The Huffington Post sparked controversy recently when it ran an article about Sheldon Adelson's plans to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for labeling him "a pimp." False rumors started to circulate after the DCCC began to insinuate that Mr. Adelson benefited from a Chinese prostitution strategy. Yesterday, Democratic campaign officials apologized to Mr. Adelson for the admittedly unsubstantiated allegations, but the vitriol had already been spewed.
After reading the hundreds of comments by The Huffington Post readers to the story, I was struck by how almost all of them were amazingly one-sided, content-free and unreasonably disrespectful of Mr. Adelson's views. Indeed, the comments are amazingly similar to the comments on some conservative websites describing President Obama.
Our nation has lost our ability to disagree without being disagreeable. Mr. Adelson funds campaigns. He does not violate any U.S. laws. Outspoken and quite upfront about his political views, he has also made money through hard work and entrepreneurship. He can and should spend his money as he wishes and he has the right to challenge those who libel him.
I've known Mr. Adelson since 1981 when we partnered together on a building project in Las Vegas. The experience was a memorable one. Since then we have had various business relationships, and I have learned that Mr. Adelson is a brilliant visionary -- but a tough business partner.
However, that does not mean that he is any less patriotic or American than those who seek to demean him. I may disagree with his views, but he cares enough about the future of our nation to support candidates and causes he believes in. The same is true for other wealthy donors, such as George Soros, who does for the left what Mr. Adelson does for the right. Just because Mr. Adelson is tough and passionate on his views does not mean he is violating the law, un-American, or should be labeled a "pimp."
I certainly haven't always seen eye to eye with Mr. Adelson. Our association had to spend several million dollars because Mr. Adelson persuaded House Republican leaders to delay the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, forcing us to use his facility. Given Mr. Adelson's harsh rules at the time, we refused to go along and instead built more than a million square feet of temporary structures which cost us a fortune to erect and maintain.
But despite these differences, I still respect Mr. Adelson as a passionate American and professional businessman. I have been to Mr. Adelson's hotels in Macau and Las Vegas, and they are well run and interesting, with no evidence of illegal prostitution. To claim that Mr. Adelson is a pimp simply because Macau has a "reputation" is libelous and wrong.
Have we as Americans lost our ability to communicate with those with whom we disagree? The hundreds of comments excoriating Mr. Adelson on the The Huffington Post article would suggest we have. The negativity embedded in the article is representative of the challenges we face as a nation today, where candidates and their supporters encourage name-calling, crime-accusing and cesspool tactics. We are better than that.
Our presidential candidates, President Obama and Governor Romney, have clear differences in their vision for America and their policy preferences. Both are credible candidates and have risked plenty by offering themselves for public service. We should resist the urge to personally attack and belittle the candidate with whom we disagree and their supporters. Both Republicans and Democrats are patriotic Americans, albeit with different visions. The substantive differences should be more than enough to distinguish the candidates without resorting to personal attacks.
Sadly, as our problems get bigger, as Americans we seem to get smaller. Our children will see us as mud-slinging screamers -- not the best role models. So to my Huffington Post colleagues and readers I ask that we start acting like adults and unite as Americans behind the core principles of freedom of speech, patriotism and a belief that we have an obligation to the next generation to leave the nation better than we found it. Let's debate the substance and leave the name calling to others.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream." Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro