On May 14, 2010, Mayoral candidate Mahesh P. Butani wrote a letter to Hamilton Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel in response to Dreschel's column of the same day concerning Larry Di Ianni's possible mayoralty bid.
Mr. Dreschel wrote that Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson's decision not to run "leaves pot advocate Michael Baldasaro and Mahesh Butani, a boutique property developer and blogger, as the only registered candidates, which virtually gift-wraps a second four-year term for Eisenberger."
The letter from Mr. Butani made some very strongly worded accusations, including the accusation that Mr. Dreschel has "an aversion to coloured people." I decided to publish it because I considered it a newsworthy matter of public interest that a mayoral candidate would write such a letter to a newspaper columnist during a mayoral election campaign.
That is, I believed that it was newsworthy for having been written, rather than believing it to be true.
However, in today's column (Andrew Dreschel, "Tossing around racism crosses the line", The Hamilton Spectator, June 2, 2010, p. A11), Mr. Dreschel responded to the letter and to its being published in Raise the Hammer and in The Hamiltonian, Cal DiFalco's blog. (Note: I cannot find a link to the column on the Spectator's website.)
Mr. Dreschel called Butani's letter "clearly defamatory" and noted that he believes Mr. DiFalco and I "have assumed, in law, liability for Butani's defamatory statements and remain legally at risk for as long as they are posted."
Dreschel also noted, "The Spec notified blog operators Ryan McGreal of Raise the Hammer and Cal DiFalco of The Hamiltonian that they have legal and ethical responsibilities not to knowingly publish defamatory content."
I did receive an email from a Spectator editor, who noted that the email was "not for posting". I won't post it without the editor's permission, but I will copy what I wrote in response:
Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I wrestled with whether to publish the letter, but I decided to do it because it seemed newsworthy for a mayoral candidate to write such an open letter. That's why I prefaced it with the editor's note. (I notice that Cal DiFalco also published it on thehamiltonian.net, presumably for the same reasons.)
However, I understand what you've written and you raise some legitimate issues that I'll be sure to consider and keep in mind. I apologize if it came across that RTH is attacking the Spectator; that was not my intent, and I wish for our publications to maintain a cordial, respectful relationship.
For what it's worth, I don't agree with everything Mahesh wrote, and I suspect readers (and voters) will be split on whether his letter reflects well or poorly on his candidacy. Indeed, the comments on the piece already reflect this.
The editor replied with a simple "thank you", and I considered the matter at rest until today.
I still believe that the letter was newsworthy and that publishing it serves the public interest. Unfortunately, I Am Not A Lawyer and Raise the Hammer does not have the funds for a legal defence in a potential liability suit.
Therefore, I have decided to take the original article down and replace it with a link to this explanation.
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