Longtime Columbia Tribune columnist Bill Clark was suspended after he wrote a column about being pulled over by the police. After the column appeared, the police disputed Clark’s account of events, using video footage to make their case. Clark, who goes by Ol’ Clark, has worked for the Missouri newspaper for 61 years.
Clark’s June 30 column suggested he was profiled and threatened by the police for not using a turn signal.
The Columbia Tribune then published a rebuttal from the police rejecting Clark’s claims. “I am not going to say Ol’ Clark didn’t tell the truth in his column, but I will stand firm on the fact that it didn’t happen the way he said it did,” Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey wrote. “Of course, you are going to form your own opinion once you watch the video and compare it to Ol’ Clark’s column like I did.”
On the sheriff’s department website Carey posted a dashcam video of the incident to back up his account of the events and show the officer didn’t have a weapon drawn and that the officer was polite and professional.
After being confronted with the video, Clark admitted he overreacted and shouldn’t have written the column, Tribune managing editor Charles Westmoreland wrote in a statement on the paper’s website.
The incident “certainly wasn’t worth writing a scathing column about, and the Tribune should not have published it,” Westmoreland wrote. “For that I apologize to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and readers who feel they were misled by Clark’s column.”
“I can’t unpublish Clark’s column, but I will rebuke it,” Westmoreland said. “I personally don’t believe Clark was threatened by the deputies in any way, but I wasn’t inside his head and can’t say he didn’t feel threatened.” Westmoreland noted that Clark has been suspended indefinitely following this controversy. iMediaEthics has written to the paper to ask what will determine Clark’s suspension time and under what circumstances he would return to the paper.
Clark apologized July 7, saying he “made a lousy call.” He wrote in part:
“I reacted badly to being stopped in an intersection and I paid a fine. My phone has been the target of dozens of vitriolic phone calls attacking me for disrespect for law and order and for disrespecting an officer returning from military duty. I have been called a damned liar so many times that the term no longer has any effect. Overreact, yes; liar, I am not. I have been threatened with harm by anonymous callers, and — since I have been out of town on both Wednesday and Thursday — my family has fielded the insults.”
iMediaEthics wrote to Carey to ask if he is satisfied with the Tribune‘s reaction to his complaints. He told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “I am satisfied with the response and I have no further comment.”
UPDATE: 7/12/2017 9:30 PM EST