As expected, the sheriff’s online deputies went to Facebook while hoards of our readers told us face-to-face that our front-page editorial, “The Madness of Alex Hodge,” was on point. The latter get it. Almost all of them have seen the slow, but inarguable transformation that has taken place in the three-term sheriff.
We have acknowledged that he made the sheriff’s department more professional and did a lot of good things. It’s just that now, it’s clear he isn’t content to serve in just that capacity. He believes he’s better and smarter than anyone else in the room, so he wants all of the power. And if you’re not smart enough to see that, then, well, he’s right … at least when people like you are filling the room.
The threads of comments on a Facebook post are a lot like a chicken coop. One hen starts clucking shrilly and running. The next thing you know, all the hens get excited and start flapping their wings and running, too, without even knowing why.
That’s exactly what’s happening with the sheriff and his dedicated, but mostly clucking clueless Facebook crew.
What they forget — willfully, perhaps, or may have never known — is that the sheriff picked this fight, not us.
After he and most of his cash-strapped department spent the day raiding the Lyon Ranch Road property of Col. David and Mary Ellen Senne, along with national and local animal rights groups, as cameras rolled, he took aim at us when our reporting veered off track from what his propagandist, err, public relations specialist was putting out to the media.
And here’s the kicker — it was an irrefutable fact. We didn’t report that the Sennes were innocent and Hodge is horrible and had done them wrong. We just did what reporters are supposed to do. We dug beyond what we were being spoon-fed.
We published photos of receipts showing that the Sennes had spent thousands of dollars on food for dogs and cats, some of it expensive medicated formulas for ailing pets. But we didn’t write that the animals were in great condition. We did write that we didn’t know what condition the animals were in when they came into the Sennes’ possession … again, an irrefutable fact.
Well, the sheriff doth protest too much. He took to Facebook to attack us, saying our reporting was skewed because our editor, Sean Murphy, is the Sennes’ godson. He even attacked our livelihood, asking if people thought they needed a “real hometown newspaper.”
He even enlisted the help of his $37,000-per-year PR person to send out a rare press release to point out the “possible bias” of the Leader-Call, when the only actual bias that was on display was coming from his department.
The thing he didn’t do was address the facts that were presented to him by the paper. He went on the attack.
And he did it knowing full well that he was misleading the people. That’s because, earlier, Hodge met with owner/Publisher Jim Cegielski, who assured him that Murphy wouldn’t be doing any reporting on the story.
We lived up to our end of that agreement. Hodge just didn’t handle the truth well. He obviously believes he is above reproach, and doesn’t have to be accountable in the way that all other public officials are.
As for our side of the story, we’ll swear on the Bible that he carries around, a prop he uses in hopes people will see it as a symbol, with its inherent truth leading others to believe that he’s honest, too … but in reality, he wants it to be his shield against any criticism and a stepladder to higher power.