Making the hard choices for truth over pixie dust

September 05, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:

Frances DiPietro, Baltimore: There was more ethnic hatred expressed in your article than was ever felt by our family member, D. M. DiPietro. You can state your resentment in your column based on some obscure reasoning, but you haven't hurt Mimi, you have only made his family feel worse after his death.

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Catherine MacKenzie, Baltimore: I am so tired of the media in general erasing the negative side of a person's life after he or she has died.

We lived for about 25 years in Baltimore City's First District and while it was true you could call Mimi about a problem and he would work on it and usually get it resolved, he always asked first what nationality you were.

My son was a volunteer in Barbara Mikulski's first campaign for the House of Representatives and one day was at her City Council office picking up literature when Mimi yelled to his secretary that he had someone on the phone and wanted to know whether he was a voter and was he a "nigger."

Needless to say my son has never forgotten hearing this in the esteemed City Hall of Baltimore.

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Frederick H. Hensen, Westminster: You have taken out of context and exaggerated comments and statements of a Very Good and Honorable Elected Official in his death, something you didn't have the manhood enough to do during his life. You are nothing more than a FIRST CLASS HYPOCRITE AND RACIST YOURSELF.

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Name Withheld By Request, Baltimore: I am a black teacher at Highlandtown High. I was walking to my car one day after the beating of Pedro Lugo.

[In May 1991, Expedito "Pedro" Lugo was severely beaten with a baseball bat while walking on the eastern edge of Patterson Park.]

Mimi DiPietro was standing and talking to some people. As I passed, I heard him say: "If we can keep these niggers out of here, everything will be all right."

I realize it is kind of hard for people to be born in an environment and grow up to be something different. But there are several white teachers who grew up in Highlandtown and overcame the prejudice they grew up with.

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Dr. John C. Ball, Professor, Baltimore: As you said, the press has an obligation to publish what public officials say. Furthermore, your column raises the important issue of whether the press has an obligation to portray public officials in a consistent manner; or conversely, decide which officials will, or will not, be portrayed favorably or unfavorably. I am engaged in a major study of obituaries and how objectively persons' lives are reported after they die.

COMMENT: Professor Ball touches on the central theme of my Aug. 10 column: Should the "colorful" side of DiPietro have been reported after his death "to the exclusion of all other information?"

The point was not whether good things should have been written about DiPietro. The point was whether newspapers have an obligation to tell the whole truth or whether they should sanitize the truth, emphasizing the good and deleting the bad.

Professor Ball raises a critical point: Once newspapers decide to sanitize, how do they pick and choose who will receive the benefits of this treatment?

If former Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline McLean should die tomorrow, would this newspaper write about her legal troubles or expunge them as was done for DiPietro? After all, DiPietro was a convicted felon sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison.

McLean has a family just like DiPietro had a family. Neither family wants to feel more pain. So how does a newspaper choose who gets the truth and who gets the pixie dust?

My answer: Print the whole truth about everybody. Report without fear or favor in life and in death.

And contrary to the assertion of Frederick H. Hensen that I did not have the guts to attack DiPietro in life, the opposite is true.

I attacked DiPietro for his anti-Semitism and his racism while he was alive, and I have the columns to prove it.

When I die, I expect some people to say terrible things about me. (Heck, they do now.)

But nobody will be able to say I ever covered up for anybody.

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