Detroit News column by Nolan Finley accused Represent.us of being linked to threats against the Michigan Chamber of Commerce without any factual basis. See Open Letter to Nolan Finley, Editorial Editor of The Detroit News.

Dear Mr. Finley (cc: The Detroit News)

I read with interest your article about Represent Us in which you accuse their members of making terroristic threats against the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board members. See your column here. https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/nolan-finley/2018/07/12/political-terrorism-left-represent-us/774802002/

You wrote your column after the Detroit Free Press reported about the Chamber of Commerce filing suit to deny voters a right to pass a constitutional amendment to end partisan gerrymandering.

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2018/07/11/justices-gerrymandering-case/776776002/

In this article, the Detroit Free Press highlighted the conflict of interest between two Justices of the Supreme Court and the Chamber of Commerce. The Free Press explained how the Chamber created the Justices’ appearance of a conflict of interest:

“Both justices have received financial backing from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which is also bankrolling the campaign to stop the anti-gerrymandering initiative in its tracks. To complicate matters, one of the lawyers spearheading the Chamber’s legal challenge, Eric Doster, is married to the woman who serves as treasurer of both justices’ election campaigns.”

https://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2018/07/11/justices-gerrymandering-case/776776002/

At that same time the Detroit Free Press published its article about how the Chamber created the Justices’ apparent conflict of interest, Represent Us published an ad in the Detroit News and Free Press highlighting the Chamber’s actions in creating that conflict.

You then published your column attacking Represent Us by claiming that this group was wrong to use an ad to tell the public of the Chamber’s dual role (in funding the Justices’ re-election and funding the suit end the ballot initiative).

The Represent.us ad in your paper disclosed the Chamber Board members’ names (and faces) who funded the Justices’ election campaigns and who also funded the suit to stop voters being able to end gerrymandering.

Your pretext for the column was to accuse Represent.us of making “terroristic threats” and inciting or encouraging threats of violence.

I am writing to see if you have any factual basis for the claims you make about threats made by members of Represent Us or at their urging. In your article, you offer no proof that any Represent US official or member encouraged or incited anyone to make violent threats (or approved making such threats).

It would violate basic journalistic ethics if you do not have a factual basis for your allegations. The article provided none.

You then talk about threats of violence that were made without offering any proof of those threats. For example, you do not attach any poster that urges people to kill the Chamber of Commerce President, Mr. Davidoff. Former Chamber President Rich Studley is reported to have said such posts were made on Twitter or Facebook. Do you have the names of the persons who posted on social media the threats (e.g. on Twitter or on Facebook)?

Do you have screenshots of those posts or of the posters you describe? If not, then how do you know the threats were ever made? Did you see them? Why don’t you quote exactly what the posts or posters said? If you cannot quote them, how do you know threats were made. Can you send them to me? Did you report them to Twitter or Facebook or to the police?

Did you contact Represent Us officials to see if they condoned or disavow threats of violence made by others? If not, why not? If yes, why don’t you print the response by Represent Us. (The Free Press printed the group’s reponse.)

The ads that Represent Us ran in The News and in the Free Press that you criticize did not include any threats of violence. They do not contain any threats against any of the Chamber Board members at their homes.

The Free Press and News would not have run the ads if they did contained the alleged (offensive) content. Yet, this is the only proof you have of any threats.

Without proof of that connection by anyone threatening violence and Represent Us, doesn’t your entire story rests on an alleged factual premise for which he offers no proof. Without proof, isn’t your story false?

Represent Us calls for allowing more speech, not silencing anyone. What proof do you have the group tried to silence anyone. They exercised free speech to protest Dark Money, and its use to silence the rest of us, right?

Represent Us calls for basic election reforms that enjoy support of a majority of Americans (e.g. overturning Citizens United and adopting campaign finance reforms). Yet, you refer to them as radicals and extremists.

Absent any proof to support your claims about Represent Us making threats of violence or being outside the political mainstream, it appears your sole intent in writing your column was to discredit this group to protect the Chamber. Your intent, that is, appears to be to divert attention away from the Michigan Supreme Court Justices’ apparent conflict of interest created by the Chamber.

The use of such a false attacks without factual basis in your article is an attempt to silence Represent Us if you have no proof to back up the facts alleged in your article. I am not a member of Represent Us and I do not speak on their behalf.

Patrick Levine Rose
patrickrose@michapp.com