This week, the Tucson Citizen, Arizona’s leading site for bloggers and citizen journalists, has pulled the plug on one of their most popular and controversial columnists.
David Morales’ blog, the Three Sonorans saw over 1.6 million visitors to the site -- last year, his blog singlehandedly crashed the Tucson Citizen when he broke the story of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ tragic shooting -- but despite his readership, the threat of a lawsuit by Arizona State Rep. Daniel Patterson became the proverbial last straw for Tucson Citizen editor Mark Evans.
In email correspondence published this week on The Range, Rep. Patterson -- who is currently facing an ethics investigation, per a report released last week by the Arizona House Ethics Committee that claims the politician has a lurid history of unprofessional behaviour towards staff and allegedly offering to trade sex for votes -- took issue to the following line in Morales’ post, “Is The World Conspiring Against Rep. Patterson?”:
“Then again, I don’t know what it is like to have rich parents or a father who was a mayor to shower privilege upon me by hiring lawyers to always get charges dropped.”
Rep. Patterson wrote to Evans:
Total lie. This racist liar doesn't know me or my family. Why do you continue to host him? His BS on this issue could cause a big lawsuit. Daniel
Evans mediated the dispute by asking Morales to remove the line and then delete an entire post entitled, “A Quick Lesson In Racism For Rep. Patterson And Other Non-Minorities.”
According to Morales, he was referring to Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Board Member Michael Hicks -- the same Michael Hicks who appeared on the Daily Show to talk “no more burritos” and the ban on ethnic studies with Al Madrigal earlier this week.
However, Evans maintains that a history of sketchy fact-checking was a factor in the decision to shut down Morales’ blog. He tells the Tucson Sentinel that, "While the untruth Patterson complained about was minor, it was just one more example."
He also cites complaints from “anti-ethnic studies activist Lori Hunnicutt (who also briefly had a Citizen blog), TUSD Board President Mark Stegeman, TUSD Assistant Superintendent Lupita Garcia, and the Senate campaign of Rodney Glassman, among others” as a factor in his decision to pull the plug.
Despite this, blogger David Safier writes in BlogForArizona.com:
Morales leads with his heart and his passions and goes for the jugular when he writes. Absolute accuracy doesn't seem to be important to him, which, I imagine, gives the journalist in Evans fits. However, Morales has been an invaluable part of the information community in Southern Arizona, and he is among the most prominent public voices in the local Hispanic community. No one has posted more video, much of which he or his friends have shot and which can be an invaluable resource to me and others. No one has been as fearless at exposing what he sees as wrongs, taking on Democrats as well as Republicans. He can be infuriating at times, but he has an impact.
And, in a time when Arizona is banning books, in addition to eliminating the Mexican-American studies program in K-12 public schools, blogger and Tucson-native Jeff Briggers sees the move as a sign of the toxic political environment in the state. He writes on AlterNet.org that Morales is “the latest casualty in Tucson’s seemingly relentless crackdown on the city’s deeply rooted Latino community.”
While Morales was not available for comment regarding the dismissal, he tweeted this:
Sean Arce served as director of the Mexican American Studies program at TUSD.