News+Opinion » Chris Haire

P&C reveals internet poster

You're Out

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When The Post & Courier ran a recent report outing Frank O. Hunt, press secretary for Ninth Circuit Court Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, as the source of a series of off-color posts on the paper's website, I shouted out expletives the likes of which would cause Knobs to cry.

One, the curses in question had never been uttered before. I said things like "Well, Huckabee me," "Oprahbamalamadingdong," and "Methicillin-resistant Staphylo-caca."

Two, it's against the rules. No, not the legal ones. The P&C apparently did nothing wrong. Look over that privacy agreement and the terms of use you didn't read before you signed up for an account. I'm talking about the unspoken but agreed upon rules that make message boards fun to read: All posters will remain anonymous and will never be outed in order to encourage conversation at the basest level possible.

Without that sort of agreement, we never would have gotten this comic gem typed by Hunt, a.k.a. afternoondelight, according to the P&C report: "His response to a story about a man charged with fondling a child: 'Strip him down to nothing, baste his privates with gravy and put him in a cage with pit bulls.'"

Holy Vick, that's comedy gold. And that's exactly what I personally look for when it comes to postings, but then again, I'm an asshole. Which is why I don't post on the internet, unless it's to say the most horribly mean-spirited things about, well, myself. No one should have to face my fury except for the guy who caused me to blow my top in the first place: me. And possibly Samuel Adams, brewer and patriot.

Earlier this week, I talked to Bill Hawkins, executive editor of the P&C, about the paper's decision to reveal afternoondelight's identity. As mentioned earlier, the paper was well within its rights to out the spokesperson for Solicitor Wilson, who is currently running for reelection, the same as it would have been if the daily had outed anyone else who posts. (See that privacy agreement once again.)

However, Hawkins claims that posts by you or me would never be made public. And there's a reason for that: Hawkins says that we're private citizens and Frank Hunt frankly isn't. (I would also argue that I'm not a private citizen either, but I don't want to come across as a self-important weeny. Damn Rather, I think I just did.) "It's a unique situation," Hawkins says. "We're dealing with a public official in an office that you'd think would be steering clear of political comments during a campaign, but more to the point, inappropriate comments racial or otherwise. It's a public official, as far as we can tell, abusing that position."

The comments to which we can assume Hawkins refers are the aforementioned pit bull remark as well as a statement denigrating a female student who reportedly was "sexually victimized by an adult at school" and another which adopted the racist ebonics speaking style favored by white-bread right-wing talk-show hosts whenever they talk about government cheese, Al Sharpton, and rap music.

A least one post reportedly made by Hunt praised his boss, Wilson, without indicating their relationship. "Clearly, it has campaign overtones," Hawkins says.

He claims that some posts "bordered on the libelous and had be to cleaned up before making it to print." Hawkins says, "This is someone in the solicitor's office for God's sake, commenting on cases that had been in the paper and other things in the paper with some clearly racial overtones."

As for speculation that the P&C printed the story on Hunt in order to help the campaign of Wilson's primary opponent, former Deputy Solicitor Blair Jennings, Hawkins denies this was the case. "I don't know anyone in Blair's campaign. In fact, I don't know anyone in Scarlett's campaign either," he says. "I'm the one who made the decision that, yeah, we're going to do this thing."

Hawkins points out that the identity of afternoondelight came to the P&C's attention via a tip, which was "very complete."

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