A Maryland politician’s attempt to quash use of his name in print without permission backfired royally.
Countless news-savvy people started riffing on Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter’s name through social media in support of a free press, which — as publicly elected officials should know — is a pillar of democracy.
“Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney,” he threatened Frederick News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers in a Facebook post.
She explained that — as a journalist — it is not just her right but her responsibility to report on people who occupy positions of trust in the government.
Like-minded social media users started sharing #KirbyDelauter memes featuring “Lord of the Rings,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “The Sound of Music,” and Oprah Winfrey to lampoon the councilman’s threatening PR misfire.
Others made jokes comparing Delauter to Bloody Mary of folklore and Beetlejuice from Tim Burton’s 1988 film.
“If you say #KirbyDelauter’s name 3x in print, he’ll appear and sue you. He’s basically a litigious Beetlejuice,” one user tweeted.
“If you whisper his name three times in front of a darkened mirror, Kirby Delauter will be summoned, lawsuit in hand,” the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham wrote.
Someone else joked that it would be great if the “Game of Thrones” character Hodor, who is only able to say one word, could only say the councilman’s name.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik jested that now, as he understands it, Delauter and Yahweh share the right not to be named.
Others parodied songs, like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” to squeeze in references to Delauter: “How many roads must a #KirbyDelauter walk down, before you can call him #KirbyDelauter?”
His attempt to stifle Rodgers’ use of his name was spurred by a reference to his reported concern over a shortage of parking spaces for council members at the county office building.
Her paper, the Frederick News-Post, posted an editorial on Tuesday that was both playful and serious, mocking his threats as “laughable,” while maintaining that his ignorance of what journalism is and does is disturbing.
“In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?” the editorial reads.
This added more coal to the social media firestorm.
The whole fiasco even led to a Kirby Delauter parody Twitter account that spouted off similar warnings to other users.
“The Founding Fathers didn’t fight the Revolutionary War so some newspaper could use your name without permission!” one tweet said.
On Tuesday morning, Rodgers continued to report on Delauter, saying he did not mention the national coverage he has been receiving during opening comments at an afternoon council meeting.
Along with the jokes came a deluge of support for Rodgers for sticking up for herself and her right and duty to report on elected officials.
“Appreciate all the love today, Twitterverse,” she wrote early Wednesday. “Thanks to you, I type the name of #KirbyDelauter without any fear tonight ;)”