The Daily Caller‘s Michelle Fields needs a wake up call.
Last night she may have gotten one after posting a lighthearted note on Facebook boasting of a criminal who wrote her a 10-page love letter. He watched her on C-SPAN on Christmas Day and wrote her a handwritten letter that he mailed in to The Daily Caller. She wrote, “I just got my first 10 page love letter from an inmate in Pennsylvania serving a 30 year sentence.” One of her 53 Facebook friends who “liked” this wrote, “Congrts.” As if this is some kind of rite of passage for a young female video journalist. Well, it turns out that inmate is not just your garden variety murderer or armed robber — he’s a convicted, violent rapist who terrorized a woman at knife point. Police in Pittsburgh actually believed his intent was to murder her, but somehow he spared her and the authorities nabbed him.
Are we still laughing, Michelle?
Michelle’s cameraman Grae Stafford sent a note to the entire Daily Caller office Tuesday telling newsroom staff what happened. His email was accompanied by a link to a news story detailing what the rapist had done to land himself a 15-30 year sentence. Uncharacteristically for the rambunctious bunch, no one replied, at least not to the entire newsroom.
Meanwhile, Michelle felt the need to again joke — isn’t this all hilarious? — that FishbowlDC would hire the rapist when he gets released. Here’s the thing, Michelle. You won’t be laughing if one of these basement dwellers you are engaging with online regarding your legs or any other part of your anatomy comes after you. This was our original point — your behavior is neither safe nor typical of well-respected female journalists in the TV industry. This was also among our points less than a week ago when we published “Police Blotter” to show the kinds of men you are encouraging and engaging with online. They included @mindfulloffuck and @bigdaddybuckley. But they also include the good folks over at BigGov, your arch defenders, one of whom, Dan Riehl, once suggested you have a wet T-shirt contest. He didn’t suggest it on BigGov, but he did suggest it.
We don’t take issue with the fact that these men exist, or even that they follow Michelle. But when a stranger online comments on your anatomy and retweets a picture of your legs it’s time to delete him. While Michelle collects them as staunch supporters, we get accused of not liking attractive and so-called successful people. Newsflash: We host a beauty contest each year. I personally created The Hill‘s 50 Most Beautiful People of Capitol Hill. We have no problem with beauty. But we do have a problem with a female journalist engaging with, enticing and yes, leading on a potentially dangerous online element.
One of Fields’ followers, Shannon Poe, wrote Tuesday, “@MichelleFields when he gets out, I’m sure Fishbowl DC will have a job for him. :)” To which Michelle replied, “@ShannonPoe Hahaha. I think being an obsessive stalker is a job requirement there.”
As funny as that might seem, we know The Daily Caller takes these things seriously. When WMAL’s and Fox News Contributor Mary Katharine Ham, who is still with The Daily Caller but in a looser capacity, used to get stalkerish type gifts, Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson didn’t treat the matter lightly. In one instance, Ham considered calling the police, but in the end decided to inform her superiors and take other precautions that include owning a gun.
Ham’s approach is in clear contrast to Fields. Ham does not engage with male fans who comment on her looks. She also rarely discusses the unusual gifts she has received or the comments made about her online. “I would call my experience with weird fans and haters rare but occasionally concerning,” she wrote by email. “I pay attention when communication is any combination of two of the following: very frequent, threatening, or demonstrates a disconnect with reality. I take general precautions, keep records of those communications, and give event organizers names to watch out for. I don’t respond to communications, especially to anyone who seems to already have concocted some relationship between us. Nothing has ever gone beyond making me wary, thank goodness. Also, I’m armed.”
We like to have fun here in the Fishbowl — sometimes caustically so to prove a point. But egging on strange men online is not our game — and we hope all female journalists out there will take note from Michelle as to how not to behave online.
Carlson elected to comment through the publication’s spokeswoman Nicole Roeberg…You’re not going to want to miss the explanation.
Roeberg insists the letter was neither a “love letter” nor threatening. She also points out that the inmate mentioned in his letter that he has no access to a computer and presumably would not have been able to track Michelle’s social media behavior. “There is zero in here about Michelle as a personality,” Roeberg said in a phone interview, adding that the inmate never once remarked on Michelle’s looks. “He doesn’t even say ‘I think you’re pretty’.” So then what did the letter entail? From Roeberg’s account, it’s more or less a lengthy, smart note about how he likes the concept of what Michelle is doing. “He goes on and on and on about how he grew up in Mongolia, and how he wants a better country for his little sister who still lives there. It’s literally viewer mail,” she said.
Which begs the question, why did Michelle call it a love letter? “She sort of opened it and saw this 10-page letter,” said Roeberg. “I think people call a lot of things love letters that aren’t necessarily love letters, you know?”
Roeberg heads straight into damage control. She explained that at some point between last night and today — after Michelle had posted about the inmate’s “love letter” on both Facebook and Twitter — she removed both posts. Roeberg said she did this on her own and not under orders by management. “She took the Facebook post down because she read the letter and it’s actually a well-written letter,” said Roeberg. “She mischaracterized it as a love letter and I think she didn’t want to give the impression that it was in fact a love letter.” Roeberg added, “If this were a threatening letter I would have something to say about it, but in this case there was no threat. People take communications from people who are in prison seriously…this guy could be anybody. He says he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Sure, it’s a little concerning, but if we didn’t know who the letter was from we wouldn’t know he was a criminal… you can’t control who writes letters.”
Maybe so. But the fact remains that The Daily Caller does know who wrote the letter and does know he is a convicted rapist. A question to ponder: How many convicted rapists write attractive young women from prison to tell them how smart they are? Noteworthy: Roeberg asked that we not print the name of the inmate — we had no intention of it, though it is public and can be seen by clicking on the link above.
Asked if The Daily Caller thinks Michelle needs to change her online behavior, Roeberg said there is no talk of policing any reporters online. “There is a personal responsibility that everyone needs to take unto themselves,” she said. Does she think Michelle needs to do that? She replied, “I’m not going to comment on that.” Roeberg also had “no comment” on Michelle agreeing that FishbowlDC would hire the convicted rapist once he gets out of the jug. For the record, we wouldn’t hire him — even if he is a good writer.