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Journalistic Hypocrisy – What are they Smoking?

Lee Walton

As dependable as gnats on a spring evening, the publishers and editors of the Palter & Chatter can always be counted upon to liven up a slow news week by providing yet another classic example of their journalistic hypocrisy for which they’ve become locally infamous. Saturday, March 10th’s lead editorial and B1, above-the-fold headliner, when taken together, are a classic case in point.

The lead editorial, Court decision new reason for smoking-ban caution, came out of the box lecturing condescendingly to Mount Pleasant’s elected officials to “…pay particular attention to a decision by a Greenville circuit court judge this week…” who declared that city’s smoking-ban void because it imposed restrictions upon indoor smoking beyond those contained in a key amendment to the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act. The Greenville circuit court judge’s ruling essentially paralleled and bolstered an earlier, albeit recent, opinion issued by the state attorney general – an opinion provided well in advance of the City of Charleston’s controversial smoking-ban ratified earlier this year as an arm-twisting, election year stunt championed by Riley and City Council’s political odd-couple, Tinkles and The Fish. Where were the Palter & Chatter’s editorial lectures and public chidings from on high (at least from the mystical third floor) after this little lawsuit in the making was laid upon the taxpayers of Charleston? Could it be that Riley was even above their reproach?

So why did last Saturday’s lead editorial then pronounce that “In view of the attorney general’s opinion, we have long contended that smoking ban advocates should focus…on the legislature rather than trying to get local governments to pass legally suspect local smoking bans”? Where were these same learned, courageous journalists and Palter & Chatter legal scholars on January 5th when they published the jointly authored Tinkles & Fish letter – Time for Charleston to ban smoking? Where was their timely admonishment on January 5th that Charleston’s Mayor and City Council “… would be foolhardy…to put another local smoking ban on the books”? How can they not see the blatant hypocrisy of their actions?

Could it be that the editors and owners of the Palter & Chatter exempt Riley and his council of handpicked poltroons from the same standards of conduct to which they hold other elected officials? Why this journalistic double standard? What about the Palter & Chatter’s December 9th acknowledgement of the state attorney general’s opinion when they warned, “…some anti-smoking advocates at the local level seem intent on buying their governments lawsuits.” No mention of Charleston’s pending smoking-ban as “foolhardy” then; one has to wonder why? There was not one single mention of Charleston’s “foolhardy” action in last Saturday’s editorial, but they’re quick to offer their journalistic wisdom to others - hypocrisy, just bold, blatant hypocrisy.

Even now, in light of the recent Greenville circuit court decision, the Palter & Chatter stands mutely aside with a blind eye and deaf ear as Riley defends his city’s smoking-ban as responsible, progressive and legally sound. To the editors and owners of the Palter & Chatter, Riley is a conjoined twin, never to be subjected to meaningful, unbiased journalistic scrutiny.

The truth is likely more sinister – the Palter & Chatter, together with Riley and a handful of well connected deal-estate developers and old-time political cronies, are members of Charleston’s self-appointed ruling class – the politically elite movers and shakers of governance in the Lowcountry. Their dark, covert political synergy dictates absolute control over the local press; it’s a fundamental principle despots know well. So much for journalistic ethics and a free press in Charleston!

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