by Jerry Gordon (June 11, 2010)
Pete Doughtie is an experienced newspaperman who publishes a family owned free weekly publication, The Rutherford Reader (The Reader), supported by third party advertisers. The Reader appears in supermarket racks, fast food chains and various retail outlets in several counties in middle Tennessee. In addition, it has more than 43,000 on-line subscribers. The Reader is based in Murfreesboro, a community of 100,000 in the buckle of the bible belt. However, that locale didn’t prevent Doughtie and The Reader from being falsely accused of “hate speech” and having his publication yanked from Kroger Supermarkets, a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food outlet, and even the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. Doughtie, as noted by Gadi Adelson in a Family Security Matters (FSM) article, “Be careful about what you say, or write, about Islam” has been falsely accused of defaming Islam based on FSM articles and other sources that he publishes in The Reader on Islamic terrorism, Sharia law and related topics. Note this Knox News blog comment about Doughtie’s dilemma:
The bottom line is this, political correctness is rearing its ugly head once again, and fundamental rights of free speech are the casualties. Have we now reached the point that nothing negative can be printed against Islam either, even when it’s the truth? I thought only pictures of Mohammed were “offensive”.
When corporations both large and small start letting one individual dictate what all of us can read, we might as well be living under Communist rule and forget being able to get the truth because that just went out the window when political correctness came in. Kroger, KFC and anyone else who stops carrying newspapers based on whether someone’s feeling might be hurt is setting a dangerous precedent of censorship that will affect us all.
If the intimidation of The Reader distributors, who were prodded by false claims of “hate speech,” causing them to pull the publication from racks, isn’t enough, there was the sudden revelation of a 52,000 square foot Murfreesboro Islamic Center project to be built on a 15 acre site in the community with no public debate whatsoever. Recently, plans for expansion of a mosque in Brentwood, Tennessee were withdrawn following local complaints about mundane considerations like traffic congestion. The Murfreesboro Islamic Center appeared to have gotten approval on a fast track basis. This has given rise to criticism that there was insufficient public notification by the Rutherford County Planning Commission before granting approval. Compare the size of the Murfreesboro Islamic Center project (52,000 sq. feet) with the controversial Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (22,000 sq. feet) and the Ground Zero Mosque (100,000 sq. feet) in lower Manhattan. You would think there would be significant questions raised about why this giant Mosque is being built in the Tennessee bible belt?
To connect the dots between the Islamic intimidation problems of The Reader and the controversial Murfreesboro Islamic Center project, we interviewed Reader publisher, Pete Doughtie
Jerry Gordon: Pete Doughtie thank you for consenting to this interview.
Pete Doughtie: You’re welcome.
Gordon: What is your background in the newspaper publication business?
Doughtie: I started in 1965 as an advertising salesman at the Hammond Times in Hammond, Indiana, a Howard Publications paper. I became Advertising Director at The Blade Tribune in Oceanside, California, also a Howard publication paper. Subsequently, I served as Advertising Director for the Santa Maria Times, Santa Maria, California, a Scripps League paper. I ended my California stint in Bishop as co-publisher and partner with C. Deane Funk of Santa Monica, California. We published the Inyo Register, Mono Herald, Mammoth Sierra Magazine, and The Album – Times and Tales of Inyo-Mono. After moving to Tennessee, I established The Rutherford Reader, a family owned weekly publication.
Gordon: What is The Rutherford Reader? When did you start publication and how do you distribute it in the Murfreesboro, Tennessee area?
Doughtie: The Reader is a weekly community newspaper published and distributed on Thursday. It is a free publication with over 200 distribution outlets throughout Rutherford County in Tennessee, and surrounding towns of Shelbyville, Tullahoma, Manchester and Woodbury. In addition to the printed product, The Reader has over 43,000 online subscribers. The Reader’s initial print date was August 3, 2000.
Gordon: What prompted you to start publishing opinion pieces on Stealth Jihad and Sharia in The Reader?
Doughtie: 9-11! After that, I knew we could no longer ignore the fact that Islamic terrorists were carrying out their plans with a vengeance for the destruction of the West. I began to really pay attention to information about Islam. I read, The Most Evil Secret Societies in History, then read Stealth Jihad by Robert Spencer. I stumbled across Family Security Matters (FSM) and thought that we should share selected articles through The Reader. We always run something from FSM. A number of the articles we run are about Islamization of America, Sharia Law and the Jamaat ul Fuqra paramilitary camps throughout the US (one being very close to Nashville, in Dover, Tenessee). We also have printed articles on illegal immigrants, and what the Obama Administration is doing. We reflect a Christian perspective throughout the paper. When I got into Sharia law, I knew we were in trouble.
Gordon: In 2009, Sheik Ossama Bahloul, the Imam of the Murfreesboro Islamic Center (Islamic center) and his non-Muslim allies protested the “War in Gaza” in support of the Islamic terror group Hamas at the County Court House. Were you there and how much concern did the protest raise in the community? How much local and regional press coverage was there about the protest?
Doughtie: I was there. It was the first such protest I had witnessed in Murfreesboro. Coverage consisted of The Reader, The Daily News Journal, and a TV station from Nashville. There was little to no concern expressed in the community.
Gordon: As a result of the Gaza protest, did anyone question the backgrounds of the Imam and trustees of the Islamic Center?
Doughtie: Not that I’m aware of. Here today, forgotten tomorrow. For a daily newspaper, the Daily News Journal has done a poor job of coverage. It is a Gannett paper if that tells you anything.
Gordon: When did you learn of the Islamic Center’s expansion plans?
Doughtie: Actually, it was right after the planning commission voted on May 24th. I knew about the plans for the Brentwood Mosque which were withdrawn at about the same time because of community protests.
Gordon: Where is the proposed Islamic Center located? How extensive are the plans for construction of the Islamic Center?
Doughtie: It is Located on 15 acres at the junction of Bradyville Pike and Veals Road in Murfreesboro. The 52,000 square foot project was a surprise to me, and others with whom we spoke. At this point the details are sketchy; they say it will have walking trails, a pool, etc. The Planning department said that after being satisfied with outside, plumbing, and the electrical, etc., they were not concerned with interior layout. I personally have not seen the plans.
Gordon: When did the Islamic Center file plans seeking approval from the Rutherford County Planning Commission? When were public hearings held on the expansion plans of the Islamic Center?
Doughtie: The plans were filed on May 7, 2010. On May 24, 2010, voted on and approved.
Gordon: What happened at the Rutherford County Planning Commission Meeting on May 24th? What was the vote on the approval of the Islamic Center project? Did anyone speak in opposition to the program?
Doughtie: The vote was 10 to 0 with one member absent. There was no opposition.
Gordon: Are there additional hearings scheduled by the County Planning Commission for the remainder of the Islamic center project? What is the timing and scope of such a hearing?
Doughtie: The next meeting is July 14, 2010 concerning a request for a graveyard on the property.
Gordon: Do you believe that the Rutherford County Planning Commission approvals and public disclosures of hearings were conducted in accordance with the Tennessee Administrative Practices statutes?
Doughtie: There have been complaints raised about inadequate public notice of the hearing that was the subject of a news article in the Daily News Journal. Because of these complaints, we should try to halt the building of this enormous mosque.
Gordon: On May 10th, you received a call from a representative of Distributech who distributes The Rutherford Reader locally. What was the call about?
Doughtie: I was told by a representative of Distributech, that as of May 14th we could no longer put the Reader in their racks in Kroger. I asked why this was, he replied because you print “hate speech” stories about Muslims and Islam. A call to a Kroger spokesperson told us that they supported Distributech’s decision. When this complaint was made to Distributech by an individual, we did not even know about the mosque to be built here. Therefore, we had never printed anything negative about the mosque in our paper.
Gordon: Did any of your advertisers withdraw from The Reader as a result of this boycott by Distributech?
Doughtie: No, I don’t think so or not that I’m aware of – just the normal comings and goings.
Gordon: What happened when you met with the Chamber of Commerce?
Doughtie: The Chamber had a meeting after we had printed a picture of their building and a headline “Chamber joins the intimidated.” End result was they have withdrawn distribution of The Reader and similar publications, only Chamber related information remains.
Gordon: How was the identity of the complainant revealed? What did he allege?
Doughtie: He was identi?ed by a couple of our distribution point people. He is a resident of Symrna, Tennessee. An email we obtained sent by this individual alleged that we published articles depicting Islam as “evil, dehumanizing, defiling.” I’d have to go out and look up my past columns. Islam is evil, dehumanizing, defiling? I don’t recall using that. Dehumanizing could have been in something describing the treatment of women. ‘Halting immigration of Muslims and illegals’ I’d be capable of. Sharia not being compatible with the U.S. Constitution, you bet, not Islam.
Gordon: What was your reaction to allegations about publishing hate speech against Islam and Muslims?
Doughtie: Well, here we go. Meaning I thought perhaps a Muslim Islamic group was about to attempt to intimidate The Reader as a local test. I was not aware of any hate speech – most all references had been in Familysecuritymatters.org articles that we regularly print. We touch on the Islamic terrorists, illegal immigration, big government, Obama’s health care plan, and sharing the wealth, etc.
Gordon: To your knowledge does the State of Tennessee have a hate speech statute?
Gordon: Given the actions of Distributech, Kroger, KFC and the Chamber of Commerce based on these unfounded hate speech allegations, do you consider this a violation of your Free Speech rights as guaranteed under the First Amendment? What do you intend to do about these charges and the economic boycotts?
Doughtie: I certainly do. I will expose everyone involved, and we have retained a law firm to represent us.
Gordon: Have you received support from the community and from your extensive on-line subscribers?
Doughtie: We have received numerous faxes, phone calls, emails, and letters to the editor which are in print. Most have said they and their families and friends are no longer shopping at Kroger and they have called the home offices and talked to the local managers, who all say they had nothing to do with it.
Gordon: Do you consider what you have experienced as Stealth Jihad in the heartland of America and, if so, why?
Doughtie: I really do not know what to think. One individual has decided he did not like what he was reading in our paper so he did something about it. I have no idea what he has threatened them with. At the point this all began with my paper, the mosque had never been mentioned.
Gordon: Will you do anything different in the face of intimidation arising from unfounded allegations of hate speech?
Doughtie: No. This only makes me more determined to expose everything I can ?nd about Muslim Islamic terrorists, the Islamization of America, and every prayer room and foot bath they force on anyone. Sharia law and the building of mosques in this country, especially the one in New York City will be our main targets. The idea that we have to tolerate everything they want in this country when they are so intolerant, disgusts me.
Jerry Gordon is a also regular contributor to our community blog. To read his entries, please click here.