September 6, 2014

Oops! Mailers falsely attacked Kittleman for wanting to arm teachers based on inaccurate story

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Kittleman portrait

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

For almost two weeks, a Democratic slate supporting Courtney Watson for Howard County executive had been attacking Sen. Allan Kittleman, her Republican opponent, for supporting arming teachers and administrators with guns to protect students.

For almost as long, Kittleman has been saying he was misquoted in the 2006 Washington Examiner story that was the basis of the claim, and had demanded a correction.

MarylandReporter.com tracked down the reporter who wrote the story and she said that indeed Kittleman’s position was misrepresented in the editing process and a correction had been made.

Now, the Team Howard Democratic slate has pulled the assertion off its website KittlemanFacts.com, and officials say it will not make the claim again. But that came after the slate, which includes Watson and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, sent out tens of thousands of glossy mailers assailing Kittleman’s stance on guns based on the inaccurate story.

Below are the four pages of the third mailer.

What was Kittleman thinking

Kittleman thinking Kittleman thinking 3

Correction made, reporter says

Tawanda Johnson, who covered Howard County for the Baltimore Examiner in 2006, recalled “a huge correction that had to run with the story.”

Kittleman “called me the next day screaming about it,” Johnson recalled in an interview Thursday. Johnson, a journalism graduate of Syracuse University who now does public relations for a D.C. scientific organization, said “It wasn’t my fault, it was the editor’s.”

“The story was definitely hyped, but there was definitely a correction,” Johnson said.

The Baltimore Examiner was a free daily tabloid published from April 2006 to February 2009, when it folded. Some of its content was picked up and used by its sister newspaper, the daily Washington Examiner, which is now a weekly magazine.

[Editor’s Note: I was the State House bureau chief for the Baltimore Examiner for its entire life. In keeping with its scrappy tabloid mindset, editors would often hype leads to juice up stories without consulting reporters. Headlines written by copy editors in Springfield, Va. sometimes went far beyond the facts of a story.]

Correction can’t be confirmed  

MarylandReporter.com has been unable to confirm the correction. Microfilm of the Baltimore Examiner at the Maryland State Library Resource Center at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library is incomplete, and does not contain the issue in which the original article ran nor the following days when a correction might have run.

The Baltimore Examiner and Washington Examiner are also not in the comprehensive Nexis database for publications. (MarylandReporter.com’s original stories are on Nexis under Newstex Blogs.)

Watson campaign also talked to reporter

The Watson campaign also tracked down Johnson after doing more digging following a conversation Maryland Reporter had with Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball, He is is the spokesman for the Team Howard slate which also includes him, Council member Jen Terrasa, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and Del. Guy Guzzone.

“We did a thorough job of researching” Kittleman’s record, Ball said Friday. “There was a certain level of due diligence,” and the fact that MarylandReporter.com could not find a record of the correction other than the statement by the original reporter proved that.

“Mr. Kittleman has a strong enough record” in opposing gun control legislation in other respects that voters should be aware of that, Ball said.

How the 2006 story happened

The initial story happened after a Wisconsin legislator proposed legislation to arm teachers and school administrators. Kittleman said he was contacted by the Examiner reporter to ask if he would support similar legislation in Maryland.

“Of course I would consider it,” like any legislation introduced in Annapolis that requires a hearing, Kittleman said. “I never said I supported it. I did say I would consider it.”

“I would have voted against,” Kittleman said. But he never had that opportunity since such legislation never came to the Senate floor.

The slate has already done three mailers attacking Kittleman’s 10-year record in the state senate and six years on the county council before that. (The two other mailers are at the bottom of this story. Here is our original story on the website.)

Ball said that five mailings on the Kittleman record were planned, but a fourth scheduled to be mailed out Saturday had been pulled because it again included the reference to the Examiner article and its assertion that Kittleman favored arming teachers.

Another correction called for, but unlikely  

In an interview, Kittleman said that was hardly enough for the damage already done.

“How do they put the toothpaste back in the tube?” Kittleman asked. He said the only way to correct the inaccuracy would be another mailer acknowledging the error and saying “We apologize for misleading the people. It should be a positive piece.”

He acknowledged that was not likely to happen.

“They’ve spent a awful lot of money attacking me,” he said. “It’s just disappointing that that is the way a campaign is done.”

Kittleman said he has not checked every claim made on the KittlemanFacts.com website, but he was also dubious about an assertion at the top of the home page that he got a 22% rating from the Maryland Humane Society in 2004.

He noted that he was appointed to the Senate in October 2004, after the death of his father, Sen. Bob Kittleman.

Against assault weaponsAssault weapons mailerFirst mailer

Kittleman mailer coverKittleman insideKittleman back

  • SharonrG

    “Cindy” (first mailer) says she’s a Republican however she worked on Courtney Watson’s 2010 campaign and has several photos together on Facebook celebrating Courtney’s victory. It would seem the mailers coming from Team Howard thus far are misleading in many ways.

  • HowardC

    Way to go, HoCo Dems – check the facts AFTER mailing the piece. Typical BS politics of distortion. Hopefully everyone can see through this garbage. This is like passing legislation and then dealing with the “unintended consequences” later. We can do better than the current administration!

  • Jeffrey Underwood

    The “Firearms Safety Act 2013” is a lie. As an expert in firearms, ballistics, public safety, certified firearms safety instructor, Maryland State Police certified HQL instructor, federally licensed munitions manufacturer and all things munitions; Senators and Delegates asked me to testify for many hours during the SB281 {2013} debate. Its passage was purely political and nothing in makes Maryland residents safer. In fact, Baltimore homicides using illegals guns are on track to equal past years before FSA2013 implementation.

    I have and can debunk every provision in the 54 pages of legislature. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said on the Chris Matthews Show in 2103 “we want to clog up the system.” That’s ALL that this law does, it clogs up the system for law gun buyers.

    I have personally known Allan Kittleman for nearly 50 years and he is not a gun zealot, he is quite sensible in his approach to firearms and firearm safety. He is not a knee jerk politician like the sycophants that rammed through the O’Malley agenda in 2013.

    Maryland is ranked as the 8th MOST violent state in America because we have feckless laws that don’t work or aren’t enforced. On October 1, 2013, I reported a straw purchase by three individuals, one discovered to be a violent felon. What did the state do? Nothing, they dropped the charges against two of the parties and gave the felon a slap on the wrist. The Federal penalties for their acts are $10,000 and 10 yrs, Maryland’s penalties are nearly as severe but the states attorney’s chose not to prosecute. Why?

    If you’re bold enough and really want to know the truth about FSA2013 and what laws will/won’t work to reduce crime and crimes with guns contact me any time.

    Dr. Jeff underwood 410-336-4226

  • Angie Boyter

    Thank you, Len, for taking to time to check the facts. It’s an activity too rare with both politics and journalism these days

  • BillBissenas

    The sad thing is, Kittleman would go along with any sort of weapons ban if it meant he might get elected.

    • Tom Paxton

      I assume you have never met Allan Kittleman. He is a man of his word and believes in following rules, like the Constitution. What everyone doesn’t understand is Allan Kittleman could remain a State Senator for the rest of his life if politics and power was his agenda. He want’s to bring change and transparency to government and wants to start here.

  • Michael B

    There is no meaningful “assault weapons ban” in Howard County. It is still insanely easy to walk into any store and buy a baseball bat, hockey stick, golf clubs, machete, or other assorted knives and walk out the door with no background check or ID check.

    Most violent assaults committed in Howard County result in plea bargains at best, with “probation” on misdemeanor charges.