Ex-candidate sues papers over election news Pierpont claims media 'conspired'

July 18, 1995|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer

Ross Z. Pierpont, who lost a dozen races for elective office since 1966, has filed suit against The Sun and the Washington Post, claiming that the newspapers' lack of coverage derailed his campaign for the U.S. Senate last year.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in state and federal court in Baltimore, Dr. Pierpont charges that the newspapers "distorted" stories about polls taken during the race and "conspired" to limit coverage of his effort.

"They just left me out of their stories," Dr. Pierpont, 77, said yesterday.

Dr. Pierpont, a retired surgeon whose first run for office was a 1966 gubernatorial bid, finished fourth in September's seven-person Republican primary, receiving 8 percent of the vote.

Bill Brock, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee, won the primary with 38 percent, but lost to the incumbent, Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, in the November general election.

Dr. Pierpont's lawsuit charges that the newspapers misrepresented the results of a poll taken in mid-July last year. Taken by a Columbia polling firm for The Sun and other media outlets, the poll showed that Dr. Pierpont had the highest name recognition of any of the Republican candidates.

The poll also showed, however, that Dr. Pierpont was supported by only 6 percent of likely voters and that his unfavorable name recognition was significantly higher than his favorable recognition.

"I see no merit in Dr. Pierpont's complaint and we'll respond vigorously to it," said John S. Carroll, editor of The Sun.

Officials at the Post declined to comment on the suit.

Dr. Pierpont is seeking unspecified monetary damages in the suit.

Saying that newspapers have a "responsibility" to be fair to all candidates, he said, he also wants the two newspapers to rethink their campaign coverage.

Dr. Pierpont refused to discuss evidence he said he has that the newspapers "conspired" to limit coverage of his campaign.

After his loss in the primary, Dr. Pierpont received wide news coverage for his plan to send a paid "ballot security" force to certain polls in Baltimore to make sure that only legally registered voters cast ballots.

Critics said Dr. Pierpont was trying to hold down black voter turnout to help Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey. The plan apparently fizzled on Election Day.

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