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Vile and Ugly

by -

From the Queens Tribune's "Not 4 Publication" feature, issue 11, 2000.

This is a story of a vile and ugly columnist and an unapologetic hateful newspaper that prints vile and ugly columns. Fortunately, the newspaper is insignificant. But small people and small papers that spread hate are dangerous. Such is the case of the Queens Ledger/Glendale Register, its collection of small sister papers, and its columnist Frank Borzellieri.

The columnist, a member of community school board 24, has in the past spewed forth with some of the vilest racist pronouncements this borough has ever heard. His anti-immigrant, anti-minority positions are the stuff hate groups thrive upon. His words have never belonged in a Queens community newspaper but in a meeting of hooded cowards.

However, I believe in the first amendment and as hateful as those words may be, Publisher Walter Sanchez has a right to print them.

The columnist is responsible for the hate he writes. Publisher Walter Sanchez is responsible for the hate he prints.

Two weeks ago, Borzellieri and Sanchez went too far. They likened Queens Board of Education member Terri Thomson to Adolph Hitler. Terri, who is my friend, has a record that needs no defense. The columnist and his sick ideas on education do not entitle him to personal attacks on fine public servants like Terri. He can disagree with her and we always encourage such dialogue. But hateful, vile and disgusting attacks don't fly here.

I'm not surprised at the columnist; he is vile.

I'm appalled at Publisher Sanchez.

Some sixteen years ago or so, I taught Walter what this publishing business was all about. He bought his way into the industry from a bowling alley and needed guidance. I gave it to him in his early days.

Perhaps I didn't do a good job teaching, or he didn't do a good job learning or he has just lost his way. Walter's papers printed the attack on Terri. Walter's papers likened her to Hitler.

Then, last week, after printing the hateful, hurtful column, an unsigned piece on the edit page declared, "Columnist Needs A Break." Apparently reacting to the uproar caused by the columnist's twisted words, Walter backed off a little.

Walter's edit said that the columnist, "made no mention as to why he is comparing Teri (sic) to Hitler (the infamous dictator), why he says she is void of any intellectual substance . . ."

Thank you Walter, we know who Hitler was.

Your parenthetical description leads me to believe you don't.

He is the man that murdered six million. He killed members of my family. He imprisoned my in-laws in concentration camps for six years, killing their parents.

Your willingness to print the initial column and matter-of-fact description of Adolph Hitler indicates your total insensitivity to the hate you print and the pain you cause.

You don't apologize for printing hate; you call it, "latitude." Then joke that your columnist, "might have confused latitude with altitude, and with altitude, oxygen fails to get to the creative juices in the brain."

Then you announce that you are keeping the columnist "out of the paper for a few weeks." You encourage people to write in with their opinion to help you decide on the writer's future with your paper.

Maybe you'll get more letters from racists full of hate than from people of love and understanding. Maybe they, and you, like Adolph Hitler. Maybe racism and hate is for you and your writers.

If I were a reader, I wouldn't write to you. I'd stop reading your newspaper.

Publishing a newspaper is not a democratic process. It is a responsibility.

You cannot hide behind freedom of the press. You are responsible for what you print. You are responsible for the hate. You are responsible for hurting Terri Thomson. You are responsible for the hurt you caused from the casual reference to Adolph Hitler. You are responsible for the vile and disgusting things that your columnist writes.

You have failed as a publisher.

And in my book, you have failed as a human being.