They can dish it out, but...
Last week, Bill Cooper, the chief executive of TCF Bank, fired off an angry letter in which he vowed that "TCF will never spend another dollar on advertising in the Star Tribune as long as I am chairman." Of course, Cooper, the former head of the state Republican Party, is known as something of a hothead. Last year, he spent about $10,000 to overturn a ticket he was issued for speeding on a snowmobile on Lake Minnetonka.
Still, what could have rendered him so indignant that he would find it necessary to divorce one of the state's largest financial institutions from its biggest newspaper? Two words: Nick Coleman. More specifically, a December 29 piece in which the Strib columnist assailed as "extreme" the local bloggers who are behind Time magazine's blog of the year, Power Line.
For the past month or so, the unreconstructed Minnesota liberal Coleman has been engaged in a mutual shin-kicking contest with the neo-cons at Power Line. In various posts, the Power Line bloggers have called Coleman "the Star Tribune's worst columnist," "a partisan hack," and "a prevaricating scoundrel." When the feud spilled into the vast right-wing echo chamber known as the blogosphere, the tone became even nastier. (David Strom, president of the Taxpayers League, set the bar lowest, declaring on his blog that Coleman "is a prick. An asshole. A shitty writer.")
In his end-of-the-year column, Coleman produced some vitriol of his own. Noting that one of the Power Line bloggers, a St. Paul lawyer named Scott Johnson, works for TCF, Coleman implied that Johnson's superiors at TCF might be bankrolling Power Line. Near the end of the column, Coleman mused on the possibility of withdrawing piles of money from TCF.
That pushed Cooper over the edge. "To suggest that customers of TCF Bank should move their money because of a TCF employee's blogging activities (an exercise of free speech) is just wrong," Cooper harrumphed in his letter to the Strib.
So is it right for TCF to financially punish the Strib when Nick Coleman exercises his free speech? Yes, in Cooper's view. "What Nick Coleman said about TCF isn't true. We don't have anything to do with that [Power Line]." Cooper asserted that he'd never even heard of the Power Line blog before the honor from Time. "I still haven't read it. So why am I drawn into this thing? Why is TCF brought into it?"
If you believe media gossip, the yanked TCF ads will cost the Strib some $250,000. Cooper said he doesn't know the precise dollar figure. Strib editor Anders Gyllenhaal declined to answer financial questions.
Meanwhile, the Power Line blogger known as Big Trunk--TCF's Scott Johnson--has posted a five-point demand that Coleman retract his "false and defamatory" statements. Then, perhaps in the hope that Cooper might one day start reading Power Line, the Big Trunk affixed his lips to the boss's ass. "Bill Cooper," he wrote in a post excoriating Coleman, "is one of my heroes."
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