Does The Record stroke Manuel’s ego?

A Hot Shot editor who only recently wrote his first “blog” says that he’s passed the proverbial buck sufficiently so as not to generate blame for himself because he “called our company’s lawyer, an expert in First Amendment issues, and asked him: Would we be committing a crime if we published FBI surveillance tapes? No, he said, as long as the person who got them did so legally.”

But that’s not what happened.

Ex-commissioner Tom Manuel, the 64 year-old Garden City, Long Island, native has spent his life “reaching his dreams” — and then “following his ego back out of them.” And, in the instant case where Manuel was videotaped taking $60,000 in political payola, once more, he followed his ego into trouble.

Tom Manuel is a felon. He committed and admitted to criminal bribery in a case that earned him a federal prison sentence; followed by probation. Thanks to the media, if we are so inclined, we can absorb ourselves in the FBI surveillance tapes — but our hot shot didn’t stop there.

For the newspaper to now run biographical 42 year-old photographs of Manuel in his Navy uniform and to be spinning anecdotal yarns about his co-worker’s choice of Yankee Stadium to announce his bank promotion, followed by day-after-day of emotional waxing over the grueling recovery from his heart attack; taking us from the image of Manuel in a coma, to his Lazy-Boy, to his triumphant recovery in the political arena, is arcane — at best.

Manuel’s name in lights, his face on television and voice on political radio programs, have all come to an end; and yet The St. Augustine Record, the bankrupt Morris Publishing Group newspaper in town, feels compelled to waste two weeks by airing all of Manuel’s dirty laundry in public. To what end? They sure as hell didn’t give Manuel’s background much ink before he got elected.

Despite any self-serving theory of “good deeds” or criticism of the confidential informants in the case — in Manuel’s own words, he said, “ultimately I have to take responsibility for my actions. They didn’t force me to take those envelopes. I took them.”

Manuel also said, “There were so many instances where I could have reversed it all.”

Tom Manuel admitted his felony offense. He had his day in court. He was sentenced for his crime. Manuel and his family are preparing for his departure to begin serving his 21 month sentence in Federal Prison. Unless Manuel does something else, that’s the end of the story.

Is The Record now trying to use the flowery tribute of a “stay at home mom” and ex-Record reporter to rehabilitate Manuel’s tarnished image by publishing Pakkala’s version of Manuel’s epitaph? Or, are The Record and its problematic editor simply taking some sadistic pleasure in beating a man when he’s down?

Photo credit: © 2009 Historic City News contributed photograph

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