Commentary

Press Herald Publishes Slanderous Account of Governor LePage

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The Portland Press Herald has stooped to new journalistic lows. I didn’t think this was possible after reading their ‘North Woods Lawless’ article earlier this summer – the one filled with fallacies, inconsistencies, informational lapses and flat out lies regarding the Maine Warden Service – but their incompetence and lack of journalistic integrity continues to grow.

Over the weekend, the Press Herald published an article both in print via the Maine Sunday Telegram and on the Press Herald website that diagnosed Gov. Paul LePage with alcoholism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and claimed he was turning into his abusive father.

PPH LepageThe article was featured in the Maine Voices section of the telegram and was written by Steve Bentley, a substance abuse counselor from Old Orchard Beach. Its subheading read: “His erratic behavior shows he needs help for the PTSD and other issues stemming from his unstable upbringing.”

It didn’t get any prettier from there. Bentley went on to slander the governor in a plethora of personal areas and diagnosed him with many supposed illnesses, connecting his problems with “resentments, impulsivity, black and-white thinking, self-absorption, rigid, negative attitudes, rage reactions and what the co-founder of AA once called ‘self-will run riot,’” to alcoholism and PTSD brought on by negative experiences with his abusive father as a child.

“He [LePage] is also overweight, bloated and often sporting facial flushing – all common with excessive use of alcohol,” Bentley wrote.

“Given the trauma of LePage’s childhood (his horrifically abusive father, his life on the streets when he was homeless by age 11), it is little wonder that he has deep-seated and unresolved psychological and emotional issues.”

The most disgusting aspect of the piece was its conclusion, where Bentley spoke directly to the governor, saying he has turned into his father and must seek help for the sake of all Mainers.

“Watching your brothers, sisters and mother being beaten by a raging drunk, and being severely beaten yourself and thrown into the streets at age 11, is well outside the confines of normal human experience. The supreme irony here, Paul Richard LePage, is that you are turning into your father. The booze has hardened your heart and clouded your view. It is making you abusive. Get some help for the sake of us all.”

Not only are Bentley’s words and diagnoses completely unprofessional, they are also unethical and potentially illegal. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) supports the ‘Goldwater Rule,’ which was established when Barry Goldwater sued Fact magazine editors Ralph Ginzburg and Warren Boroson for defamation and won for $75,000 in punitive damages.

The magazine published an article in 1964 that polled psychiatrists around the country, asking whether or not they felt Goldwater was psychologically fit to serve as president. The APA then issued a rule that ethically bars licensed psychologists from commenting on a patient that they have not personally examined. The ‘Goldwater Rule’ reads:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

The article was eventually pulled from the Press Herald’s website, offering a half-hearted apology for publishing such drivel.

“An opinion column about Gov. Paul LePage’s recent behavior written by Steve Bentley in the Maine Sunday Telegram that appeared on our website Sunday morning should not have been published. It did not meet our standards,” was all the Press Herald editorial board had to say.

Perhaps this is because Press Herald editor Greg Kesich initially supported the article. On his Facebook page on Sunday, Kesich posted: “For the last six years I have turned down columns and letters that used armchair diagnoses to explain Gov. LePage’s behavior because I didn’t think it was fair. But now the governor has violated so many norms that traditional political analysis doesn’t explain the things that he says and does. This column is harsh, but, I think it’s fair.”

Let me put it plainly to Mr. Kesich and the Press Herald. Your clear bias and lack of journalistic integrity is a disgrace to not only to yourselves as a publication, but the people of Maine. You published and publically endorsed an article that defamed our governor by wrongfully and unethically diagnosing him with alcoholism, PTSD and accused him of being abusive.

I’ll even offer some of your own words for advice: Whatever is coming for you legally may be harsh, but I think it’s fair.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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