It's gone now, but the buzz about it at City Hall and in political circles still is ongoing.
An e-mail circulated this week — presumably among conservative Republicans — referenced the Wikipedia entry for Cincinnati City Hall, which had been changed to include a lie about Congressman Steve Driehaus, a Democrat, implying he was anti-Christian.
The altered paragraph stated: “A granite statue of Jesus was contributed by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1864 and displayed in the alcove on the south side of the building until 2003. In 2003, the statue was removed as a result of a lawsuit filed by Steve Driehaus regarding the separation of church and state.”
Driehaus never filed such a lawsuit.
In fact, a lawsuit of that type would be big news in predominantly conservative, Catholic Cincinnati. If you can't remember hearing about it, it's for good reason: There never was a legal battle over Jesus at City Hall.
An e-mail inquiring about the Wikipedia passage's origin was sent to “four or five people” by Brad Beckett, chief of staff to Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel. One of the people who received the e-mail was Joanne S. Kemmerer, a Norwood resident and right-wing Christian activist involved in the anti-abortion movement. It's unclear if she forwarded it to others.
Although some media outlets have said Beckett was publicizing the passage, he flatly denies the allegation. “My e-mail asked if people can believe this and includes five question marks,” Beckett said. “If it was for (the general public), do you think I would've included five questions marks? It's ridiculous. It's clearly bogus and I was checking it out.”
Asked how he learned of the Wikipedia passage, Beckett replied, “It was brought to our attention by a constituent.”
The passage has since been deleted by Wikipedia.
The brief rewriting of history is the latest example of odd dirty tricks in political campaigns recently. The campaign staffs for Driehaus and his Republican opponent, Steve Chabot, have each accused the other of removing or defacing campaign signs on the city's West Side.
Also, the local Democratic Party chairman is asking for an investigation into claims allegedly made by Republican candidate Mike Robison against Driehaus' sister, State Rep. Denise Driehaus. In that instance, Robison allegedly has said on the campaign trail that Denise Driehaus tried to change her surname to her husband's, but was rejected by the Board of Elections; in fact, such a request was never made.
Robison has denied comment to the media, citing the possibility of an investigation.
In the latest kurfuffle, Beckett thinks the Wikipedia passage was changed by Driehaus supporters in a bid to gain him some sympathy.
“Personally, I think someone did it as a prank on the Democratic side to say, 'The Tea Party was up to no good again.'”
Is it November yet?