Letter: Selectman Lessler’s Bias in Reporting Public Comment

To the Editor

In his summary of the Feb. 18 Board of Selectmen meeting published in the Easton Courier on Feb. 27, Attorney/Selectman Lessler took the liberty of paraphrasing my public comments. He submitted his version of my comments for publication without notifying me, without asking for a written copy, and without checking the video of the meeting.

Following suit, the Easton Courier published his submission without checking his accuracy. When Mr. Lessler was questioned about his paraphrasing in an email from Beverly Dacey, he responded by saying: “From my perspective, Sherry’s actual comments were far more problematic than conveyed in my write-up. At least, I believe I diluted the toxicity as much as possible while trying to stay true to the essence of the speaker’s point.”

I take Mr. Lessler’s response to mean that based on his own biased judgement, he deliberately changed what I said and then submitted his version to the press with my name. I don’t believe that my comments were problematic, and they certainly were not toxic. I stand by every single word that I say or write. If I think I have spoken or written in error or in an ill-advised manor, I can and will correct my own statement.

Mr. Lessler does not have the privilege of doing that for me and I am disappointed that the Easton Courier allowed him to do so without so much as a call to me or a check of the meeting video. Neither does Mr. Lessler have the right to “dilute” the meaning of my comments, and I do not accept that “dilution” was his goal. He is under no obligation to publish comments he deems to be “toxic.”

This is not the first time Mr. Lessler has taken the liberty of passing personal judgement on a citizen’s public comment. At the Jan. 7 BOS meeting, Attorney Lessler characterized public comments made by Anne Manusky as an “anti-Semitic trope.” When he wrote about that meeting for the Courier, while he did not use her name, he said the comments “included anti-Semitic references and dog whistles.”

Once again, this is Attorney/Selectman Lessler’s biased opinion. It has no place in an article intended to give factual information about a Board of Selectmen meeting. You can hear Mrs. Manusky’s comments by accessing the Jan. 7 BOS meeting at https://vimeo.com/showcase/easton-board-of-selectmen. Her comments begin at 53:42.

In my view Mr. Lessler’s actions are intended to intimidate those who speak from a different point of view. Easton voters who share my conservative point of view are weary of and becoming angry at the intimidation that has come from public officials, including Mr. Lessler, the Superintendent of Schools, school faculty, and others.

If you would like to hear my actual comments, you can do so by accessing the Feb. 18 BOS meeting at https://vimeo.com/showcase/easton-board-of-selectmen. My comments begin at 1:26:54. In the meantime, here is a comparison of portions of my actual comments versus Mr. Lessler’s “diluted” version.

• Attorney Lessler wrote, “She urged the board not to have a Zoom or hybrid Town Meeting.”
• I actually said, “Push back on the governor. Let him know that people are unhappy with this and keep the Zoom there because we have scared people to death. Keep the Zoom. Respect their fear, but for the rest of us push for opening.”

• Attorney Lessler wrote, “She says that as a Christian she never wants anyone to die, but George Floyd was a criminal.”
• I actually said, “I mourn, by the way, I’m a Christian. I mourn the loss of every life that goes to crime. When I see stories about people losing their lives to jail, to the death penalty, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart, but Mr. George Floyd was a criminal, and instead of getting behind our police department, we got behind him… No one will say that. I will say it. I pray for him. I pray for his soul, but he was a criminal and we held a celebration for him, a rally for him with our police department across the street who were being told across the country Get Rid of You.”

There is a great deal more I could say about Attorney Lessler’s version of my comments, but I think that makes the point. I believe the Easton Courier’s practice of having Selectmen report on their own meetings is ill-advised. It is the duty of the press to act as a check on government, not to give elected officials a platform to frame events through the lens of their own biases. If the editors want the Courier to be considered as a serious news source, they would be far better served by finding unbiased and reliable reporters.

Sherry L. Harris
Citizen of Easton — 42 years
Member of the Region 9 Board of Education — 9 years
Chair of the 1980’s School Building Committee — 9 years
Member of the Republican Town Committee — 25 years

image_pdfimage_print