Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

Amid Trump-NYT controversy, everyone has a thought for Citrus County

The former general manager of the New York Mets offered money. A flood of emails crashed government servers. And the opinions keep coming.
The New York Times newspaper on the shelf at the Citrus County Library Lakes Region at 1511 Druid Rd. on Thursday in Inverness. The Citrus County Commission was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." A former Mets GM has stepped up and wants to donate money to the Citrus County Libraries to cover the cost of the subscriptions. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
The New York Times newspaper on the shelf at the Citrus County Library Lakes Region at 1511 Druid Rd. on Thursday in Inverness. The Citrus County Commission was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." A former Mets GM has stepped up and wants to donate money to the Citrus County Libraries to cover the cost of the subscriptions. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 7, 2019
Updated Nov. 7, 2019

Former New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was frustrated when he called Citrus County’s library office Wednesday morning.

He had read about local commissioners saying they would not pay $2,700 for digital subscriptions to the New York Times for 70,000 library cardholders. “Fake news,” the commissioners had said, professing their support for President Donald Trump.

Fine, Alderson thought. I’ll pay for it.

“Honestly (I) was outraged by the attempt to censor responsible journalism, and the idea of not making the New York Times or frankly any newspaper available to library members was ridiculous,” said Alderson, who lives in St. Petersburg and is a special adviser for the Oakland A’s. He said he reads the New York Times and considers himself an independent voter. He declined to say whether he voted for President Trump. The people at the library, he said, made note of his name and said they would get back to him.

Related: Related Story: Commissioners call New York Times ‘fake news,’ deny library funding for digital subscriptions

“I’m sure there are many people who felt the same way,” Alderson said.

He was right.

Citrus County has received so many emails about the controversy that its computer servers temporarily crashed, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Oswald.

“Never happened to little Citrus County before,” she said. “Nothing like it.”

Related: Related Story: Welcome to Citrus County, Fla., home to the culture war for a day
The Citrus County Library Lakes Region in Inverness. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

Word of the commission’s decision took off with help from Trump himself as he shared stories on Twitter about the move and subsequent backlash.

For several days following the council’s Oct. 24 meeting, commissioners received a relative trickle of feedback, mostly from residents. Some of those emails are excerpted below, just as they were written.

“Thank you for canceling the NYT (New York Lies), its at the top of the list for fake news,” wrote a man from Crystal River.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan, who had spoken most strongly against the New York Times, replied: “Your very welcome and with a price tag of $2700 dollars a year is outrageous. Plus we have enough fake news in this country.”

Not everyone was so supportive.

“Mr. Carnahan, you in particular, stated that you did not want ‘the New York Times in this county’. Should we expect some goons will come to our house to check our devices? Are you that afraid?” a couple from Lecanto wrote. “Ugh. Anyone who fears knowledge should not hold public office. You are not leaders, gentlemen. What a shame.”

Carnahan responded, “I made my decision solely on fiscal responsibility. It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay $2700 for a online publication. They can use this money in other place to enhance our great library system.”

When the Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post picked up the story from the Citrus County Chronicle, the debate ratcheted up even more. The conversation in the commissioners’ inboxes devolved.

“Shame on you!” more than one person wrote.

“Kiss my tourism dollars goodbye. You’re nothing more then redneck a*******. Don’t bother f****** replying, turds,” another wrote.

Oswald said the county’s tourism office has received emails from people threatening to stop visiting Citrus. An author who writes about sports car racing called the commissioner’s actions “disgraceful” and said, “I am encouraging people NOT travel to your county via my social media sites.”

One person didn’t explicitly mention the controversy but wrote: “Now that I have to boycott Citrus County, and can't return to the beautiful Homosassa, where is the next best place to see manatees?”

Oswald responded: “Citrus County is the only place to swim with manatees. You can see manatees in other areas of Florida in areas where the water temp. is warmer than the ocean in the winter. If I can be of further assistance please let me know.”

The Welcome to Citrus County sign as you enter Citrus County Thursday. The Citrus County Commission was looking to eliminate the cost of the New York Times digital subscriptions because they say it is "Fake News." [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

Amid the growing anger, out-of-town residents looked for ways to send money.

Two GoFundMe pages raised a combined $6,179 from 222 individual donors for the Citrus County Library System by late Wednesday. Oswald said other people have called to offer direct contributions.

“I am a Librarian,” wrote a user named Laurie Charnigo, who donated $30 to one of the GoFundMe fundraisers. “We do not select materials or deselect materials based on a political view. A robust library with ALL types of information and all resources made available to our citizens is central to a healthy democracy.”

The libraries normally accept donations, Oswald said, but they have never seen this kind of rush. Administrators don’t know what to do.

Eric Head, director of the system, explained his standard response to people wanting to pay for the digital subscription in an email to another county official Oct. 29.

“I’ve informed them that currently we do not have this subscription available, however the Friends (of the Library) appreciate any and all donations,” Head wrote.

In separate messages, he said the system spends $8,909 a year on print-only newspaper subscriptions, including $981 for the Citrus County Chronicle; $1,664 for the Tampa Bay Times; $2,990 for the New York Times; $1,882 for the Wall Street Journal; and $1,392 for USA Today.

The library’s board, Oswald said, will discuss how to spend donated funds at a meeting Nov. 14. Five days later, the county commissioners will once again take up the digital subscription issue and possibly vote on their next step.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  4. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  5. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  7. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  9. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
  10. <Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
    For the first time since he was nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the job of Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees appeared before senators to answer questions that have been percolating for nine...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement