EMMITSBURG, Md. — An elected county official in Maryland who threatened to sue a newspaper for publishing his name dropped that threat Wednesday after his angry Facebook post generated an avalanche of mocking messages on social media.
"The First Amendment is alive and well in Frederick County," Republican County Councilman Kirby Delauter said in a written statement.
He acknowledged that The Frederick News-Post has the right to use his name when reporting on county government.
"So, yes, my statement to The Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate," Delauter said.
News-Post Managing Editor Terry Headlee welcomed the development: "I'm glad he saw the light."
Delauter achieved instant Internet notoriety Tuesday after telling a News-Post reporter in a Facebook post: "Use my name again unauthorized and you'll be paying for an attorney." Delauter said on Wednesday that the threat reflected his frustration about feeling "misrepresented or misinterpreted" in news stories.
"I thought I had long ago learned the lesson of waiting 24 hours before I hit the send key, but apparently I didn't learn that lesson as well as I should have," Delauter said.
Headlee said editors have found no factual errors in a story Delauter cited online as the basis for his frustration.
Delauter has been making headlines since he launched his first successful campaign for county office in 2010. The construction contractor was elected along with three fellow Republicans on a conservative platform focused largely on reversing slow-growth policies enacted by the previous, Democrat-led board.
His business connections to developers made him a target of cronyism allegations. But the county ethics commission found no conflict of interest in Delauter having his company work on projects subject to county inspection.
The News-Post reported he left a public meeting abruptly last year after shouting at a resident who had questioned whether his company was working with developers of a large residential community. Fellow board member David Gray, who often clashed with Delauter, told the newspaper afterward that he felt physically threatened by Delauter at the meeting. Delauter told the newspaper Gray was a "moron," but that he would never hit him.
Delauter's temper also flared at a 2012 board meeting when he stormed out after telling a county staff member, "I'm not going to sit here and be talked to like some punk because I'm asking questions."
In 2011, Delauter drew heat for publicly praising his wife's decision to delay job-hunting so she could stay home and raise four children.
Delauter supporter Tom Caulfield, owner of Chubby's BBQ near Delauter's construction firm in Emmitsburg, said Delauter is a selfless public servant under constant attack by liberals and the News-Post. He likened him to Howard Beale, the angry television anchorman in the 1976 film, "Network," who shouted, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
"That's Kirby Delauter," Caulfield said. "And he's just being absolutely, from-the-heart honest."
Former Democratic county board member Kai Hagen said the scorn heaped on Delauter online was well-deserved.
"His behavior is crude. He is completely, it seems, incapable of empathy and sympathy and understanding," Hagen said.
Hagen shared Delauter's threat on Facebook Monday, helping start the snowball.
"It really doesn't affect Frederick County any more that it's gone viral in a big way, but I'm glad people here are likely to see it," he said.