Reporter’s Notebook: Yelling fire in Tupper Lake

The email that sparked accusations of anti-Semitism in Tupper Lake

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.

“I know that I took a little too much pleasure perhaps, but nevertheless I did take some, and I’m guilty of that, in finding out that my neighbors were coming upon difficult financial times,” Delehanty told me in an interview.
Village Mayor Paul Maroun called the email “disgraceful” and I couldn’t find anyone who disagreed with that assessment.
But if Delehanty lit this latest fire in Tupper Lake, the actions of the local newspaper, the Tupper Lake Free Press, also deserve close scrutiny for adding gasoline to the blaze.

Editorial from the Tupper Lake Free Press

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.

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75 Comments on “Reporter’s Notebook: Yelling fire in Tupper Lake”

  1. tootightmike says:

    All this arguing!! Isn’t it interesting what a big wad of outside money can do in a community. The worst part is that the money is still just imaginary money at this point.
    Next time I have a big fantasy, I’m gonna see how many people I can rile up with it, without actually having to do anything.

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  2. Two Cents says:

    am I to understand that the hot tub is still up for grabs then?

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  3. Tupper says:

    I find it very interesting reading this blog. Fingers are being pointed at Dan M (TLFP)., Brian M.(for printing this), Lawson’s, Foxman, etc. Everyone but the culprit. The only one that should have their finger pointed at is the person who sent this shameful email. Jack Delehanty! No excuses.

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  4. Paul says:

    “only someone with a career death wish would trust an on line system to transmit or record any offensive, damaging or overly sensitive information.”

    Probably no reason to belabor the point since you will never admit that you are wrong. But almost every law firm in the country, even the best, use email to communicate highly sensitive legal documents every day. I work with some of them on a daily basis.

    If you don’t believe us that most of this is done electronically these days just as FedEx who has lost much of their business transporting these documents or ask the folks on Wall Street transferring trillions of dollars a day electronically.

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  5. Mervel says:

    Why should there be any finger pointing? He is not a public figure, is it a surprise that there is some anti-Semitism or for certain insensitivity in Tupper Lake or any small town in the North Country? He made an off color joke that may or may not have been pointed at someone. Sounds like a slow news day. It actually is news that the developers of Big Tupper are in foreclosure on their own home however.

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  6. Ellen Rocco says:

    I have a question for all of you: do you think there’s a different standard that should apply to elected officials vs. private citizens? Would it, should it, bother us more or less if Delehanty was a current elected official? Is it any of our business what he wrote if he is a private citizen like you and me? Do we–or should we–hold elected officials accountable in a way that we do not hold our fellow citizens accountable?

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  7. Paul says:

    I almost wonder if there is any “private citizens” any more. At some point we may all be considered public and therefore required to take the punches without recourse. But for now I suggest that you all keep your libel and slander insurance up to date if you participate in many online discussions.

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  8. TupperIam says:

    In defense of the majority of the residents of Tupper Lake I’ll say this. The majority of Tupper Lakers support the project, however the said majority don’t get involved with all the mudslinging that a handful of NImby’s, Real Estate Agents and Newspaper Publishers/Landlords that are creating this “controversy”. Perception is one thing, the reality is another.

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  9. TupperIam says:

    @Ellen Rocco, I’d say it would definitely make a difference if Jack were still the Asst. DA for Franklin County. Public Officials need to know they’re held to a higher standard than John Q. Public. That said he’s retired, and is entitled to his opinions and communications w/ his buddies. I’ve known Jack for decades and in no way is he anti-semitic. That said, he has his house on the Lake and his hunting camp which will disappear if the ACR gets rolling. Vested interest? You bet. I’ve also known Dan for decades. He has many rental properties around town, along with the paper and obviously would benefit substantially from a major development. The realtors too, have their own interests, major dollars on sales of the properties. So what we have in our quaint little town are two sides creating this latest “controversy” who are really more concerned about themselves, than the average person.
    I support the ACR because if it ever happens I believe it will be a positive thing for the entire town, not because a few people will make a crapload of money. That said, Jack and Dan, and JIm should figure out that their personal squabbles are making Tupper look silly, if not bad.

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  10. Paul says:

    “I’ve known Jack for decades and in no way is he anti-semitic.”

    I don’t understand this TupperIam? He may not be Herman Goering but he doesn’t look squeaky clean either.

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  11. tiredofitallintl says:

    TupperIam, I would respectfully disagree that the majority of TL residents support the entire ACR project. I would venture to say that the majority support reopening of Big Tupper but don’t really think the whole ACR plan is very realistic or likely to succeed. You may get the perception that the majority support it but that’s only because of everyones fear of uttering anything negative for fear of ridicule or name calling by Dan McClelland and the hardcore proponents of the project.
    I would personally like to see Big Tupper redeveloped and some type of realistic housing element to go with it but only without the proposed PILOT program the developers are seeking.

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  12. Jonathan Brown says:

    I’m in that group that’s “Jewish for the jokes” — grew up Jewish, love matzo-ball soup and dry, dry humor – but lost the faith/belief muscle a looong time ago.

    Still, I self-identify as Jewish. We can take a joke. We tell lots of them, too.

    There’s usually a pretty clear distinction between anti-Semitism and personal humor.

    Invoking the Holocaust as a joke, “Jew-ed him down,” blood libel, etc = anti-Semitic.

    *

    A Jewish grandmother was walking on the beach with her grand-daughter when suddenly a rogue wave crashed in and pulled the little girl out to sea.
    The woman raised her fist to the sky and screamed:
    “After all you’ve put us through, after everything we’ve done for you, how dare you take away my beautiful grand-daughter! You put her back here this instant!”
    And, boom! A flash of lightning and the little girl was sitting unharmed on the beach.
    The woman looked to the sky and said,
    “She had a hat!”

    Four Jewish women were having lunch on the Upper West Side and the waiter came to the table and asked, “Is anything all right?”

    Tevyeh (in Fiddler On The Roof): “Lord, I know we’re the Chosen People, but could you choose someone else?”

    Not anti-semitic.

    *

    “The nearly Hassidic One?” C’mon. That’s about as tame as it gets.

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  13. Two Cents says:

    ellen,
    yes, elected officials are and should be held to a higher standard. they are supposed to be at their best and to be of the best. they speak for more than themselves. they speak for who elected them. generally they speak before they think.

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  14. Two Cents says:

    was it too soon for the hot tub joke…?

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  15. Paul says:

    “Four Jewish women were having lunch on the Upper West Side and the waiter came to the table and asked, “Is anything all right?”"

    That is a pretty good one. The others seem different than this kind of thing?

    My wife who is Jewish thinks that this comment albeit tame by your ruler is maybe pretty offensive. The joke that someone Jewish (or maybe partially Jewish) would taint the water a little different than being overly pessimistic by nature, no?

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  16. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    @Ellen:
    When you are a private citizen you are a neighbor, neigh boor – the jackass next door. We dont expect much from private citizens it is their right to be jackasses. When you are being paid by all of the jackasses in town to do a job you are being paid to be better than a jackass.

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  17. Brian says:

    I think it’s fair to say that within the context of the ACR debate, Jack Delehanty is a public figure — a vocal, outspoken activist who communicates regularly with journalists and who is actively engaged in the public debate.

    While this was a private email, Delehanty clearly referenced a political issue which he has made one of his central causes, before and after retiring as assistant DA in Franklin County. He was also communicating to a group of people directly affected by the resort project.

    Finally, Delehanty clearly isn’t a neophyte. He understands the political world and the sensitivity of these issues in Tupper Lake.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  18. TupperIam says:

    @Brian, your comment is fair. Obviously Jack didn’t expect the e-mail to go viral, and I suspect he’s learned an important lesson here. Better to keep comments that offend to oneself, because once you hit send you never know where that message is going to end up.

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  19. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Ellen, I think holding public officials to a higher standard is fine. Holding them to a higher standard and expecting equal treatment that a non-public official would get? Nope, never happen. We hold public officials to a higher standard but they seldom receive the same harsh treatment Joe Sixpack does. If that were the case, a good portion of Congress past and present would be in prison.

    As far as Jack D, I knew him years back. He’s a lawyer. He’s smug and has a big ego just like most other lawyers I’ve met. That being said he’s also a nice enough guy with a clearly vested interest in killing off the ARC, no matter how much it would help Tupper Lake.

    In the end, this is a non-story.

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  20. caligal359 says:

    As someone who lives, breathes and can understand the current state of Tupper Lake, I feel the need to interject.

    Many are questioning whether this story is truly newsworthy and why people are reading so far into an email that was disseminated. Many are connecting the reaction (from both sides) to various individual’s investment in the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort project.

    We are all guilty of making poor decisions. For the majority of us, those decisions are not made when we are level headed. Poor decisions typically arise from a number of things, some of those things being misunderstanding, frustration, exhaustion, etc.

    All parties involved feel a certain level of these emotions along with feeling threatened. Some threatened by change, and others by the attempt to prevent a project that would allow them a chance at earning a living. These are both very real and very personal. Drag these real and personal emotions out over the course of eight plus years and here we are.

    Coming from a Tupper Lake family that is experiencing the very real pain of wondering whether we can sustain our privately owned business, which obviously means wondering if we can pay our bills, I understand the fear of someone jeopardizing a real opportunity to make something happen for Tupper Lake. I understand the private business owners, whether they be realtors or newspaper owners, seeing hope in the ACR. Those who point fingers as though it’s a crime to want to earn a living, have obviously never felt their method of earning a living was in serious jeopardy.

    I strive to be sympathetic to those who are threatened by change and the unknown. The developers have worked to provide information to the public to reduce the fear of the unknown, but not all are receptive, willing to do their homework or approach the developers with thoughtful questions and concerns they would like answered or taken into consideration.

    I preface this statement by saying I know it is a generalization, but what I have seen, more often than not, is that those resistant to the project and resistant to change are comfortable garnering their state wages or state retirement funds. Please do not take the increased security of this privilege without recognizing those of us striving to make it without this security. I am by no means saying that you didn’t work hard for it, I am simply acknowledging the security in it.

    We are in a difficult, sad place as a community and as individuals fighting for what they believe in. I truly don’t believe that supporters or opponents of the project hoped for things to get to where they are today.

    How do we move forward from here? I don’t have the answer, but perhaps toning down the hatred and finding common ground, to at least initiate conversation in an attemp to better understand the worries that each of us carry, is a place to start.

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  21. Kent Gregson says:

    So, the elephant in the room is the Big Tupper project. When this advocate of one side of the issue wrote that stupid email he exposed himself much to the irritation of his fellow advocates who try to cover for him. The advocate for the other side jumped on and tried to demonize the email writer who was doing such a good job of it himself. My father said to me “Don’t argue with idiots, especially if a bystander will have to figure out which one of you is the idiot.” Publication of the email without comment would have worked better. Overall, it seems this issue would help anyone who doesn’t already know, figure out which side of the Big Tupper project a commenter is on.

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  22. Walker says:

    Caligal, your idea that people who are opposed to the ACR are opposed because they are afraid of change demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the environmental perspective.

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  23. Embarrassed TL'er says:

    I have nothing against the ACR but LaValley, Moeller, and McClelland have done whatever they can to demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They have collectively conspired to attempt to personally ruin anyone who doesn’t hold their opinion. Shame on them. Makes me ready to move out of this backassward community.

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  24. Tupper says:

    Embarrassed TL’er, did you read the email? Tell me that email is not hateful? It is very sarcastic and hurtful. Supporters of Jack can blame others but it is not their names that are attached to this email. There is no conspiring here….Jack did this to himself. Shame on you for trying to point the finger in the wrong direction.

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  25. Tupper Laker says:

    To Embarrassing TL’er:
    I have a pick up truck. When do you want to move?

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