City Council Condemns Newspaper for “Disgusting” Columns

first_imgMembers of City Council are divided about whether ACT should remain on for the city’s projects. By DONALD WITTKOWSKIInfuriated by what they called “vulgar and disgusting” language, City Council members Thursday night condemned the Ocean City Sentinel for publishing guest columns that appeared to threaten the life of two elected officials and included a graphic description of a sexual assault on one of their wives.Council approved a resolution formally demanding an apology from the Sentinel’s editor and publisher, David Nahan, and from John McCall, the guest columnist who wrote the inflammatory opinion pieces printed in the weekly newspaper on Jan. 13 and March 10.“City Council supports freedom of the press but strongly condemns the publisher’s editorial judgment in his decision to print the offensive column, particularly in a local hometown newspaper,” the resolution said.In a further blow to the Sentinel, Council approved another resolution that questioned whether the paper is following the requirements of its designation as the official newspaper of Ocean City’s government, including whether it is printed within the state of New Jersey.The resolution states that if the Sentinel is failing to abide by those requirements, the matter should be referred to the state Division of Local Government Services.Councilman Michael DeVlieger, who was one of the targets of McCall’s vitriol in the two columns, abstained from voting on the resolutions. The four other Council members who attended the meeting at the Ocean City Music Pier either in person or by Zoom voted in favor of the resolutions.In his columns, McCall branded DeVlieger and U.S. Rep Jeff Van Drew, whose South Jersey congressional district includes Ocean City, as “traitors” to the U.S. government for their support of former President Donald Trump.“Like all Trump loyalists, Van Drew and DeVlieger are guilty of subverting the peaceful and equitable functioning of our government. This is not just a moral failing. This is treason. And the penalty for treason is execution. That applies to the great and the small, to presidents, congressmen and smalltown councilmen. It’s the trickle down theory of responsibility,” McCall wrote in the Jan. 13 column.Although DeVlieger abstained from voting on the Council resolutions, he had City Clerk Melissa Rasner read both of McCall’s columns out loud during Thursday’s meeting.DeVlieger said he felt the columns amounted to death threats against him and his family. At one point he called the columns “a bit unhinged” and blasted Nahan for publishing them in the paper.“I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I expect out of a publication in Ocean City,” DeVlieger said.DeVlieger’s fellow Council members also denounced Nahan and McCall for the columns while calling on them to apologize.“This is vulgar. It’s disgusting. It’s bizarre,” Councilman Tom Rotondi said.Councilman Keith Hartzell’s comments were equally strong in condemning the Sentinel and McCall. Hartzell called the columns “disgusting and vile.”“It is wrong,” Hartzell said, his voice cracking with emotion. “We need, as a community, to say it is wrong.”Councilman Jody Levchuk called the columns “rubbish.” He also said he was appalled that the columns were published by a local newspaper.“Our official newspaper has zero room for any of this. Zero,” Levchuk said.U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, right, speaks at a March 15 press conference denouncing the Sentinel while Cape May County Sheriff Bob Nolan listens. (Photo courtesy of Van Drew for Congress)On March 15, Van Drew held a press conference to denounce the Sentinel for publishing the columns. Van Drew also said he received death threats in a voicemail that was left for him by McCall.“For far too long, calls for violence have gone unchallenged, but today, right here in Cape May County we are drawing a line in the sand. You can come after me with loud words and threats, but if anyone, let alone a member of the press, thinks they can threaten my wife and my family they’ve got another thing coming,” Van Drew said during his press conference with Cape May County Sheriff Bob Nolan by his side.Van Drew said McCall’s column on March 10 also “vividly describes invading and destroying his home, and graphically ponders what it would be like to sexually assault his wife over the hood of her car.”City Council’s resolution demanding an apology from Nahan and McCall said the columns included death threats as well as “profane language and an offensive and graphic reference to a sexual assault” of Van Drew’s wife.Council President Bob Barr described Van Drew’s wife as a private person who was devastated by McCall’s alleged threats. Barr said she heard the voicemail when she was home alone.Barr, who is a close friend and longtime associate of Van Drew’s said “it makes me so angry” to think how the congressman and his wife were treated by the Sentinel and McCall.Following Van Drew’s press conference, Nahan printed an apology in the Sentinel saying that it was wrong to have published McCall’s March 10 column.“Because you felt threatened and felt your wife was threatened, I am sorry,” Nahan wrote in a statement to Van Drew. “I don’t have a problem with giving readers space to put their names to criticism of any elected official. However, in this instance, I have let the readers down.”However, during Thursday’s meeting Hartzell dismissed Nahan’s apology as insincere, saying that it “fell short.”In other business at the meeting, Council heard a presentation on the city’s proposed 2021 municipal budget by Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato. A separate story about the budget will be published Friday in

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