Daily Sun editor announces column will no longer be published
The most strident conservative voice in the Lakes Region went contrite and quiet this weekend after Doug Lambert, co-host of the blog GraniteGrok and radio program "Meet the New Press," earned himself near universal condemnation for a stream of derogatory remarks about New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley that aired across the Internet.
James Pindell, who owns and operates NH Political Report.com, was watching and within less than an hour after the Saturday morning incident, posted a verbatim account on the website. According to Pindell, after the regular "Meet the New Press" broadcast went off the air, a live web-streaming camera in the studio at WEMJ-1490 AM in Gilford, captured Lambert saying, "Speaking of gays, Happy Birthday Ray Buckley." Then, alluding to a video featuring Buckley that appeared on the Internet several years ago, he asked "are you going to Holland or taking another trip with your buddies?" Pindell reported that Lambert then began speaking into the camera after his co-host Skip Murphy said that he should probably shut off the feed. Lambert then danced so as to mock a gay man and addressed Buckley, saying "yeah you . . . followed by a slur referring to gay men. "That's right I said it and I meant it," he continued. "You are reprobate. How the people, the Democrats, I think of some of the gray haired ladies and older people from the old party would stand behind you is beyond me. You are a disgrace to yourself to humanity to mankind and to your party. Other than that, Happy Birthday Ray and many more — not," he said before the feed was shut off.
Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, Lambert posted an apology on GraniteGrok. "To be blunt," he began, "what I said is something that never should have been said in any kind of a public setting, or, quite frankly, in a private one either. Being human, and an honest person that is used to freely speaking my mind, my passion got the best of me," he wrote. "I would like to apologize to Ray Buckley and those whom I may have offended for my unfortunate remarksfollowing this morning’s program. There is no excuse for the tone or language I used to characterize Ray or anyone for that matter."
But, the damage was done and Lambert knew it. "My life as I knew is destroyed," he said yesterday. Referring to the influence his blog and program had come to wield in conservative and Republican circles, he lamented "four years of hard work that's going to go down the toilet." He said that he expected to be silenced by WEMJ as well as dropped by The Laconia Daily Sun, where his column, ironically entitled "Exercising the First," has appeared regularly on Thursdays for seven years.
While officials at Nassau Broadcasting Partners have yet to indicate what action, if any, the radio company — which simply sells Lambert and Murphy their weekly time slot — will take, Ed Engler, editor and publisher of the Sun, said yesterday that he informed Lambert that "we no longer wish to be associated with him in any formal way." He described Lambert as a "non-compensated contributor to our opinion page," one of three right-of-center commentators paired in the paper's opinion pages with an equal number of left-of-center pundits.
"It is important to us that everyone of all political persuasions feel personally welcome," Engler said.
Engler called Lambert's remarks "a sophomoric, hate-filled diatribe," but stressed that "his behavior, not just his use of a very offensive word, but his behavior, must have consequences."
Engler said that although he reserved the right to edit Lambert's column, he rarely invoked it. "He knows where the boundaries in the paper are," Engler said. "He knows what he is doing, he knows the power of words," expressing surprise at Lambert's indiscretion.
"A tree fell in the forest and somebody heard it," he remarked.
Meanwhile, Republican notables Lambert courted so assiduously were quick to denounce him.
Lambert quickly resigned his position as one of 200 "county co-captains" of Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta's campaign in the First Congressional District. Guinta told NH Political Report.com that "that type of dialogue has no place in politics or in our country. There is no excuse for the words he used to portray Ray Buckley or anyone for that matter. He has stepped down as one of our 200 plus county co-captains and I certainly support that decision.” Murphy, Lambert's partner, will continue as a co-captain of the campaign in Belknap County.
Ovide Lamontagne, who recently announced his bid for the United States Senate and appeared on "Meet the New Press" during the first hour of the show on Saturday, declared "there isno place in politicsor anywhere else for the type of language or sentiments expressed by Doug Lambert today at the end of his show, and I reject them categorically and unequivocally."Noting that Lambert offered a public apology and politics often becomes heated, he nevertheless insisted that "language like that used today isoffensive and wrong — period —and does nothing to further the important debatewe must have about the future of our country."
Kelly Ayotte, Lamontagne's rival in the senate race who has been the target of Lambert's barbs, branded his remarks "despicable," "hateful," and "unacceptable.”
Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Policy Research, a staunch opponent of the gay marriage legislation Buckley championed so strongly, said that he was "deeply dismayed by the vitriolic comments" made by Lambert, which "never have a place in political discourse, public or private."
Only Jack Kimball, a Republican candidate for governor, hedged his censure. "It is regrettable that Doug Lambert lowered himself and Granite Grok to Mr. Buckley’s standard on his show this morning." He went on to say that "I reject Mr. Lambert’s comments as they were inappropriate, hurtful, and offensive."
Lambert's fellow conservative activist, Niel Young, who split with him in 2002, said "I only pay attention to him when he is attacking and degrading some folks who are my friends and those I deeply respect — and he is neither. His anger, or is it his way of intimidation, this time has hurt him and the conservative movement."
Reflecting on his loss of stature within the GOP, Lambert said wistfully "every campaign issued a statement, which tells you how far up the food chain I was. I'm not going to go into hiding," Lambert vowed. "They're not going to throw me away."
Meanwhile, word of Lambert's verbal assault on the the country's only openly gay party chairman raced across the country on the Internet, unleashing a predictable flood of scorn posted on progressive websites like the Daily Kos and Blue Hampshire. "As the Good Book says," read the Daily Kos, "'what's in your heart comes out of your mouth.' And what's in Lambert's heart is frightening."
On Blue Hampshire, Representative Jim Splaine, the Portsmouth Democrat who sponsored the gay marriage bill and appeared on "Meet the New Press," said that the incident "brings shame on both co-hosts — one for saying it and the other for not immediately shutting his partner up." Even 19 of 20 comments posted in response to Lambert's apology were hostile. The Laconia Daily Sun received many e-mailed demands to deny Lambert a forum.
Murphy, Lambert's partner and friend, said he did not condone his behavior, which he found "dumb," "stupid," and impolite." Then he proceeded to scold those who would turn the incident to their political advantage. "They . . . are unable or unwilling to accept apologies.Such is politics nowadays, and such is life if one is judged to be politically Incorrect by those that get to set the rules."
Explaining his decision to jettison Lambert, Engler said that "this has nothing to do with political correctness." The speech Lambert used, he explained, was not directed at Buckley's politics, which is fair game, but at his sexuality. "That is no different," he said, "than attacking him for the color of his hair, or his weight. It sounded like bigotry, like hate."
Despite the venom of Lambert's words, they likely come as nothing new to Buckley, a hardened political professional, who has heard the same or worse during his long career. But, as Buckley celebrated his birthday as the honoree of the Human Rights Campaign for his part in the success of the gay marriage bill In Boston last night, he may have counted the political advantage handed him by Lambert among his gifts.