Sunday, Joe Steffen went after Red Maryland. He accused them of running a protection racket in the way they were soliciting advertising for their radio shows. He also criticized them for Mark Newgent, a Red Maryland contributor, and Jackie Wellfonder, a Red Maryland Network host, doing consulting work. Additionally, Wellfonder’s and Red Maryland’s early support for Larry Hogan was mentioned.
From Steffen’s post:
In the end, candidates are going to do what candidates are going to do. Well, if they have any brains, I can bet what they won’t do – fall for Red Maryland’s basic- and laughable - protection racket style of media.
Michael Swartz later weighed in on this matter:
So when did Red Maryland cross the point of derision? Was it the fawning over Larry Hogan, or maybe Greg Kline’s bid to become Maryland GOP Chair where he finished a distant third? Maybe self-promotion has gotten into the way of their original purpose, but all I know is that they (and their detractors) have become the sideshow sucking up all the oxygen in the room. Are we really that bored with the candidates we’re putting up – the ones who are working hard to get elected?
Respect takes a long time to earn, but can be gone in an instant. The Red Maryland crew continues to claim that #IntegrityMatters, but it’s apparent that a number of people question whether they have any left.
I had been staying out of it, but when a Red Maryland contributor took an ill-considered shot at me I did comment briefly and even defended Red Maryland from others who were attempting to pile on in wake of Steffen’s piece:
I think some of the reaction to that situation is being overblown by those who would say Red Maryland had been bought off by the umbrella industry if they accurately reported it was going to rain.
Red Maryland had remained silent all week and based on that I expected them to continue to ignore the issue.
However, this morning a post at Red Maryland took on Steffen:
Recently, Joe Steffen, a person some at Red Maryland once considered a friend, decided to go beyond his previous puerile criticisms of us and cross the line into out and out defamation. In a recent post, Mr. Steffen stated, as a fact, that Red Maryland was engaged in a “paid protection racket” by offering access to our pages and radio shows not only to provide candidates with exposure but to provide paid advertising opportunities as well. Mr. Steffen claimed, as a fact, that our true intention was to “intimidate or coerce payments for flattering words” from candidates throughout the State.To say that this is false should be obvious to anyone familiar with our work, including Mr. Steffen. Mr. Steffen knows full well that we are not a criminal syndicate looking to extort payments from Republican candidates. Yet, he chose to publish such statements with full knowledge of their falsity in an attempt to discredit Red Maryland and to interfere with our relationships with the Baltimore Sun and others. This was a tortious act and, as the extortion that Mr. Steffen alleges is a crime under Md. Ann. Code, Criminal Law Article, 3-701, is defamation per se under Maryland law. Again, these statements were made with full knowledge for their falsity and with malice.Red Maryland has worked since 2007 to be an outlet for news, opinion and information for Maryland Republicans and conservatives. We are completely not for profit and are motivated solely by our passion to improve our state and advance the cause of conservatism. We have provided access to our platform to scores of candidates throughout the years. Many of these candidates would have little or no media exposure and certainly would not have had the access to a statewide audience of dedicated conservatives like that of our readers here at Red Maryland. Our support for candidates has never been affected by our advertising or other business relationships. Red Maryland has given access to its pages to all candidates, even those we have criticized or chosen not to endorse. There has never been any pay-to-play or quid pro quo at Red Maryland and, again, the statements and insinuations to the contrary are known to be false.
The Red Maryland response goes on to say:
We are proud of our outreach to candidates and the false claims that we have done it for profit or our own personal ends is not only injurious to us personally but the very candidates and causes we worked to serve these last seven years. We take this very seriously and to all those who have published or republished these defamatory statements, know that we will take all appropriate actions and seek every available remedy.
As I said, I didn’t expect Red Maryland to respond and didn’t think it was necessarily the best idea for them to respond. My first gut-level reaction Friday morning when I read their response (that took place five days later) is that Steffen’s piece caused The Baltimore Sun to put pressure or Red Maryland to say or do something. I have no inside information on this, it’s just a hunch based on the delayed reaction.
This matter has the potential to exceed the nastiness in Mike Hough-David Brinkley senate primary.