An open letter to Ilario Pantano

>> Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fellow Patriot,

In a democracy, censorship is never a good thing. Especially when it's publicly funded.

Last week, NPR fired popular journalist Juan Williams for simply speaking his mind. If opinion makers can't express their own opinions, what has become of free speech in America? Even worse, NPR is funded by your tax dollars and should be an example to all for free speech in the media.

I fought in two wars to protect our Constitutional rights, and now NPR is using our tax dollars to trample upon our most important right, the First Amendment. I won't stand for it!

That's why I'm denying NPR access to my campaign for the remainder of this race.

If you agree that NPR's firing of Juan Williams violates the First Amendment, I urgently need you to join my fight to protect all of our Constitutional rights. Will stand strong for America's founding principles and follow this link and make a contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250 or even $2,400 to my campaign and stand up for our Constitutional rights with me?

What good are any of our rights if we're not willing to defend them? I have fought for our rights in war before and I will fight for Juan's right to express his opinion whether I agree with it or not... And without the fear of reprisal for the free expression of ideas. Rather than firing him, we could simple choose to watch something else. TV has no shortage of channels.

If we allow the government to restrain our First Amendment rights, what will be next? Will they take away our right to bear arms or trial by jury? These are rights that people have fought and died for - I risked my life for them twice - and we cannot allow the government to infringe upon them.

I may no longer wear the Marine Corp uniform, but that doesn't mean the fight is over for me. I'm ready to go to Washington and continue to defend my country from its latest enemies... the special interest lobbies and liberal leadership that is attacking our way of life and slowly making us less free. If you send me to Washington, I'll fight for you every day, but you have a choice to make.

There is only one way we can halt the gross government-overreach that is occurring in every aspect of American life: Send a true Constitutional conservative and former Marine Corps veteran to Washington.

If you choose to stand with me, I need your immediate help. I'm battling in a very close race with an entrenched incumbent who votes with Nancy Pelosi more than 90% of the time. Your immediate contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250 or whatever you can afford will push me over the top to victory.

I can't find to the words to tell you just how close we are to winning this race, which has risen to national importance. So will you please follow this link right away and give generously to my campaign?

Thank you in advance for your support.

Semper Fi,

Ilario Pantano
Republican for Congress - NC-7

PS: I risked my life twice so that Americans can enjoy freedom of speech, and I won't stand for a taxpayer-funded organization trampling the First Amendment. America needs to send a Marine in to Washington to fight for our Constitutional rights. Please follow this link right away to make a contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250 or even $2,400 to my campaign right away. Thank you.

Dear Lt. Pantano,


Okay, first of all, NPR totally mishandled the Juan Williams thing, right? But let's be clear: you and I--although perhaps not the constituents you're trying to appeal to with your "born again Southerner" shtick (nice way to dodge the carpetbagger card, by the way--did you think of that back in Nu Yawk or when you moved down here a few years back?)--anyway, you and I know that Williams was fired for being kind of douchey and not bringing a whole lot of insightful commentary to the game while using his NPR connection in a pretty transparent attempt to give himself liberal cred when appearing on conservative talk shows as a token "lefty". They could have, as the old song goes, had him any day, they only let him get away (out of kindness, I suppose).

Anyway, when Williams went and made a pretty tactless and, let's face it, there's no way around it because of the way he phrased it, bigoted comment, they should have at least waited until the weekend to fire him (that famous Friday news-burial tactic) or pulled a Rupert Murdoch-esque play and figured out a way to sideline him until he ran out his contract or resigned in embarrassment. However, NPR is run by kind of clueless idiots, so they pretty much (if you'll pardon the expression) screwed the pooch on it.

Oh well.

I guess if you want to be technical, it's a free speech issue or a two-percent free speech issue insofar as NPR receives two percent of its funding from the government (or maybe more, depending on how you count it). So it's not like that Dr. Laura thing, where she stuck her foot in her mouth and then claimed her Constitutional rights were being oppressed because she was being yelled at by private citizens. Sort of. I mean, again, Williams wasn't fired for "expressing his opinion" so much as he was fired for "kind of being an asshole." But I don't think that's what's motivating your boycott and it's not why I'm laughing at your solicitation for funds.

See, what's funny about your decision to boycott NPR is that I suspect I know what NPR reporters would like to ask you about, and if I were you, I'd find it pretty awkward, too. Searching for you on NPR, all the stories that come up seem to concern themselves with that whole, er, "misunderstanding" over that whole April 15th, 2004 business where you were accused of shooting a couple of prisoners and desecrating their corpses, and faced the possibility of court-martial, although all charges were ultimately dropped by your division commander, Major General Richard Huck. The most recent NPR article on you I can find--most of the stories go back to when you were facing the possibility of a trial--deals with a member of the "Tea Party" movement who endorsed your opponent, a Democrat, at the beginning of the month:

A leading tea party activist broke ranks Monday [October 4th] to endorse Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, expressing concern about a Republican challenger who was once charged with murder in connection with his military service in Iraq.

Deborah Johns said it appears that voters are ignoring Republican candidate Ilario Pantano's past.

Pantano, a Marine Corps officer during the Iraq war, was charged with premeditated murder in 2005, and prosecutors accused him of shooting two Iraqis in the back. An investigating officer later said Pantano made "serious errors" in judgment but should not be brought to trial for murder.

"That is not a war hero," said Johns, adding that she read all the details of Pantano's case in a 700-page transcript of his investigative hearing. "It is people like that that give all our military a bad name."

Johns is the former vice chair of the California-based Tea Party Express, and she still speaks at tea party events. She's also the mother of a Marine. Johns said it was difficult for her, as an advocate for both the tea party and military families, to oppose Pantano and said McIntyre is the first Democrat she's endorsed. Pantano has drawn support from many activists in the tea party movement.

Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

Now, I don't know what happened in Iraq. I wasn't there, and as a bleeding-heart liberal defense lawyer, I fully believe in the principle that you're innocent unless proven guilty, and you haven't been, Lieutenant, you haven't been. But I can see why it might be sort of, I don't know, tense to be going around campaigning during the last week before the election and there's some reporter from NPR, probably one of those communist liberal types (they might even be a Kenyan, or know a Kenyan!), and you're trying to talk about how we ought to take on China and illegal immigrants are parasites and radical Muslims are all terrorists or how legal access to abortion is going to cause a population implosion and how soldiers are taught the Quran not the Constitution, and this left-wing-peacenik-Muslim-loving-elitist who just doesn't get it, they don't know, they weren't there, man wants to ask you about this ancient history, this totally forgettable business of how you allegedly emptied two full clips into the backs of two captives and not only faced dishonorable discharge but a possible death sentence if you'd actually gone to trial--wow, I mean you want to talk about a conversation killer! Crickets and tumbleweeds, man, and you didn't even get to explain to the reporters your Republican-boilerplate economic agenda and idea to reduce government involvement in the free market while offering "direct incentives" to "regional" banks. (Those quotes around "regional" because, you know, it's a nice play in a banking state to throw a pitch to the banking industry, but surely a Wall Street guy who cut his teeth at Goldman Sachs like yourself knows that our "regional" banks down here include Bank Of America and Wachovia, now a subsidiary of San Fransisco's Wells Fargo. You know, regular mom'n'pop operations. Just sayin'.)

So, I guess I find it kind-of-sort-of convenient that you've decided to deny NPR access to your campaign. I don't mean this to sound terribly critical of your decision: I'd hide from them too, if I was you, and be thanking my lucky stars they gave me such a great and timely excuse. Instead of having to dodge questions about dodging questions, you get to stand up as a great crusader for the Freedom Of The Press by... um... not letting the press have direct access to somebody running for office.... Gosh, it sounds pretty crappy when I put it that way, doesn't it! So, uhhh... yay America!

Of course, it kind of occurs to me in an off-hand way that if NPR wants to do stories about you, the fact you won't talk to them means they'll just get their information from people who don't like you very much, which they'll relate along with a familiar, "NPR contacted the Pantano campaign, but the candidate declined to respond" or however they'll phrase it. Hey, a well-placed "no comment" speaks a thousand words, especially when the question was about your dismissed criminal charges, right! But I guess the fact that any NPR stories about you over the next few days will be completely one-sided shows bias, right? Because if they were truly unbiased, they'd take the fact you don't want to talk to them as a reason for them not to talk about you, and, hey, if they're not going to tell both sides of a story because only one side has made itself available, they shouldn't report any sides at all, because they shouldn't publish a lopsided report. That's how it works, as you know from your career running a media consulting business when you were back home in New York City... your other home, I mean, not the one you were reborn in down in Wilmington... Wilmington, NC, of course, not Wilmington, DE where most of your former clients were probably incorporated... hey, but I didn't need to explain that, did I, I mean, you've lived in the South for close to five years now!

Well, anyway, it's been fun. Good luck with this whole "incommunicado" bit. I'm sure I'll find out how it works for you... probably from NPR Morning Edition.

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


No, I will not be donating to your campaign.


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