IT CAME AS a surprise to us at The Sun to learn, via one of Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich's televised campaign ads, that the newspaper had paid him this glowing compliment: "So honest, it hurts."
We have said nice things about the 2nd District congressman and former state lawmaker before. Indeed, he was our choice in the 1994 congressional election. But we could not remember making the remark attributed to this newspaper. For good reason.
The congressman's mother did. In an Aug. 17, 1994, profile of Mr. Ehrlich that appeared in the Maryland section, his mom was quoted as saying that she had told her son: "You don't want to do that [run for political office.] Politicians are crooked." He looked at me and said, 'Mom, I won't be.' And he won't be. He's so honest, it hurts sometimes."
That phrase, "So honest, it hurts," was used -- in quotes -- in the headline. As an Ivy League grad like Mr. Ehrlich knows, the quote marks make it clear that the newspaper is attributing this compliment to someone else, not bestowing it. Candidates can legitimately attribute praise to the newspaper when it appears in an editorial ("sincere" and "diligent," adjectives used in our Nov. 2, 1994 endorsement, were compliments Mr. Ehrlich could properly have attributed to us), or is stated as fact in a news story. Quoted accolades from mothers and other admirers do not qualify, no matter how prominently they are played.
Mr. Ehrlich has dismissed this matter as silly, and it would be if honesty were not the quality being touted here. But he has disguised something his mother said in order to wrap himself in the legitimacy of an institution. That is at best misleading, and at worst dishonest.
Pub Date: 10/26/96