Video Clerk With Blog Harrasses Tucker Carlson, Gets Fired
Buried on page C3 of yesterday’s WaPo is a story about a bizarre encounter between television commentator Tucker Carlson and a (now-former) 28-year-old video store clerk with a blog.
Potomac Video store clerk Charles Williamson, 28, posted a message on his blog, Freelance Genius, Dec. 23 that described how he set up a movie rental account for MSNBC host Tucker Carlson at the MacArthur Boulevard store the day before.
“I could tell you what he and his ridiculously wasped-out female companion (wife?) rented if you really want to know,” he wrote. “I won’t tell you where he lives, though. That would be wrong and stupid.” Williamson also joked that he wouldn’t send 10,000 copies of Jon Stewart’s best-selling political satire, “America (The Book),” to Carlson’s home; Stewart ridiculed Carlson on “Crossfire” before the 2004 election.
A week later, Williamson had forgotten all about it, he told us yesterday. That is, until Carlson, 37, reappeared at the video store and, said Williamson, “got pretty aggressive.” According to Williamson, Carlson confronted him about the blog and said he viewed the post as a threat to him and his wife. “He said, ‘If you keep this [expletive] up, I will [expletive] destroy you,’ ” Williamson recalled.
Williamson said he agreed to remove the blog post and did so later that night: “All I remember thinking was I was worried about what this guy was going to do.” He consulted a lawyer friend and was told he had probably not broken any laws. “What I said was pretty juvenile, I’ll admit,” he said.
In a phone interview Thursday, Carlson acknowledged that he approached Williamson in the store and said he was “very aggressive” because he wanted the post removed: “I don’t like to call the police or call his boss. . . . I’m a libertarian. I’m not into that.”
On Monday, Williamson said, his Potomac Video manager called and fired him. Williamson said he was told the company was threatened with legal action “and the owner doesn’t like that.” He re-posted the original Carlson item later that day. Williamson said he later learned that a man who identified himself as a lawyer for Carlson had been in the store and asked Potomac Video employees questions about him.
Carlson told us that he was concerned for the safety of his family, but did not threaten legal action against the company or push to have Williamson, who still has his office-manager day job, fired. “He implied he was going to come and do something to my house,” Carlson said. “I’ve got four kids at home and I’ve had serious problems with stalkers twice. . . . This guy is threatening to come to my house and I’m on the road all the time. What would you do? This guy is threatening my family.”
Carlson said he took no further action and said he couldn’t have called his lawyer because he doesn’t have one. “He’s trying to make it sound like I’m this big, bad guy trying to hurt the video store clerk,” he said. “I don’t understand why he’s hassling me. I just wanted to rent a Woody Allen movie.”
So do I.
I don’t have any problem with a guy blogging that a famous person came into the shop. But I would use the same word as Patrick, “creepy,” to describe this post:
Tucker Carlson opened an account last night at my video store. I thought the name seemed familiar but I couldn’t figure out why. It was after he left that I realized he was on the list of Gigantic Cobagz. I could tell you what he and his ridiculously wasped-out female companion (wife?) rented if you really want to know. I won’t tell you where he lives, though. That would be wrong and stupid. I will also not be running around ordering 10,000 copies of America: The Book and having it sent to his place even if that would be more awesome than frozen urine treats for his home.
Would I perceive that as a threat were I Carlson? Probably not. I might well report this to the store manager, though. I’m pretty sure that they don’t want their clerks violating the privacy of their customers, famous or otherwise. They collect address information for legitimate business reasons; using or even threatening to use it for other reasons is quite likely actionable.
It’s yahoos like Williamson who give bloggers a bad name. Outside the still-relatively-small group of people who read political blogs on a regular basis, most people think of crap like “Freelance Genius” when they think of blogs. Any idiot can get an account on Blogspot and start sending their drivel across the Internet(s), so why should we take it seriously?
Bloggers are, in the broadest sense of the word, journalists, publishing writing for public consumption. The First Amendment guarantees all manner of protections for that enterprise. But, as Stan Lee told us long ago (in the person of the fictional Ben Parker), with great power comes great responsibility. If we use our platform for libel, threat, or harassment we risk the consequences of those actions.