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

’I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ‘em,' said one Citrus County commissioner who said he agrees with President Donald Trump that the newspaper prints ‘fake news.'
The Citrus County commissioners who railed against a request by the local libraries to fund digital subscriptions to the New York Times. From left to right, their names are Jeff Kinnard, Ronald Kitchen, Jimmie Smith, Scott Carnahan and Brian Coleman. [Citrus County Board of Commissioners]
The Citrus County commissioners who railed against a request by the local libraries to fund digital subscriptions to the New York Times. From left to right, their names are Jeff Kinnard, Ronald Kitchen, Jimmie Smith, Scott Carnahan and Brian Coleman. [Citrus County Board of Commissioners]
Published Nov. 4, 2019
Updated Nov. 6, 2019

The Citrus County Commission came to a consensus at the end of October: The county should not spend roughly $2,700 annually to buy digital subscriptions to the New York Times for the 70,000 library-card holders who reside in the county.

The commissioners were not shy in sharing why they thought it was a waste of money.

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“Do we really need to subscribe to the New York Times?” one commissioner asked during the meeting.

“Why the heck would we spend money on something like that?” asked another.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan appeared the most passionate against approving the funding, alluding to political reasons as part of his decision.

Citrus County Commissioner Scott Carnahan. [Citrus County Board of Commissioners]

“Fake news, I agree with President Trump,” Carnahan said. “I don’t want the New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like 'em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no. They can take that money and do something else with it ... I support Donald Trump."

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The item was placed on the commission’s agenda after the county’s library system requested funding for digital subscriptions to supplement residents’ access to media, which already included the print edition of the New York Times.

In the days after the Oct. 24 meeting, Citrus County residents took to social media to share their displeasure with the commissioners’ decision — or in some cases, to praise it.

Sandy Price, the advisory board chairman for the county’s libraries, told the Citrus County Chronicle she was disappointed with the commissioners’ decision to block the funding. She also said she was concerned with the reason behind the blocking, specifically citing Carnahan’s comments about the New York Times being ‘fake news.’

“Someone’s personal political view does not have a place in deciding what library resources are available for the entire county,” Price told the Chronicle on Monday. “Libraries have to ensure all points of view are represented.”

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Despite all five commissioners railing against the request during the commission meeting, feedback that he received in the days after caused Commissioner Brian Coleman to loosen his stance on the request.

Coleman originally said of the funding request: “I support President Trump. I would say they put stuff in there that’s not necessarily verified."

Two days after the meeting, however, Coleman told The Chronicle he wanted to re-address the topic at a future meeting.

“Our decision should have been impartial, instead of having it become a personal thing," Coleman told the Chronicle.

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