Nassau DA Kathleen Rice Threatens Local Newspaper

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice at Hofstra University October, 2010 (Photo by Howard Schnapp-Pool/Getty Images)
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice at Hofstra University October, 2010 (Photo by Howard Schnapp-Pool/Getty Images)

On Friday, October 24, the Observer published an opinion piece by Ronn Torossian about Nassau County District Attorney and Congressional candidate Kathleen Rice’s scheduled appearance at the annual fundraiser for the Islamic Center of Long Island. The flyer listed on the center’s website advertises her as a speaker along with controversial Imam Siraj Wahhaj. As an unindicted conspirator in the 1993 WTC Attack and an avowed supporter of polygamy, Imam Wahhaj was an uncomfortable adjacency for a candidate who has made women’s issues a centerpiece of her campaign and whose district is home to many whose lives were affected by both World Trade Center attacks.

Shams Tarek, director of communications for DA Rice, contacted the Observer on Friday evening seeking an update to the story, explaining that Ms. Rice had only learned of Imam Wahhaj’s appearance from the Observer story. His email read, “When the DA accepted the invitation, this individual was not yet an invited participant. He was later added to the guest list and as soon as we became aware of his involvement we immediately pulled out of the event.”

Meanwhile, several other news sources picked up the story, including the largest Long Island Jewish newspaper, 5 Towns Jewish Times, according to its editor Larry Gordon. The paper posted a few paragraphs from the Observer story and a link without adding any commentary of its own.
5 Towns Jewish Times links to their Observer linked article on Facebook.

5 Towns Jewish Times linked to their reposted Observer article on Facebook.

By Saturday morning, Mr. Gordon had received an email from the DA’s communications staff claiming the piece was “totally false and needed to come down.”

“Call me now so I don’t need to get our lawyers involved,” the email read, according to Mr. Gordon.
Mr. Gordon communicated that his staff was unavailable and unable to change the article at that moment, believing that it was “no big deal.” Especially as Mr. Torossian’s original article, which 5 Towns merely referenced, had already been updated to reflect that Ms. Rice had since withdrawn from the event.

A further note was sent soon after, threatening that Mr. Gordon and his publication were “inching toward a lawsuit.”

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Gordon updated the story to reflect DA Rice’s cancellation, as did many other publications. Nevertheless, Mr. Gordon was still not quite clear of the scrutiny of the DA and her staff. Though Mr. Gordon declined to share the full messages, which included several texts, he told the Observer that he had been contacted every hour for two days regarding the removal of the story.
Mr. Gordon and Ms. Rice both attended a legislative breakfast on Sunday, October 26. There Ms. Rice was emphatic, personally telling Mr. Gordon that his story was completely false–even “libelous.” He was told that her staff was pursuing every other site that ran the story, threatening lawsuits.
However, while the Observer was asked simply to update the story (which was correct when published and which has not had its veracity challenged), the 5 Towns Jewish Times–located in the district in which DA Rice is currently seeking election to Congress–was asked to remove the story in its entirety.
When Mr. Gordon spoke to the Observer, he maintained that the Observer Op-Ed, of which he simply published an excerpt, was completely factual when posted. After all, in his email to the Observer, Mr. Tarek admitted, “We first learned about this person’s attendance when we saw Mr. Torossian’s published column.” So obviously, the Observer‘s story was true; when the facts changed, the Observer acted responsibly and updated the story. Mr. Tarek even emailed the Observer after the update to say, “Thanks very much for your responsiveness.”

It is unknown why the DA and her office were so deferential toward the Observer and so much tougher toward other papers that had simply included links to the Observer‘s story. For his part, Mr. Gordon said, “I do not think that she is a sympathizer of those who support terror by any stretch, I thought that it was just poor judgement to attend the event.”

Ultimately, Mr. Gordon capitulated to pressure from the DA’s office and removed the article link on 5 Town’s website, telling the Observer, “I don’t want to be the news. I want to report the news.”

Mr. Gordon made his decision. In a week, the voters of the 4th Congressional District will decide if they want someone who threatens newspaper editors to represent them in Washington, DC.

By Vanessa Haughton, via the New York Observer

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4 thoughts on “Nassau DA Kathleen Rice Threatens Local Newspaper

  • October 28, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Part One


    I wish I would be able to sign my name to this letter, but I fear that we are beginning the age where the United States has the overtones of a police state, where expression of opinion is monitored, and the wrong political opinion is greeted by intimidation and retribution.

    People make mistakes. Great people say, “I made a mistake.” It is the little people who cannot say I am sorry.

    Kathleen Rice’s faux pas in accepting to be a major attraction to an Islamic fundraiser is fraught with questions. Her delay in cancelling her appearance when the Islamic Center, posted that she would be speaking with an avowed Jew basher and hater of these United States was preponderously unacceptable. But her reaction to critics is shocking beyond words.

  • October 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Part II
    Everyone can caught up in the political moment. The lack of savvy advisers can cause what modern-day pundits may call a scheduling malfunction, and in the interest of community harmony, it may even make sense for a sitting District Attorney to speak to a Muslim community about the concerns they have for the safety of their citizens.

    But who what why and where? A person who represents law and order, patriotism and American values has a responsibility to insure her constituents that she has the broad vision to ascertain all the facts and circumstances behind a planned event.

    She failed miserably to that end. But I don’t fault her personally on that ineptitude. What I cannot forgive is the threats and intimidation that anyone who report4ed the faux pas received from her campaign with the overtones of threat from a sitting District Attorney.

  • October 28, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Part 3
    It is fascinating just how many Republicans and longtime friends of Ms. Rice’s political opponent have signed on to her cause, just because of fear of retaliation. Unfortunately they are in a Catch 22 situation. If she wins, they helped elect someone whom they really do not believe in. If she loses, she is still the DA and then it’s ShowTime! The full undivided wrath of the DA’s office. Would it not be more fun and more exciting to go after a republican developer than a simple journalist?

    In such times, our only friend is the Press and when that vehicle bears the brunt of intimidation, it’s time for citizens to speak out. Ah? But to whom?

    And I’d love to sign with full name and serial number. But then again, there is that parking ticket and perhaps a moving violation that I fear will become a full blown infection, and I can’t afford the time and money to fight it. If you can’t fight City hall, surely you can’t fight the DA’s office.

  • October 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Part 4

    I remember the Bruhaha in our community, when Carolyn McCarthy, who I am sure until her election could not find Israel on a map, went with the Obama flow and condemned Israel for its defensive attack on the HaMas flotilla. Strong condemnation from rabbinic leaders in the Five Towns, caused her to retract her initial comments and modify them to appease a large Orthodox (and) Jewish constituency.

    I am quite curious as to what type of reaction we will get from a Congresswoman, who willingly without scrutiny seemed to have jumped at the opportunity to address an Islamic Center Fundraiser.

    But I think even so, she will find a way to appease the Jewish media. Maybe the next time she will speak at and Islamic Fundraiser, she will put a full page ad in the Five Towns Jewish Times.

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