The North Country is famous for circular firing squads, bitter feuds, and epic turf wars.
But these days, no place quite rivals the community of Tupper Lake for self-immolation.
The latest explosion, detailed in my report this morning, was sparked by Jack Delehanty, a long-time, vocal opponent of the Adirondack Club and Resort.
Delehanty, a former assistant district attorney in Franklin County, wrote a tasteless email earlier this month.
In his message sent to members of his hunting camp, Delehanty celebrated the fact that resort developer Tom Lawson faces financial difficulties, including the possible foreclosure of his private home.
Publisher Dan McClelland published a strongly worded editorial, accusing “opponents” of the Adirondack Club and Resort of making a “nasty and deeply injurious religious and racial slur” against Susan Lawson, wife of developer Tom Lawson, who is Jewish.
McClelland was responding to this line in Delehanty’s email: “Soak at your own risk in the hot tub after The Nearly-Hassidic One has been there.
Sounds incendiary, right?
But before writing his editorial, McClelland made no effort to find out what Delehanty meant by the phrase, nor did he make any effort to find out who exactly wrote the email or what was intended by it.
Instead, he vaulted to the conclusion that this was evidence of “how far some ACR opponents have stooped in their quest to kill the project.”
An investigation by NCPR found strong evidence to support Delehanty’s claim that the “Near-Hassidic One” reference was a private joke, clearly in poor taste, but not aimed at Susan Lawson.
>Delehanty argues that he was making an off-color reference to another member of his hunting club, with Jewish heritage, a claim corroborated by that individual in a background interview with NCPR.
It’s also worth noting that we could find no one in Tupper Lake who gives credence to the idea that Delehanty or anyone opposing the resort holds the kind of virulent anti-Semitic views suggested by the Free Press editorial.
(One exception is Susan Lawson herself, who is understandably upset by the whole affair and who maintains that Delehanty’s email was a deliberate anti-Semitic attack directed against her.)
It is also clear from our investigation that the controversial phrase was used by Delehanty alone, in a private email sent to members of his hunting camp, and was not produced by “opponents” of the project as part of the wider debate.
Delehanty and McClelland are both prominent community leaders, and both are sophisticated and knowledgeable about the ways of public discourse.
They know better than anyone that the mood in Tupper Lake is volatile, with the Adirondack Club and Resort project still locked in legal and regulatory limbo, and battle lines between neighbors sharply drawn.
What both men did in recent weeks amounted to yelling fire in a crowded movie theater. One sent a cruel, mean-spirited email that could only serve to inflame animosities.
The other published incredibly serious claims of anti-Semitism, and linked those charges to one faction in a tense political debate, apparently without making any effort to determine the facts of the case.
As a reporter who has covered the resort project for the better part of a decade, I can’t help but think that the community of Tupper Lake deserves better.