Monday, April 4, 2011

McIntyre aide apologizes for calling opponent Pietro "crazy". Will political potty mouth spark civil action?

Verne Strickland Blogmaster
April 4, 2011

A key Mike McIntyre staff member, Tony McEwen, last week told a television reporter that Del Pietro, an announced challenger to McIntyre, is "crazy". Ouch. He also reportedly said Pietro is "schizophrenic". Yikes. And for good measure, McEwen charged that Pietro is "off his rocker" and "not all there." Oh my!

Think about that for a moment. This wasn't trash talk between burly linemen across a scrimmage at a high school football game.

It was political venom spewed by a man who should know better. Tony McEwen is Congressman McIntyre's economic development director. McEwen flew off the handle during a jobs summit his boss at the time was hosting at the north campus of Cape Fear Community College.

The unfortunate remarks were made to a WWAY-TV3 news reporter, and McEwen apparently felt he was talking to an individual who might share his opinion, or at least keep quiet about it.

Didn't happen. To her credit the journalist reported the incident to her crew director, who passed it on to the unsuspecting victim, candidate Del Pietro.

That's when the lid blew off. Pietro was invited to go by the television station to give his side of the story, which wound up in neon on the evening news.

Then the predictable happened. After a rather considerable interval, Mr. McEwen got remorseful about his potty mouth and decided he'd better make nice. A news account of the follow-up apology was presented on the air and online on Monday -- six days after the unfortunate verbal back-biting took place:

WILMINGTON, NC / WWAY / April 4, 2011 -- An aide to Rep. Mike McIntyre has issued a formal apology to a man planning to challenge the Congressman next year after calling him "crazy." In a letter on Congress of the United States letterhead, McIntyre's Economic Development Director Tony McEwen writes to Del Pietro:

"Dear Del, Please accept my sincere apologies for the comments I made to the WWAY reproter about you while working at the Jobs Summit on 3/29/2011. They were not professional and portrayed you in a very unfair manner. Again, I ask that you accept my deepest apologies to you and your family."

After seeing our crew talking to Pietro at the event, McEwen told them Pietro was "crazy," "shaky," "schizophrenic" and "not all there."

Pietro said he accepts McEwen's apology, because he believes in forgiveness. But he also said that McEwen and the McIntyre's campaign are trying to derail his momentum in the race for the Democratic nomination next year.

When asked about McEwen's comments last week, McIntyre's Chief of Staff Dean Mitchell said in an e-mail to WWAY, "(A)ny comments Tony McEwen made with regard to the subject manner you referenced were not authorized by, nor reflective of, this office."

VS: Well, I guess not. But we'll have to take Mr. Mitchell's word for this, since the Congressman himself decided to soil his hands by offering his own comment about the tawdry incident.

Since this is the kind of embarrassing affair that most "mainstream" newspapers aren't fond of reporting about -- when Democrats are at fault -- it should be no surprise that the Star-News immediately got a bad case of lockjaw.

As far as I know, this political blog -- USA DOT COM -- was the only news source to join WWAY in letting the public in on the gaffe.

Here's some of what we reported, from an interview with Mr. Pietro following the McIntyre jobs event on March 29:

Pietro: “The slanderous attack that Tony McEwen used against me with a WWAY reporter is just very unfortunate. I fully plan to pursue all legal avenues to put a stop to this. It’s just completely inappropriate.”

VS: What are you considering in the wake of this incident?

Pietro: “I’m going to be pursuing all avenues in terms of civil litigation against Tony McEwen and the congressman. Tony is a representative of the congressman, and is doing the congressman’s dirty work, and basically the congressman is accountable for Tony’s remarks. They are baseless and it’s saddening that the congressman and his staff would stoop to this level.”

VS: You said that Mr. McEwan has run afoul of federal law?

Pietro: “Yes, he’s a federal employee covered by the Hatch Act, as I understand it, and he is not supposed to be campaigning while he is working in any way, shape or form. That’s the way I understand the law, and he clearly violated that law. When he made those remarks, he is technically campaigning against me. That’s an issue that’s to be reported to the Federal Government."

VS: What does the Democratic Party have to say about all this?

Pietro: “Tony is the State’s third vice chair of the party, and I was just told by a local Democrat that the party is going to put forth a resolution at our convention asking him to resign his office. This will be at either the county or the district level.

“This is just very dirty politics, and it’s uncalled for. They should be able to campaign on substance, but apparently if they don’t feel they can beat me on substance, they will just resort to these types of attacks.

“I am in consultation with an attorney right now to discuss what my legal options are in terms of filing a civil suit against both Tony and the congressman. This wasn’t typical political rhetoric, this was a direct slanderous attack, and I’m not going to tolerate it.”


VS: It is not clear if the rather tepid apology by the instigator of the ugly verbal fracas is the last we'll hear of it. This seem improbable, since it is clear that McEwen's tirade was intended to harm candidate Pietro's personal reputation.

Whatever comes next, if anything, we'll be there to report it -- even if news organizations with a Democrat bias can't find the time or space for it.