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March 18th, 2010 By | News | Posted In: Media, Healthcare Reform, Congress, 2010 Election

The Enquirer's Apology

It doesn’t quite rank up there with the front-page apology to Chiquita that the newspaper published for three straight days in 1998, but The Cincinnati Enquirer used an entire interior page of it’s "A" Section today to apologize to Congressman Steve Driehaus.

Driehaus, the Democratic lawmaker from Price Hill, was incensed after an advertisement appeared in Wednesday’s Enquirer that included a photograph of him with his two young daughters. The ad, paid for by a special interest group, urged Driehaus to vote “no” on the healthcare reform bill winding its way through Congress.

Because of the heated emotions connected to the bill, with vocal opposition expressed by the Tea Party movement and other conservative groups, Driehaus feared the ad might expose his daughters to harassment.

For example, at a healthcare reform rally Tuesday in Columbus, a video taken by a Columbus Dispatch reporter showed Tea Party protestors mock a seated counter-protestor, who carried a sign indicating he has Parkinson's disease. The protestors then hurled crumpled dollar bills at him shouting, "I'll decide when to give you money!"

Those types of incidents caused by the volatile atmosphere swirling about the bill concerned Driehaus.

"Rep. Driehaus thought the ad was outrageous," Tim Mulvey, a Driehaus spokesman, told the Associated Press. "He can take more than his fair share of political attacks, but this one crossed the line."

After some reflection, Enquirer managers apparently agreed.

The newspaper’s full-page apology, which ran on Page A-13, stated: “Advertisement Retraction. Yesterday we ran an advertisement paid for by the Committee to Rethink Reform that featured a photograph of Congressman Steve Driehaus and two of his children. The use of this photograph in this advertisement was inappropriate and we apologize to Congressman Driehaus and his family. Carol Hahn, Vice President of Advertising, Enquirer Media.”

A full-page ad in a mass circulation daily newspaper is valued at hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars.

News reports indicate the Committee to Rethink Reform also will publish an ad in Friday’s Enquirer, apologizing to Driehaus.

Some observers said today’s apology was a classy move on the newspaper’s part. Others, however, said it might set a bad precedent that could see The Enquirer pressured into issuing apologies over minor issues and perceived slights. The fault lay with the special interest group and not the newspaper, they added.

In 1998, The Enquirer published a front-page retraction and apology after locally owned Chiquita Brands International threatened to sue the newspaper over how it accessed information for an 18-page special section investigating the firm’s business practices. A reporter had illegally accessed the company’s voice mail system, Chiquita said; it also pushed for criminal indictments in the matter.

The newspaper published the apology for three consecutive days and removed the Chiquita material from its Web site. Also, The Enquirer paid $14 million to Chiquita in a secret settlement uncovered by Editor & Publisher magazine.

The organization involved in the current dispute, the Committee to Rethink Reform, is affiliated with the pro-business, conservative “Employment Policies Institute.” It describes itself on a Web site as “a non-profit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth.”

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