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Monday, October 17, 2011

Republican S.F. Chair: I Never Wanted to Sic Government on SF Weekly

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 1:00 PM

No, no, you guys at SF Weekly are fine...
  • No, no, you guys at SF Weekly are fine...

Last week, we told you about how the head of San Francisco's Republican Party threatened to sic big government on our newspaper. Harmeet Dhillon, the boss of the local GOP, now tells SF Weekly that was never her intention.

She didn't want to abridge our First Amendment rights by having the Ethics Commission come down on us for writing an article that displeased her (a curious notion; for all its flaws the Ethics Commission is not the KGB). Rather, she's merely accusing SF Weekly of acting as the mindless stooge of shadowy political hacks.

Well, thanks a lot!

Here are the background details:

Last month, we published a story titled "Republicans Love Ed Lee." For reasons that, honestly, we cannot discern, Dhillon was incensed by the article, which states extremely overtly that the GOP did not "endorse" Lee but, rather, offered him a "vote of support." Dhillon today told SF Weekly that the article twisted her message, which is "you can vote for [Lee] and it's not the end of the world." Last month we quoted her saying "It's hard for the Republican Party to endorse a Democrat, but it's to give our members guidance, and there is a good chance Republican voters will seriously consider our choices."

If there's distortion here, it's eluding us.

We're equally confused by the notion that asking questions about the GOP giving a vote of support to our Democratic mayor -- an eminently newsworthy development -- somehow implies an organized conspiracy with the Dennis Herrera campaign. Dhillon claims she received calls from SF Weekly's Erin Sherbert and someone from the Herrera camp moments apart, which "indicates coordination."

Interesting logic. But flawed. In fact, it may indicate Herrera's people picked up the phone and made a few calls of their own after Sherbert asked them why they painted Lee as a Republican tool.

In fact, as overtly stated within Sherbert's original piece, her reporting on Lee's supposed Republican ties was spurred by incendiary claims in a Herrera attack ad that Lee was a Republican puppet. There's a difference between thinking "what are Lee's actual Republican ties, if any?" and reporting out the nuanced truth -- taking time to differentiate between a "vote of support" and "endorsement" -- and taking orders from some Herrera henchman. Let's just say that, on Planet Earth, in the Real World, life looks a bit like the former scenario.

It was this alleged conspiracy between Herrera and our newspaper, Dhillon claims, that was the inspiration for her threat to get the Ethics Commission involved. She says Herrera was guilty of "deliberately planting false information with reporters..."

We remain uncertain what, exactly, the false information is. And Sherbert notes that no one "planted" anything. In any event, Dhillion says she has opted to leave the Ethics Commission out of it.

She further notes that, as a successful lawyer, she has won First Amendment cases and as a former candidate for office, she has dealt with the Ethics Commission and knows it "obviously doesn't regulate newspapers."

Good to know. For future reference, we don't have time to engage in elaborate conspiracies in this newsroom. We're just too damn busy.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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