JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — There, That’s Over With … Uh Huh

Well, my wife was right. When I wrote a blog last week about this billionaire drug and sex king from California, Henry Nicholas, who’s financing the initiated measure called Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, spearheaded by Kathleen Wrigley, wife of North Dakota Lieutenant Gov. Drew Wrigley, my wife said, “You’re stirring up a hornet’s nest.”

Boy, was she ever right.

Now, right smack in the middle of the best walleye bite on the Missouri River in a couple of years, and just as my golf season with my buddies, Tracy, Sam and Steve, is getting under way, I’m distracted on a daily basis by a need to respond to the weird shit being spewed by the folks at Odney Advertising, using Kathleen Wrigley’s name to advance their cause and run up their bill.

Let me review for you what has been going on. Then, I hope this is the end of it, and I can get back to fishing and golf.  Because, frankly, I don’t have a dog in this Marsy’s Law fight. I was just having fun reporting on this rich dude from California who’s financing initiated measure all over the country when he gets bored with his underground drug and sex parties in his man cave in Laguna Hills.

It started with this blog post last Wednesday. I’m guessing you’ve all read it by now, but if not, go back and take a look.

My blog is hosted by Forum Communications of Fargo, which also owns newspapers in Fargo, Grand Forks, Dickinson and Jamestown in North Dakota, along with some television and radio stations. It’s owned by Bill Marcil, a friendly fellow I’ve known for 30 years or so — we used to chase pheasants down in Adams County, back when we could still walk all day and drink all night, the good old days — with whom I had an interesting conversation this week on other matters.

The website is called Area Voices, and they have a few dozen bloggers contributing to it on a weekly basis. You can look at it by clicking here.

Well, the editors of The Forum liked the blog so much they put a link to it up on the home page of their website the next day, Thursday, which drove readership of my blog up from the hundreds I normally get to several thousand last Thursday. Then, on Friday, they decided to print a slightly edited version of it in the print edition of The Forum, so all their subscribers got a chance to read it. Well, that’s when all hell broke loose.

On Saturday, I received an e-mail from The Forum’s online content chief, Adrian Dawson-Becker, saying “We had to unpublish the Marcy’s Law article. I will follow up with you on Monday. We hope to restore the post.”

Well, I had never seen the word “unpublish” before, but sure enough, it was gone from my blog site when I looked there. They couldn’t unpublish the tens of thousands of print editions of The Forum from the day before, though, a fact which must have really frustrated Kathleen Wrigley and the Odney folks.

Well, on Monday I went fishing. While I was pulling in walleyes, I received a phone call from Dawson-Becker at The Forum, but I was busy setting a hook and didn’t answer. He left me the following voice mail:

“We received several pretty serious complaints questioning the accuracy of your article, and we felt it was necessary to take the article down so that we could go through the article a little more closely and make sure that everything was kosher. In the end we decided that your article was accurate and there was no reason for us to remove that article from our servers. We did issue a clarification on the print side, so we’re good to go.”

I didn’t ask who complained. I assumed it was Kathleen Wrigley, her husband and the folks at Odney. Odney staffer Shane Goettle, who’s responsible for bring in more than $40,000 of Henry Nicholas’ money to the agency — so far — as Kathleen Wrigley’s committee member and adviser, most likely led the charge against the Forum folks. And he got them to issue the clarification, which read:

“A commentary piece written by Jim Fuglie published online and on page A4 of The Forum on Friday, May 13, headlined “Sex, drugs and Marsy’s Law,” may have confused readers about who received the donations a California businessman made to support a victim rights initiative in North Dakota.The donor, Henry Nicholas, gave more than $1 million to Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, not to its state chairwoman, Kathleen Wrigley. Wrigley says she is not compensated in any way for her efforts advocating for Marsy’s Law in North Dakota and has never met or communicated with Nicholas.”

Here’s the actual link to the clarification as it appeared in The Forum.

Well, I didn’t have any problem with that, and the blog was back up on my website, so I just kept on fishing.

But then on Tuesday night, a “guest commentary” appeared on The Forum website, under Kathleen Wrigley’s name. (She probably didn’t write it, but that’s SOP in politics these days). The writer feigned outrage, claiming I had said she was “paid” a million dollars, which, of course, I never said. She made a few other weird accusations sandwiched around a good (if slightly overemotional) argument why we should add Marsy’s Law to the North Dakota Constitution. You can read the whole thing here.

Sure enough, it showed up in print editions of The Forum on Wednesday morning under the headline “Fuglie sets low bar for truth.” Well, following the old Kent Conrad dictum, “Always respond to accusations against you in the same medium,” I wrote a response in the form of a letter to the editor, which appeared in today’s Forum. Since my letter is much shorter than Kathleen Wrigley’s I’ll include it here:

Wrigley Made Up A Bunch Of Stuff

Dear Editor,

I’m not quite sure how to respond to comments about me in Kathleen Wrigley’s letter to the editor. I guess I can say the main difference between Kathleen Wrigley’s letter and my blog post and commentary piece about Henry Nicholas, the billionaire sex and drug king who’s financing her Marsy’s Law campaign, is that she made up a bunch of stuff about me, and I didn’t make up anything.   

She says that I said Henry Nicholas, the California billionaire behind the Marsy’s Law effort nationwide, “paid” Kathleen a million dollars. Wrong. I said he “sent” her a million dollars, to finance her Marsy’s Law campaign in North Dakota. She changed it to “paid” in her letter, so she could express outrage over the fact she’s a volunteer and not getting paid. Nicholas “has not given me, personally, a million dollars,” she says. Good grief. If you want to read what I said, you can do that at www.theprairieblog.areavoices,com.

Well, that’s the one little mistake I made in my article. She’s right. The California billionaire sent a million dollars to the Marsy’s Law Committee, not to Kathleen Wrigley. Never mind that Kathleen Wrigley is chairman of the Marsy’s Law Committee. There’s a difference. I guess. Sorry for the mistake.

In her letter, Kathleen Wrigley said my column about her and the California billionaire who is financing her Marsy’s Law campaign was “breathtaking in its falsehoods.”

Except that it wasn’t. Other than the little mistake about who got the check —maybe that took her breath away, but I doubt it affected very many others that way — everything in the column was truthful. Heck, I hardly wrote about Marsy’s Law. I wrote about the drug and sex scandals of the billionaire who’s financing it. That’s way more fun than writing about some boring constitutional amendment. 

Mostly, I just reported what others already had written and said about the scandalous Nicholas. Dang, there was hardly an original thought in there. I wrote it because we’ve not seen his like in North Dakota before, and I thought voters ought to know who was providing the money to fund the effort to change our constitution. 

Finally, Kathleen Wrigley calls me an opponent of her measure. I’m not sure where that came from, since as I said, I hardly wrote about it and certainly did not take a position on it. I even wrote that I signed her petition. And boy, am I getting a lot of grief about that.

Here’s the link to the letter on The Forum website.

“OK,” I told Lillian as I set out the door to go fishing Wednesday morning, “That’s over with.” Except that it wasn’t.

Because when I got up this morning, there was a message from a friend in Grand Forks with a link to essentially the same letter by Kathleen Wrigley in this morning’s Grand Forks Herald.

Turns out the Herald’s editors also liked my blog last week, so they included part of it in their regular Sunday feature titled “Best of the Blogs.” I can’t find that online, but apparently the Herald printed enough of it so that Kathleen Wrigley and Odney’s Shane Goettle felt they had license to send The Forum letter, blasting me, to the Herald as well.

I said essentially the same letter. They changed it a bit to personalize it to the Herald, and the Herald also included the name of The Forum News Service reporter who’s been covering this, Mike Nowatzki, but misspelled his name, spelling it Nowatski. You can read the whole letter here if you want to. Note that the Herald continues to misuse the word “mislead.”

So, I fired back the same response letter to the Herald, but I couldn’t stop myself from adding a paragraph at the end:

“Oh, one last little “back-to-school” lesson from the old English major in me. Mrs. Wrigley wrote, “he knowingly mislead readers.” It’s “misled,” Mrs. Wrigley. Mislead is present tense. Misled is past tense. A fact most North Dakota high school sophomores have learned. And it’s “Mike Nowatzki,” not “Mike Nowatski.”  With a “z.” Cripes sake, it’s in the paper every day.”   

There. That’s over with.

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