Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Defending herself against a libel suit, Linda Cook of Rathdrum (pictured) says an anonymous comment she made earlier this year on a Spokesman-Review blog was a question about the accounting of GOP funds in Kootenai County, not an allegation of theft. Cook, who is representing herself, filed her court response Tuesday to the suit brought by Tina Jacobson, who also lives in Rathdrum and is former chairwoman of the Kootenai County Republican Party. Cook wrote in her defense that she has proof Jacobson failed to provide annual budget and financial statements to members of the county’s Republican Central Committee. Jacobson failed to provide receipts or details of funds deposited or expenditures as mandated by committee bylaws, Cook argued. And that, she wrote, is what prompted her to post comments Feb. 14 under the name “almostinnocentbystander” on the Huckleberries Online blog/Scott Maben, SR. More here.
- Originally posted 4:53 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2
A Republican Party official in Kootenai County is pressing ahead with her defamation suit against a woman who posted online comments about missing GOP funds. Tina Jacobson, a Rathdrum resident and the former chairwoman of the Kootenai County Republican Party, has named Linda Cook in her suit over comments Cook made anonymously on The Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries Online blog. In an amended filing Monday, Jacobson’s lawyer alleges that Cook also is in breach of contract for refusing to abide by an agreement to settle the claims against her. That agreement included a public apology and a donation of an undisclosed sum to a charity, according to the complaint prepared by Coeur d’Alene attorney Matthew Andersen. The suit does not name The Spokesman-Review or blog administrator Dave Oliveria, but it does allege that Oliveria conspired to obstruct the identification of Cook as author of the blog comments, leading Jacobson to pursue legal action to get the name/Scott Maben, SR. More here.
NPR just posted “All Things Considered” story by Martin Kaste re: Tina Jacobson case vs. Linda Cook (pictured), including this excerpt from Yours Truly: “But Dave Oliveria, who runs Huckleberries Online, the Spokesman-Review blog where the offending comment appeared, feels differently. “To have free speech in this community, I think you have to have anonymity,” Oliveria argues. Huckleberries Online covers Coeur d'Alene and northern Idaho, small communities where there's a constant battle between the factions of the dominant Republican Party. “In this town, there's so much infighting, if some of these folks identified themselves, they couldn't make these comments,” Oliveria says. “I have a lot of folks online here that are in a lot of key positions in the community.” If his bosses at the Spokesman-Review required real names, he says, it would kill his blog — and deprive the community of a crucial forum. But Oliveria also admits he can only keep that discussion constructive by spending a lot of time monitoring it, and blocking the trolls. More here. Audio available at 4 p.m.
Question: Did I describe the political climate here accurately?
Rick Anderson of Seattle Weekly provides his take on the Tina Jacobson/Linda Cook lawsuit, including: “GOP leader Jacobson is now mulling her next legal step, and appears to have put the kibosh on the theft rumor. She also has newspapers rethinking the value of allowing free-form anonymous comments.” As far as I can tell, the Spokesman-Review isn't re-thinking its policy re: allowing anonymous people to comment. But anonymous posters should be forewarned that we're probably not going to spend tens of thousands of dollars in Idaho courts protecting identities from the next possible defamation lawsuit. BTW, I noticed that Anderson refers to me as Dan Oliveria. Which means it's harder for me to hang onto my 15 minutes of fame here.
Question: Which name do you like better for a North Idaho blogger — Dan, Dave or D.F. Oliveria?
Huckleberries has learned that Linda Cook was actually reading Huckleberries Online when this photo was taken by the Phantom Photographer.
Opinionator Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman weighs in on the legal fight that emerged from the Valentine's Day post by Linda Cook (AlmostInnocentBystander) re: former county GOP CC chairwoman Tina Jacobson: “And there is your other, perhaps more salient chilling effect. This legal mess could conceivably happen to any newspaper that allows and posts anonymous comments — including the Statesman. No matter how carefully a newspaper tries to monitor its comment sections, there exists some element of legal exposure. Is the risk worth the reward, the bump in online page views? Since this coarse online shouting match does little to enhance a newspaper’s brand as a leader of constructive community discussion, when does the whole circus become more headache than it is worth?” More here.
DFO: Kevin ends on this note: “If Luster’s ruling prods newspapers to rethink online commenting, that may prove to be a blessing in disguise.”
Question: Do you see a silver lining to Judge Luster's ruling?
A lawsuit in north Idaho over anonymous comments posted in an online forum attracted national attention. Now, the commenter at the center of that dispute has unmasked herself. The case reveals a rift within the north Idaho Republican Party. Linda Cook of Rathdrum, Idaho, pictured, is a former congressional aide and long-time Republican campaign worker. Back in February, Cook made anonymous comments on a north Idaho blog hosted by the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper. Using the pseudonym “almostinnocentbystander” Cook asked a question insinuating that the chair of the local party, might have pocketed $10,000 in party funds. Party chair Tina Jacobson called for an audit and filed a defamation suit. But Cook says she wanted to use the anonymous forum to address a feud over party expenditures/Jessica Robinson, National Public Radio. More here including audio of story with Linda Cook comment.
- DFO: Martin Kaste, the NPR reporter from Seattle who interviewed me last week for another story that's about to come out, tells me that the audio version of the story played just in the Northwest, while the print version went national.
Linda Cook (pictured in Phantom Photographer photo, above, tending her garden) isn’t the squeamish type. Most of the time she says her piece — fire and brimstone included, no extra charge — with her name firmly attached. But back in February, she posed a question on a Spokesman-Review blog from the shadows of an online pen name, almostinnocentbystander. That question, which by Cook’s description was an admittedly “sarcastic, facetious query” that she subsequently apologized for, has made her the target of a lawsuit that would have outed Cook had she not stepped out of the shadows before a court mandated it. Now that the object of her facetious question, former Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chair Tina Jacobson, inset photo, has learned the true identity of her critic, it’s up to Jacobson to decide whether the courts should attempt to provide further remedy. We hope not. We hope the public exposure is enough to make Jacobson decide that the bill for being criticized as a public official, even if the criticism was hurtful, has been sufficiently paid/Editor Mike Patrick, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.
Linda Cook, the mystery commenter formerly known as Almost Innocent Bystander, reads a blog online. Cook outed herself to the Coeur d'Alene Press Monday. The Spokesman-Review has announced it will comply with a judge's order to provide information about her identity today. (Photo by Phantom Photographer)
- Also: Blog commenter reveals identity: Post sparked suit from GOP official/Meghann Cuniff, SR
- Also: Linda Cook's statement
North Idaho Republican political campaign worker Linda Cook says she is “almostinnocentbystander,” the anonymous online commenter on the Spokesman-Review website who allegedly defamed Kootenai County Republican leader Tina Jacobson. Cook worked in North Idaho on the Vaughn Ward campaign for Congress two years ago, a bid that fell short against current U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador. Ward said Cook was a campaign worker for him for nine months, but he declined further comment. Cook, 55, of Rathdrum, also has worked on campaigns for former Idaho state Sen. Mike Jorgenson, current Idaho state Rep. Kathleen Sims, and was a congressional aide for late U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho. All are Republicans. A judge in 1st District Court earlier this month ruled the Spokesman-Review must give Jacobson and her attorney information that could lead to the identity of almostinnocentbystander. The newspaper won't appeal Judge John Luster's recent order/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Photo: Linda Cook being sworn in as an officer in a local Republican Women's club)
A woman who claims to have posted a comment on a Spokesman-Review blog that triggered a defamation lawsuit has revealed her identity.
Linda Cook said her suggestion to ask Kootenai County Republican Party chairwoman Tina Jacobson about alleged missing money in the Kootenai County GOP coffers, which Cook posted under the moniker “almostinnocentbystander,” was based on information she’d heard from a board member.
“At the time that I said it, I was convinced that it was not false, and it certainly wasn’t said with malice,” said Cook, who’s active in Kootenai County politics and was an aide to the late Idaho Congressman Helen Chenoweth-Hage.
HucksOnline has received the following op-ed column from Linda Cook of Rathdrum: “I attended a Town Hall meeting in Hayden on March 17th and listened to Phil Hart, Steve Vick and Vito Barbieri address the crowd and take questions. One man inquired about the legislation requiring women considering an abortion, to have a transvaginal ultrasound first. The audience member’s main concern was that it was too intrusive on the part of government and Steve Vick’s three-word response was chilling. “It’s not vaginal.” The room was completely silent and so Senator Vick repeated himself. Still there was silence so Phil Hart jumped in and messaged the issue differently, which won applause from nearly every one of the 40 or so attendees. Two things were clear, this was a pro-life crowd and Steve Vick needs an emergency truckload of media consultants directed his way as soon as possible. Hearing a state senator speak with such blunt and quiet indifference implied a shallow understanding of the issue. Vito Barbieri’s assertion that women “must listen to that beating heart” seemed puritanical and punitive rather than truly informational. I’m saying this as a woman who aborted her first child. More here.
- Full disclosure: Linda Cook is chairwoman of Mike Jorgenson's state Senate campaign against Vick.