EDITORIAL: Bullying Gross owes apologies
East Manchester Township’s head supervisor evidently has a problem with the media accurately reporting public information.
But he doesn’t want to discuss it. He just wants to spout angry misinformation about it while refusing to engage with the facts.
Sound like any presidents you know?
A little background: Steven H. Gross Jr., chair of the township’s board of supervisors, is upset with reporting about charges against one of his colleagues: East Manchester Township Manager Dave Gentzler.
State police say Gentzler was arrested May 2 at the Red Lion home of his ex-girlfriend after restraining, threatening and terrorizing her when she attempted to end the relationship. Among the specifics alleged by police: He tied her to a bed, pointed a gun at her and threatened to knock her teeth out with a hammer.
So, a significant story involving a longtime public figure and resulting in felony charges. All reported through official sources and public documents.
But Gross has somehow gotten it into his head that reporting on this story deprives Gentzler of his due-process rights.
“We don’t get ahead of ourselves with accusations and charging people with things that don’t happen or twist the facts,” Gross harrumphed at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
No, we don’t. And that’s not what happened in the Gentzler story.
Charges were filed, an arrest was made, and facts were reported.
Now, if Gross has a problem with what the police are alleging, he can certainly take his complaints to them. And if he has an issue with what the media is reporting, he can certainly contact newsrooms directly.
He has done no such thing, at least in the case of the Dispatch.
Instead, he used Tuesday’s meeting to ambush a reporter — whom he then refused to allow to correct the record, childishly banging his gavel to prevent her from being heard.
“We’re not having a discussion,” Gross told Dispatch journalist Lindsey O’Laughlin when she attempted to respond to his smears.
Bullies seldom engage in discussions. If they did, they’d have to defend their positions and Gross’ position is, frankly, indefensible. Arrests and felony charges are routinely reported, as are acquittals and convictions. Due process is none the weaker for it.
Gross added to his mischaracterizations Tuesday evening by asserting that the Dispatch had falsely accused the Board of Supervisors of holding illegal executive sessions to discuss Gentzler’s employment. His reading comprehension is as bad as his manners, as the May 6 story he alluded to makes clear.
There is irony in Gross’ assertion that the right to due process is what prevents America from becoming a “third-world dictator” country, especially since his tin-pot dictator tactics mirrored the very regimes he disparages.
And there is disappointment in the fact that none of his fellow board members stood up for the tenets of a free and fair press.
To be honest, we’ve had enough of watching an elected official talk over and insult women journalists during the White House coronavirus-response press briefings. We don’t need that sorry display mirrored locally.
For his baseless accusations about “things that don’t happen” and “twisted facts,” Gross owes the state police, the media and reporter O’Laughlin a public apology.