Nick Coleman is a third-rate columnist for a second-rate newspaper. He wields his Star Tribune metro column like a hatchet, performing acts of destruction that seem to fulfill some dark needs. Coleman’s column illustrates how a newspaper such as the Star Tribune can become a corrosive force on the civic life of the community it serves.
In his column today, Coleman defames the Vets for Freedom and executive director Pete Hegseth in connection with VFF’s National Heroes Tour that hit town this past Tuesday. The National Heroes Tour made news in a big way when Forest Lake High School principal Steve Massey cancelled the group’s scheduled visit with the school’s social studies students on obviously pretextual grounds.
Hegseth is a Forest Lake High School alum and the leader of the tour. The stop would have been a highlight both for Hegseth and the students who were denied the opportunity to hear from the heroes because of the complaints made by a few readers following the directions of left-wing Internet sites.
Coleman asserts that the principal rightly cancelled the National Heroes Tour stop at the high school because the group is a Republican front. Coleman fancies himself a reporter who can get to the bottom of a story, and he must have spent a minute or two digging up the ammunition he fired to libel Hegseth et al. in the hometown paper:
VFF says it is nonpartisan, but the liberal watchdog group the Center for Media and Democracy said it began as a Republican front group managed by White House insiders.
Their plan? According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the plan is to drum up support for the war. The group’s political bent was clear last year when it bought TV ads to thank Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., for supporting the war.
Coleman never contacted Hegseth to give him the opportunity to address the allegation that VFF is or was a Republican front group. And he didn’t bother to show up for any of the local appearances the group made in town on Tuesday. Had he done either, he would have discovered that VFF is the brainchild of (mostly decorated) Iraq and Afghanistan war combat vets David Bellavia, Knox Nunnally, Mark Seavey, Joe Dan Worley, and Wade Zirkle — not a White House operative among them. They joined together on their own impetus to rally support on the home front for victory in Iraq against what they saw as the miselading portrait of the war painted in media organs such as, well, the Star Tribune.
VFF seeks political support for the objective of victory in Iraq. Thus its expression of gratitude to Senator Coleman and congressional Democrats such as Brian Baird (D, WA) and Jim Marshall (D, GA) who have heard the group out and come to share its point-of-view. The assertion that it is a partisan organization is a partisan lie.
Hegseth is Minnesota native and a hometown hero. One would think that someone at the paper might have paused over the lazy defamation in Coleman’s column. I called Star Tribune managing editor Rene Sanchez to ask if Coleman shouldn’t have contacted Hegseth for comment before defaming him as the executive director of a front group. Mr. Sanchez graciously heard me out and said he wanted to think about that question before answering for publication. I told him I would email him the question so I could quote his answer verbatim without having to rely on my taking it down accurately. After I hung up the phone at noon, I emailed Mr. Sanchez:
I’d be grateful for your response to my question whether Coleman should have asked Pete Hegseth…for comment before running the column.
I believe that Coleman’s allegation that VFF is a Republican front group is a demonstrably false allegation. Coleman might have learned as much had he attended any of the group’s two or three local events on Tuesday or had he spoken with any of the decorated war heroes who were in town as part of the tour. Of course, that might have taken a little longer than the 15 seconds of online research he appears to have conducted for the column.
One more question: Isn’t the Star Tribune embarrassed to publish a column like this by one of its featured metro columnists regarding a hometown hero?
I’m sincerely grateful for your courtesies.
If Mr. Sanchez responds, we’ll post his message verbatim. In the meantime, I am left to think that his silence has an eloquence all its own.
JOHN adds: To me, the most remarkable thing about a columnist like Nick Coleman, more remarkable even than his bitter and malicious partisanship, is his laziness. His columns never manifest more than a few minutes of research, nearly always on the internet and generally relying on left-wing sites. The columns themselves could be banged out in an hour, at most. If Coleman doesn’t have a day job, he should; any writer with average skills could easily crank out two columns like his every week in his spare time.
UPDATE: Star Tribune metro columnist Katherine Kersten has now spoken with Hegseth. She finds that Hegseth is the victim of a disinformation campaign. I would add only that Nick Coleman is a foot soldier in this particular campaign.
MARK SEAVEY writes:
I am not an Iraq vet, I am an Afghanistan Vet (OEF), and we represent both OIF and OEF veterans. I am wondering when our “benefactors” from the White House, the guys who set us up apparently, are going to cut a check.
Ridiculous. So many errors in the Sourcewatch nonsense, and they refuse to correct it.
I have slightly modified the post above to reflect Mark’s point about the breadth of the group’s founders and mission.
STAR TRIBUNE MANAGING EDITOR RENE SANCHEZ responds:
Sorry for the delayed response. I’m battling a terrible cold, as you unfortunately had to hear on the phone yesterday when you called.
Nick’s column fell within the license we allow for commentary. Ideally, it would have been good to hear from Pete Hegsbeth, too. But Nick plainly called him and others in the group American heroes with an unquestionable right to express their views. He just pointed out that the group also has waded into the politics of the war, which seemed to worry that particular school principal.
By the way, I had a good conversation about this yesterday with Pete Hegseth.
I trust that readers can draw the appropriate conclusions from Mr. Sanchez’s response on their own.