Don’t quote me, especially if I didn’t say it

As a  freelance newspaper columnist I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the municipal election candidates in Sault Ste. Marie quoted me in his election pamphlet.

But I was shocked to discover that the quote was something I had never said or written, and that it insulted another candidate.

Just before the end of the recent campaign someone told me I was being quoted by a candidate. But it wasn’t until election night that I saw the quote.

It read:

Tom Mills said it best: “Turco is a blowhard, a waste of space likely to be re-elected as a reality personality.”

The Turco in question is Lou Turco, longtime city councillor running in Ward 2. He lost, placing third to Luke Dufour and Lisa Vezeau Allen.

The candidate who used the pseudo-quote in his pamphlet, Ted Hallin, got considerably fewer votes than Turco. But a major thrust of his campaign was to unseat the veteran councillor, so in that sense he tasted victory. One page from his pamphlet was  headed: “Reject Lou Turco. Vote for two, not for Lou.”

And no, Tom Mills didn’t say it best, or even worst: He didn’t say it at all.

How did the mistake happen?

My best guess is that it started with a Facebook post I made criticizing Turco for failing to attend a televised Ward 2 candidates debate.

Someone else commented on that post, using more immoderate language. Those seem to have been the words picked up by Hallin and used in his pamphlet, with my name attached to them. (Words may live forever on social media, but for some reason I can’t track these down.)

Ted Hallin, candidate for Ward 2 city council

When I contacted Ted Hallin, via messenger and email, he confirmed he had copied it from Facebook, thinking “It was probably a quote from one of your interesting articles.”

I told him that believing something is “probably” a quote is not an acceptabe standard for attribution and he should probably make a public apology to both Turco and me.

To his credit, Hallin issued an apology within a few hours, addressing it to several news media as well as to Turco and me.

I’ve since reached out to Lou Turco by email to reiterate that those words are not mine. I would not have called him “a blowhard, a waste of space,” both because I would consider it rude and because that’s not my opinion of him.

Still, this apology, which is unlikely to get much if any news play, probably doesn’t make everything all better again for either Mr. Turco or me.

I do appreciate the irony. As an editor at a newspaper, occasionally I had to explain to aggrieved story subjects why their correction would appear in body type on Page 2 when the error might have been committed under a large headline on a more-prominent page. (There are many practical reasons for newspaper correction policies, which I won’t get in to.) And now I fall victim to the inadequacy of corrections.

But it’s a characteristic of society beyond newspapers that people usually pay more attention to, and remember better, the erroneous information that first circulates than the correct information that follows.

Especially on social media.

So I write this, and hope it is widely circulated, to correct the record and to defend my reputation as a columnist and writer.

Tom Mills said it best: Hope this works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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