A newspaper 900 miles north of Citrus County published an item Tuesday morning and all heck broke loose.
The Washington Post, citing the Citrus County Chronicle, reported of the county commission’s decision to block library director Eric Head’s request to spend up to $2,700 for an digital subscription to the New York Times that could be accessed free by the county’s 70,000 library card holders.
The Post story zeroed in on Commissioner Scott Carnahan’s comment from the board’s Oct. 24 meeting that the Times was “fake news” and that he stands with President Donald Trump. It included a link to the county commission discussion.
Later, CBS News, Fox News, USA Today and other publications also ran a similar story.
Numerous people tweeted their opinions, mostly negative, regarding the issue.
Wayne Atherholt, director of cultural affairs for the city of St. Petersburg, tweeted: “Citrus County, Florida. It should be mortified for its stupdity.”
Six people sought donations for the digital subscription in separate gofundme.com accounts. One Boston man, identified as Kevin Gallagher, wrote: “I just read a disturbing article in the Washington Post about Citrus County Florida denying the libraries request for a subscription to the New York Times, citing the presidents stance on fake news. This is reprehensible.”
Gallagher had topped the $2,700 goal by 3:30 p.m. The others collectively had raised about $700.
The national publicity and negative attention was a nightmare for Josh Wooten, a former Citrus County commissioner who is president and chief executive officer of the chamber of commerce.
“You don’t want to be seen as an ignorant community or an intolerant community.” Wooten said.
Inverness resident Dale Pray scolded commissioners during their meeting Tuesday.
“I see you scholars have made Citrus County famous worldwide,” he said. “Do you have any idea how idiotic you make this county and state look when you spout that fake news Trump nonsense? Especially while doing county business on TV?”
County commissioners noticed as well, but were not swayed by the attention.
“The media is so excited this made national news,” Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said.
Here’s a sampling of tweeted comments:
• FloraG, a city planner in Portland, Oregon: “Citrus County FL, where ignorance and censorship is public policy.”
• Peter Schorsch, Florida online media publisher: “And Citrus County just made the Washington Post. Well done Jimmie Smith!”
• David Andelman, CNN contributor, former correspondant for New York Times and CBS News:: “I guess this will be @realDonaldTrump’s new Florida home!”
• Donald Albertson: “I’m glad I don’t live in Citrus County Florida.”
• Donald Putin: “It’s the only paper of record FOR SMART PEOPLE! Why would Citrus County, Florida need anything like THAT?”
• Justin George, former Tampa Bay Times reporter who spent time in Citrus: “I’ll just say it’s unfortunate for residents who want verified national news, and it shows just how effective the attacks on journalism have been. Take note as I doubt this is unique.”
• Jim Kidney: “Citrus County motto: Born dumb. Stay dumb.”
• State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Howey-in-the-Hills Republican: “Lake County Commission should do the same!”
• Beth Reinhard, Washington Post reporter: “Do better, Citrus County. This sounds dangerously like censorship.”
• Jimmy Chase, including a GIF of the banjo player from “Deliverance,” wrote: “If you have to look up where Citrus County is, you already know the deal.”
• Anton Hein: “America...2019.”
• April Simpson: “I grew up in Citrus County, and aspired to work at the New York Times. I actually did a summer internship there. Disappointing, but not at all surprising, to see my hometown doesn’t consider the Times a source of reliable news.”