Sutherland: The Letter to the Editor That Sparked a Decades’ Long Feud

420110616155454003_t607Here’s the letter I wrote to the Kansas City Star in 1998 after its hatchet job on me…

It predictably created a firestorm because I dared to criticize the Star, one of my law firm – Lathrop & Gage’s – clients:

       July 27, 1998

Letters Department

ATTENTION: Rich Hood

The Kansas City Star

Dear Mr. Hood:

I was very disturbed by the tone of The Kansas City Star‘s article about the American Heritage Festival and Expo held in Carthage, Missouri the weekend of July 17-19.

The Star’s writer, Judy Thomas, quoted an out-of-state source who described the event, sight unseen, before it had even occurred, as a gathering of “white separatists.”

In the admittedly brief time I was at the festival, I saw absolutely no indication that those that were in attendance were white separatists, racists, neo-Nazis, or members of any other hate group. I did see many people wearing T-shirts honoring American POW’s and MIA’s and bearing the names of U.S. Navy vessels on which the wearers served. In fact, the crowd seemed to be comprised to a large degree of veterans and their families, which should not be surprising for an event celebrating American patriotism.

I also believe, since the event had been promoted as an Ozark folk festival, that many people were simply there for the music, the food and the entertainment. It is difficult, after all, to read too many political implications into greased pig and goat roping contests.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 6.37.05 PMTo the extent the gathering had a political theme, as reflected by the various speakers, it was a concern about the encroachment on individual rights by what is perceived as a corrupt and repressive government. Most of the opinions expressed fell squarely within the tradition of American populism, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the republic and which found expression in such disparate events as the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790’s and the Grange Movement of the 1880’s.

While I do not consider myself to be an heir to that tradition (to put it mildly), it is a long and honorable one. There were certainly nothing like appeals to racial hatred, calls for violence or anything outside the bounds of acceptable civil discourse in any of the speeches or remarks made at the festival.

While the points of view presented ranged from the laudable (the Gulf War Veterans Association, dedicated to finding a cure for the illness known as “Gulf War Syndrome”) to the ludicrous (Bo Gritz burning the U.N. flag in protest over the supposed loss of American sovereignty), I see nothing improper or sinister about being present at a public forum where those views were expressed. I certainly do not believe that my presence at events of the Black Panther Party or the S.D.S. in the 1970’s signaled my agreement with those group’s beliefs.

After all, a free society rests on a vigorous and open debate of public issues. however controversial, a notion which should not be foreign to you as part of a free press.

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Sutherland

The Star‘s article rests ultimately on the dubious premise that because two exhibitor’s booths at the festival offered for sale offensive literature, the racist or anti-Semitic sentiments contained in those publications reflect the beliefs of the almost 3,000 people who attended the festival.

I strongly disavow such sentiments and repudiate the beliefs that gave rise to them. However, I also find The Star‘s account of the festival, which falsely implied that such beliefs were an important, if not dominant, element at the event, to be only marginally less offensive.

Very truly yours,

Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr.

 

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47 Responses to Sutherland: The Letter to the Editor That Sparked a Decades’ Long Feud

  1. harley says:

    come on jr….tell us about the speakers…this bo guy was with the kkk…close
    friend of david duke head of the ku klux klan. remember “guilt by association”.
    you right wingers found a way to use itagainst Obama for 6 years!
    tell us about the others..I posted the list of key people…tell us what their
    background was and their views….and what they preached at the event.
    theres nothingabou wrong about going to an event filled with racists/anti semites/
    conspiracy theorists….anarchists…..so do some research and tell usthe true backgrounds of who spoke there.
    stop kicking a dead dog…none of us remember the event…we onlyknow that
    the star wrote about it because you brought it up.
    But having done political work for decades with top national candidates if you
    were smart and would not want to be associated with the kkk and this
    right wing event then you sh ould have left when you saw the hoods and anti
    semitic booths with their garbage.
    EVen ralph reed has left events when h e saw stuff like this.
    Were you on a reporters pass…I’m sure an intelligent man like yourself was aware
    of wht was gong on th4 ere with these speakers and attendees….
    not abig dealto most of us…but when one of topbusiness people in our city is
    seen at an event like this that you probably traveled to hundreds of miles to
    tfen you set yourself utherp for some bad publicity.
    A smart businessman/politician/public figure /celebrity in political circles would
    have never been seen close to anything like what was going on down there.
    Remember what your people did when they heard Obama read some
    questionable books on fox news…the crucified the guy for weeks about it.
    So let it lie…no one really cares and until you brought it up no one really
    gave a damn about it.
    good luck.

    • the dude says:

      No offense meant short bus harlinator, but please don’t comment on something you WERE NOT THERE TO WITNESS. Mr. Sutherland was, hence his letter.

  2. Jess says:

    Hey Hearne, If I hate the Kansas City Star, can I write for you too?

  3. Fresh says:

    Who is this guy? He is like a way more boring Glazer rehashing the same story over and over again.

  4. chuck says:

    “But having done political work for decades with top national candidates …”

    I think Harley got to wash Clay Chastain’s car once.

    • harley says:

      while you’re driving your “beater truck” chuck…with no life…Harley
      worked with Clintons in 92 and 96…
      sorry you washed up old sour soul…I know life is tough when you
      work pay check to paycheck and hate is in your heart…but
      truth is you’re just another dude on the bottom of the pile of life.
      You post here at 5am….and on satruday and Friday nights…I guess
      being chuck is one bad nightmare all together.

        • nom de plume says:

          “while you’re driving your “beater truck” chuck…with no life…Harley worked with Clintons in 92 and 96…”

          Translation; Volunteered to answer phones at his Raytown election office one Wednesday night.

          • harley says:

            actually wrong againsir…worked in the
            national campaign with mac and others.
            truth be known many of my coworkers went
            on to high positions in the Clinton administration
            including head speechwriter/head of president
            commissions/staff administrators/ staff worker
            with vp/and yes we partied with billy
            on top of the old brookside theatre (story
            for another time).
            Yes…I’ve had an incredible life …much to
            be thankful for…metthe top echelon in the
            nation….including all 3 recent presidents….
            and yes I worked both sides of the aisle
            also…many of Kansas state senators today
            I worked for even though they are
            far right wingers but they’re still great
            friends.
            Didn’t answer phones…knew ax before 2008
            campaign…many of the Obama people did
            data mining for me prior to the campaign and
            i’m proud to say did internship for dnc and
            worked with top dems like ed kennedy/
            biden/andother senators…but my favorite
            was always Sen.Bob Dole who was probably
            one of the nicest people on the hill when you
            got to know him. Theydon’t make them like
            Sen Dole anymore…even the current repub
            senators spit in his face when they voted against
            a very important bill that hetook to the senate
            floor to speak for….
            again guys….Harley is on the go….the rest ofyou
            guys are just waiting for the FREE dr. care
            and paychecks….
            how bad can it be tobe you guys?
            y

    • the dude says:

      Nah, harlinator was the guy directing the wand at Chastain’s high colonic.

  5. Danimal says:

    A 1998 letter to the editor. Why do I give two wet farts about this in 2013?

  6. Mr brown says:

    two decade feud with a newspaper?
    Letter to the former Editor of the editorial page four editors ago?

    I’m on the edge of my seat!

    • Dwight Sutherland,Jr. says:

      I only got on the topic because of all the news on how The Star is struggling. It’s hard to know how to feel when on one hand you hate to see daily newspapers fade into oblivion but on the other you feel so poorly treated by your own home town paper. The point in going back so many years is not to bore everyone with ancient history but to show the incredible institutional memory of The Star when it comes to holding a grudge,nursing it through several changes in ownership and innumerable changes in personnel. I would have been willing to let the matter drop after Carthage(I had lunch with Art Brisbane,the publisher,and said as much) but I learned later;1) that the writer bragged to others that she hoped she had ruined my political career,2)the Star called my law firm and tried to get me fired. In both instances it was expressly said to be because I had dared to criticize their coverage. I wanted to print the letter to show that my criticism was reasonable. If the charge is I don’t like The Star, I plead guilty but I think I have ample grounds for doing so. Every job I’ve worked at I’ve been held accountable for my work product and to answer to a code of conduct. Why aren’t people who write for The Kansas City Star?

      • chuck says:

        You’re much mistaken Mr. Sutherland.

        They (The many K. C. Star employees) ARE answering to their code of conduct.

        Character assassination is in no way mutually exclusive with the agenda driven, biased and liberal slant the news is drenched in every day of the week at 1729 Grand.

  7. Mr brown says:

    Also, it’s good to see the tie I donated to Goodwill getting some reuse courtesy of Mr Sutherland

  8. Snopes.KCC says:

    “come on jr….tell us about the speakers…this bo guy was with the kkk”

    The not always right but it doesn’t really matter Harley is wrong again. “…this bo guy was with the kkk”. Don’t bother diverting or darting down rabbit trails, you’re statement is just wrong. Name calling, new insults or vague arguments don’t change that.

    That doesn’t imply association, it implies membership. While he was around wing nuts of various kind and type, he was never “with” the KKK.

    Not that it matters, you’re just chaff blowing in the winds of irrelevancy which makes you less important than ever.

    • harley says:

      check the facts son…just reporting the facts that are on the
      internet.
      For 6 years the right wing has used guilt by association…guilt by
      reading…guilt by everything when it came to Obama.
      If I walked into an event…saw booths for skinheads/Nazis/white supremacists
      etc…I would quickly leave.
      Especially a political guy like mr. s. Sorry…if you haven’t seen the
      media’s recent attempts to show guilt by association lately then you
      don’t follow the news.
      All the info I offered was from previous items on the event…who spoke
      there…the people involved etc…
      as mr. H jr. reports..”I”m just giving the facts”…
      which proves again…Harley is right.
      I didn’t know thattthe star triedto get mr. s fired…that’s not right…
      I spoke simply about the event…who was there…and no politician
      would want to be associated with that type of event/people.
      especiallytoday with 24 hour newsand the leftist and rightists
      all out to get people.
      Interesting article mr. s….would like to hear more about your
      views on other issues also.
      have a great day!!!!

  9. The New Math says:

    So let’s see…a “two decade” feud that started fifteen years ago but lasted only about five years since Hood left the Star in 2003, but only really lasted about the time it took Hood to recycle the letter since it was about only three times too long for publication.

    The New Math.

    • Snopes.KCC says:

      New Math, you should be more interested in Harley’s “decades” of political work. Unless he started when he was three, he spends a lot of time making fun of old guys on here, “decades” of work would age him.

      • The New Math says:

        It’s just that some people need to let go. Also, the claim that “The Star” (note a name is not tied to this claim) called his law firm and tried to get him fired is utterly preposterous.

      • harley says:

        Yes…I’ve worked for many political campaigns.
        If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll see I have insight
        into what makes a winning campaign and what causes
        people like Romney to get their ass kicked.
        oh…and i’ll remind youagain I picked Obama to win
        when every pundit had him losing and I correctly via
        my background and knowledge was the ONLY one to
        pick the electoral college point range 3 months BEFORE THE
        ELECTION.
        I AM YOUNGER THAN ALL THESE GUYS…I feel younger..
        look younger and have a younger more positive attitude
        thanthe negativity that surrounds this site.
        I think glaze has pretty much shown who is the positive
        guys on here…people who feel like the worlds a beautiful
        place to be a part of…people who are active…doing things..
        making things happen….people with a strong positive
        attitude that still love life and live itto its fullest.
        Catch meguys…for me every day isan ew adventure.
        I’m not on h ere with the woe is me attitude like
        smarmyman and chuck. I can’t live life like that.
        Too much to do…too many things left to accomplish…
        too many ideas to flourish…while many of you are sitting
        waiting for that free money and healthcare…
        goodluck to all of you.
        Remember nothing wrong with getting old…there is something
        wrong with feeling/looking/acting/and behaving like a
        old sour puss with a horrible attitude about life.
        take care..luv you all..
        harley

        • chuck says:

          “I AM YOUNGER THAN ALL THESE GUYS…I feel younger..
          look younger and have a younger more positive attitude”

          http://weaselzippers.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Stuart-Saved_400.jpg

          Jesus Harley, gimme a break with the “I picked Obama to win!!

          There were 2, TWO!!!! guys in the race.

          It ain’t like ya picked the next Triple Crown winner.

          Sheesh!!

          You act like you’re Ace Fuc*in Rothstein every time you post.

          Give it a rest, Jesus…

          • nom de plume says:

            Put him on ignore. That should be our policy.

          • paulwilsonkc says:

            +10,000

          • harley says:

            yeah…but the electoral count…what were the
            odds on that chucklesthe clown.
            even wilsun tried to trap me on that one and
            he looked foolish.
            come on guys…stick to the topic…
            Harley knows all and he’s right again…
            hard fact to face…
            ignore me…you can’t …like what my
            newsletter said…wilsun/dave/smarty etc..
            you read everything I write and then
            all the comments are about me…
            sorry….but chuckles…say something
            intelligent instead of these stupid videos
            you attach…..
            actually I did better than any of ace’s
            ccalls….and yes…I do appreciate the
            ink all you give me.
            shows you care lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • admin says:

      Guess what?

      The Star edits letters for length and for content. If they’d wanted to give Dwight his day in the court of public opinion they totally could have made that letter fit. They do that all the time. Do you really think the letters they print are exactly as received?

      Trust me, they’re not. Maybe you should try the old math?

      • Irishguy says:

        Not quite. Whenever the Star received an otherwise publishable letter that was too long for publication back in 1998, they always called the author, explained that it was too long, then gave him the opportunity to edit it himself before it went through the normal editing process for grammar, typos, misspellings, etc.

        And they called EVERY letter writer before publication for verification of identity just to cut down on the letters written by “Heywood Jablome.”

        If you are familiar with their letters to the editor over the years, you would have a tough time defending a position that the Star routinely drops letters that take its reporters to task in the circular file.

        • Dwight Sutherland says:

          I’m sure that was supposed to be the procedure. The only response I got here from The Star was indirect and in the form of shouted obscenities from certain people at the law firm who had been forwarded the letter from The Star. I don’t think they sent it to the firm to draft a carefully reasoned and argued rebuttal. They sent it their contacts at L & G because they told them to use it against me to get me in hot water.( “How dare he he write such things about one of our biggest clients !”,I vividly recall hearing.Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Yeah it does,a lawyer who is about to lose a fat fee he’d counted on! ) I understand why the The Star was upset,they sensed they were about to get sued by Reed,but going after me for pointing out the flaws in Judy’s story is shooting the messenger. The firm was excellent by and large. Tom Stewart,the managing partner,told The Star to pound sand(which may have led to his own difficulties later!). So you can say all you want about Standard Operating Procedure but none of it happened here. You also miss the whole point of the story. The Star,once one of the great metropolitan dailies in the country,nemesis of the Pendergast machine(with my law firm!),speaker of Truth to Power, champion of freedom of speech, was reduced to trying to bully and threaten some one into silence by going after their job. If they can do that to me,scion of a prominent family,what about the average person? The only ones who come off looking good are Tom Stewart,the late Abe Margolin, and my other friends at the firm who came to my defense.

  10. chuck says:

    “Two decades” indeed.

    It would seem that like gnats to a light, Mr. Suthurland’s articles have drawn out the participants in this decades old difference of opinion. If in fact, our enemies define us, those questioning Mr. Sutherland’s account of the events, would be far more convincing if that definition extended to their identity.

    No advocate of truth which questions a man’s character should hide behind a nom de plume.

    • chuck says:

      “Sutherland” typo, sorry.

    • Irishguy says:

      Ah! “Harley” is a nom de plume. “Chuck” isn’t.

      • nom de plume says:

        Harley’s just an irrelevant ass. Simply ignore and don’t respond to him, that’s his own, worst, personal hell, irrelevancy. Let him languish in it. Like a virus, it will die eventually,

  11. Irishguy says:

    All I can say is that if a single story about some event in Carthage that drew 3,000 people was enough to destroy Sutherland’s budding political career, he didn’t have much of a career to begin with. Far more skilled politicians have survived far more ongoing and relentless attacks by far more powerful media that Judy Thomas and the KC Star.

    But then again, they had something more to offer the voters than ego.

    I also agree with “New Math” that the claim that “the Star” tried to get Sutherland fired from Lathrop & Gage over a single letter to the editor to be utterly preposterous on its face, given the fact that the Star routinely publishes far more critical letters covering the entire political spectrum.

    But of course, as noted before, those letters are also much more concise and clearly expressed. As I read this one, my thought was that the Star actually did Sutherland a big favor by not publishing it.

    • admin says:

      Me thinks you need to read Dwight’s final installment on this story.

      Too bad you didn’t get a chance to before you screwed up by doubting his claim about the Star messing with his job at Lathrop & Gage.

      As for whether the Star prints other more critical letters, that’s true. But don’t underestimate the Wizard behind the smokescreen’s ability to be petty at times.

      I got to observe that pettiness up close for 16 years.

      It’s real.

      • Irishguy says:

        Oh, I “screwed up” by not taking Sutherland’s claim at face value?

        Did you leave your BS meter behind when you left the Star? Or is any claim against the Star worthy of print in your blog simply because it is against the Star.

        • Dwight Sutherland,Jr. says:

          The flaw in your analysis is the use of the phrase “otherwise publishable”. What if The Star decides if a letter is NOT “otherwise publishable”? In that case you don’t hear anything,right? I’ve heard nothing on six letters to The Editor I’ve submitted since. I carefully edited them to come within the one hundred and fifty word limit. I wrote them on a variety of topics including energy,foreign policy,nuclear proliferation,etc,so you can’t say I’m johnnie-one-note.There is a reason none has been published and it’s because I wrote them. The other point you make is equally lame-“The Star prints criticism of it’s coverage all the time!”Yeah,it it’s of a fourth-grade level of sophistication;e.g.”You’re a big old socialist dumbhead!” If you actually can reason and show the flaws in the reasoning of such profound thinkers as Barbara Shelley and Derek Donovan,your views will never see the light of day.(That’s why it’s such fun to go to public forums where Star staff is speaking.Without a filter,they’re defenseless.That’s why trying to get on Steve Kraske’s radio show if you’re seen as an ARTICULATE conservative is next to possible.)

  12. chuck says:

    Harley I gotta come clean. I am your biggest fan. You are killin me today. I laughed so hard I spilt the coffee on the keyboard.

    Ya owe me $12.00

    You called me a “sour puss”.

    Fuc*in A baby, fuc*in A.

    🙂

  13. chuck says:

    YOU LOUSY SOUR PUSS!!!!

  14. King Dong says:

    Be sure to write about that one time you and Cruise Palmer argued over golf.

  15. chuck says:

    Harley, you quit sounding like Ace Rothstein. Now ya sound like Sally Fields! 🙂

    “…but chuckles…say something
    intelligent instead of these stupid videos
    you attach…..
    actually I did better than any of ace’s
    ccalls….and yes…I do appreciate the
    ink all you give me.
    shows you care lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl_NpdAy3WY

  16. John Altevogt says:

    The Star has a long record of censoring both responses to their hatchet jobs and articulate opponents of any of its positions. Keep in mind that since the days of Brisbane The Star has basically been a lackey for the local metro establishment and that will occasionally break down the paper’s usual hard-line leftist stance.

    Other occasions I’m aware of where they either greatly restricted, or refused to allow response were Kay O’Connor when they falsely implied that she opposed the 19th Amendment and more recently Mary Pilcher-Cook. In both cases they would not allow comments where the letter writer was critical of the reporter. A third case of a person on the left is Nolen Ellison, a critic of the KCK establishment (which has become sort of a colony of the KCMO/JOCO establishment) was restricted to 200 words after the paper published lengthy commentaries opposing Ellison’s positions.

    In addition, and I notice a few here, whenever someone levels serious allegations against the Star, such as Dwight’s, you’ll always see a few new posters who seem to come out of nowhere to ridicule the critic. Rarely if ever will they try to refute the facts.

    As for Rich Hood (and the man who should have replaced him, Steve Winn) I would argue that Rich tried desperately to broaden the range of opinions in The Star and, after a 29 year career of being an investigative reporter and editorial page editor, Brisbane dumped him in favor of what has become the Stalinist triumvirate of Pepper, Abouhalkah and Donovan. All are ill-suited for any position involving conflict or open minded dialog and so the number of articulate (and Sutherland is spot on here) opponents of any ideological strip has been greatly reduced in recent years. (A liberal woman on Jim Fitzpatrick’s, blog, Jeniferm(?), recently indicated that she had been blocked for the usual crime of being too articulate in critique of the paper itself).

  17. John Altevogt says:

    I would also argue that the censorship got much worse after Derek’s very public meltdown a couple of years ago. Now the response to criticisms of the paper is an almost instant sentence to the Internet Gulag.

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