With the recent articles in The Virginian-Pilot regarding anti-Semitic vandalism of local synagogues (1, 2), one would expect that the paper would have at least mentioned the recent decision to grant summary judgment on most of the issues of a suit against it. If the Pilot has said something, I haven’t seen it.
Back in 2007, the Pilot printed an article about Lt. Cmdr. John Sharpe, who was relieved of his duty as the public affairs officer on the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. Sharpe was being investigated for heading two anti-Semitic groups, the Legion of St. Louis and IHS Press. The Southern Poverty Law Center identified these groups as “two of the most nakedly anti-Semitic organizations in the entire radical traditionalist Catholic pantheon.” (This article was the result of an earlier article printed in Portfolio Weekly which is no longer available online.)
The article prompted this editorial, written by then editorial writer David Mastio. In it, Mastio takes the Navy to task for not having noticed that Sharpe’s writings had been available on the internet for five years. In the process, Mastio – as only Mastio can – uses some inflammatory language to describe Sharpe, like the following:
His views veer from insanely pacifist conspiracy theories to chest-thumping jingoism with barely a speed bump in between.
The lunacy goes on and on.
(I have to admit that reading editorials haven’t been nearly as fun since Mastio left.)
Nearly a year later, Sharpe filed suit against Landmark Communications, which publishes the Pilot, and Mastio, claiming defamation. The suit sought $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. A couple of weeks ago, Norfolk Circuit Court judge Norman A. Thomas issued his opinion (pdf). In it, Thomas grants a summary judgment to the defendants on the major issues of the case, conclusing that Sharpe’s writings “do espouse anti-Semitic and racist views.”
No reasonable person can read Sharpe’s individual writings and conclude that he espouses anything other than a deep, abiding and pervasive suspicion of and hostility toward Jews, whether considered as a collective people, religion, nation or ethnic group. From his perspective as an advocate of the Catholic Social Doctrine, he considers Jews to be in direct competition with western Christendom, in fact, seeking to bring about its end, and also responsible in whole or in part for nefarious and self-centered domination of the United States Government, one or more of its former Presidents, the media, the world financial markets, and, bearing responsibility for such events as the terrorist attacks on United States soil occurring on September 11, 2001.
The remaining issues of the case, which revolve around the use of certain quotes attributed to Sharpe in the editorial, will be allowed to proceed to trial.
One would think, given what our synagogues experienced last week, that the Pilot would have used this court decision as a shield to say something to the cowards who, under the cover of darkness, defaced them. Unfortunately, they did not.
Too bad Dave isn’t still writing editorials over there. I’ll bet he would have had a thing or two to say.