to Kirby Delauter's house and we knocked on Kirby Delauter's door.

We emailed and called also. No answer. At the newspaper, the phones are not ringing from him either.

"No, we haven't heard from him and I don't expect to," Headlee told us.

He thinks it is taking off because they are using wit to make a serious point.

"Your average citizen, a taxpayer, knows how important it is that an elected official that they vote into office needs to be held accountable," he said.

"I'm from England originally and we sort of make a cultural specialty out of being sarcastic," said Cumber. "I've naturally brought that here. I've imported it."

On Wednesday, Delauter issued a statement regretting his threat to sue and admitted that he was wrong.

"The first amendment is alive and well in Frederick County," Delauter said in the statement. "As a public figure working to maintain and improve the county, it can be very frustrating to feel misrepresented or misinterpreted by a local media outlet.

"Over my career I have fired off my fair share of angry e-mails, which in hindsight I wish I hadn't. I can't think of one that had a positive effect. Usually, they only served to escalate the conflict. 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.

"Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my 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.

"I got elected to serve all the citizens of northern Frederick County, Democrats as well as Republicans. I look forward to the local papers covering my effort in that regard."

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