A Frederick County councilman, upset by coverage in his local newspaper, has threatened a reporter with legal action if she uses his name in news articles without his consent.
In a move that by Tuesday was earning him nationwide ridicule, Republican Councilman Kirby Delauter told Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers that she should be ashamed for "an unauthorized use of my name."
"Do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future," Delauter commanded.
Rodgers replied -- correctly under the First Amendment to the Constitution -- that there is no legal requirement to receive a person's authorization to use his or her name in an article. After pointing out that Delauter was an elected official, Rodgers wrote that she was required as a matter of journalistic principle to continue to try to contact him when he was the subject of one of her articles.
Apparently unhappy with Rodgers' reply, Delauter issued a threat: "Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an attorney. Your rights stop where mine start."
The Facebook exchange took on a life of its own in social media, and Delauter's assertion on a right to quash coverage of himself received coverage in news media around the country. Much of the coverage was mocking in tone, including a News-Post editorial that used Delauter's name dozens of times to underscore the rights of the press to do so.
The mockery of Delauter, a staunch conservative and an elected official in Frederick County since 2010, was not confined to liberal or mainstream media outlets. Conservative commentators and bloggers were equally harsh.
On the conservative web site Red Maryland, blogger Brian Griffiths said Delauter had "proved himself to be a clown."
The Frederick County incident was the second in recent months in which a local council member found himself in hot water over a move seen as curbing media coverage.
In Harford County, Council President Richard Slutzky issued a directive shortly after the new Council took office in December that would have prevented residents and the news media from approaching members on the dais after meetings adjourned. Slutzky, a Republican, claimed the move was necessary for the security of Council members.
After a backlash from the public and criticism from his fellow Council members, all Republicans, Slutzky rescinded the action a week later.