The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

08 November 2007

WMAL Host Sued For Criticizing Day Laborer Supporter


Criticism Of Day Labor Booster Gets Host Sued

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In the most outrageous example of harassment via litigation since Judge Trousers sued his local dry cleaner, a DC talk host has been hit with legal action for criticizing a supporter of illegal alien day labor.

WMAL / Washington host Chris Core (left) has been slapped with a suit for allegedly calling Gary Jacobsen a "criminal" after the latter wrote a letter to the Washington Post outlining how he uses illegal immigrants to cut repair costs at his rental property.

The row began when Jacobsen's "How To Hire a Day Laborer" was published in the paper's 7 October edition:

I got into my pickup truck and drove to the intersection of the Prince William Parkway and U.S. Route 1. There, in the parking area behind the 7-Eleven, was a group of about 20 men who I was sure were day laborers. As I drove up, a number of men immediately rushed forward.

"Usted necesita buenos trabajadores, se¿or?" (Do you need good workers, mister?) asked one of the workmen. "S¿," (yes) I replied in my broken Spanish. "Necesito pintores" (I need painters). An enthusiastic 20-something man wearing white coveralls stepped forward and said, in English, that he was a professional painter. I liked his bright smile and his positive attitude, so I said, "Usted es empleado" (you are hired).

But I still needed one more worker to be a painter's helper and to do the work on the deck and grounds. "Quien puede hacer el trabajo al aire libre?" (Who can do outdoor work?) Three or four men stepped forward, and one told me in English that all of his fellow workers had such experience. My painter pointed to one of the other men and said he was his amigo (friend) and that they worked well together. So I hired him as well.

I then called aside my two workers and discussed the terms of employment. I said I would pay "diez dolares cada hora en efectivo" ($10 per hour in cash), and that the work would last "siete o ocho horas" (seven or eight hours). I would provide the transportation, the tools and "almuerzo gratis" (free lunch) from McDonald's. Did they agree? "S¿, se¿or," they both replied.

Catching the eye of Core's producer, WMAL attempted to book Jacobsen as a guest, according to Kara Rowland of the Washington Times:

The conflict stems from an Oct. 7 article that Col. Jacobsen, 67, wrote for The Washington Post's Outlook section. The piece, titled "How to Hire a Day Laborer," details Col. Jacobsen's experience of hiring two men outside a 7-Eleven store to paint his home.

"I arranged for a contractor from Manassas to walk through the house and give me an estimate for the work. He estimated the cost of painting five rooms would be $500," Col. Jacobsen wrote. "I decided there had to be a better (read: cheaper) way."

Col. Jacobsen then drove to a local 7-Eleven and hired two men to do the job for $160, he wrote.

The day the article appeared, Col. Jacobsen said he received a call from a producer of Mr. Core's show, which airs weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, telling him it was going to be a topic of conversation the next day and asking if he would be interviewed on-air. He declined.

"When [Mr. Core] was on the air on October 8, he devoted his 10 o'clock segment to a personal attack on me," Col. Jacobsen asserted. "He said, 'Mr. Gary Jacobsen of Woodbridge, Virginia, has broken the law.' Furthermore, he implored his listeners to contact local, state or federal authorities."

In fact, lawsuit threats came almost immediately after publication against critics, as this exchange with a local blogger reveals:

Of course, your facts are wrong. I never said I hired illegal aliens. I hired day workers. I will be seeing WMAL's Chris Core in court for slander and libel on this matter. And yes, I do have a lawyer. He is a former Marine Corps fighter pilot! (signed) Gary Jacobsen.
# posted by Professor Jay : 5:48 PM

You know exactly who and what you hired, Gary, so let's not try to play cute little label games and pretend that you weren't knowingly hiring illegal aliens to save yourself some dough.

I heard that you were in the Marines once. If that's true, what happened to that integrity that's so central to the Corp.?
# posted by Me : 8:40 PM

Meanwhile, this conservative blogger also accused Jacobsen of committing a crime (but wasn't sued):

The Washington Post has apparently decided to ratchet up its war against the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of illegal aliens in Prince William County, and the backlash is pretty strong today. First up is Gary Jacobsen’s letter to the editor where he admits to violating 8 USC 1324a by knowingly hiring illegal aliens and is inviting enforcement actions against him.

It’s the subject of this morning’s Chris Core show on WMAL, and Chris Core and his callers are outraged. Second is the Washington Post’s editorial “The Price Of Intolerance” which incongruously claims that spending less money on social services that would otherwise go to illegal aliens is somehow going to cost county taxpayers more than they can afford.

Potomac News has more on the events leading up to the litigation being filed:

Though he declined to be on the show, his column was still discussed on the Oct. 8 broadcast, Jacobsen said.

On the show, Core said that, in his column, Jacobsen "admitted to breaking the law concerning the hiring of illegal immigrants," Jacobsen said.

Core and WMAL officials did not return calls and e-mails made Friday afternoon seeking comment.

Core went on to say that Jacobsen had broken the law by hiring illegal immigrants, and asked listeners to "contact local, state or federal authorities" to have Jacobsen arrested or fined, Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen said Core's claim that he broke a law were not true.

"I have never broken a law. I'm a straight arrow, as straight as them come," Jacobsen said. "The exact words he used on the air were 'Gary Jacobsen broke the law.' And that's not true. It was way over the top."

Jacobsen's column referred to "day laborers," not to "illegal immigrants," he said.

"I never said 'illegal aliens;' I said 'day laborers.' A day laborer could be a college kid trying to earn extra money," Jacobsen said.

In the lawsuit, Jacobsen is asking for $5,000 in damages.

Jacobsen said he has not had any response from Core since filing the lawsuit.

Though your Radio Equalizer would never claim to be a lawyer, when common sense is applied, this becomes clear: only a fool believes "college kids" hang out at 7-Eleven looking for day labor. Attempting to assert otherwise in a courtroom is guaranteed to generate laughter.

In addition, after volunteering to tell his story via the press, he might qualify as a public person, making it difficult to win a defamation suit without proving actual malice. Previous instances of Jacobsen receiving public attention for any reason would bolster this argument.

Finally, if he really feels his name has been dragged through the mud, then why sue for a mere $5000? Why not $37 million? He must not feel his reputation was worth a whole lot in the first place.

While it may benefit WMAL greatly to stand by their host, ABC's previous managerial regime remains in place despite the recent transfer of ownership to Citadel. That group has a history of caving quickly under this kind of pressure.

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  • Did he pay the Social Security tax for his day laborer? If not, isn't that against the law?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 November, 2007 08:13  

  • In the article, he didn't admit to hiring illegal aliens, and, while I'd suggest contacting a lawyer for the final word, he might not be required to ask about their status or pay SS tax. He's also a columnist for a local paper, so he might already be a public figure. The original editorial is clearly part of the WaPo's campaign to mainstream illegal immigration; note that MSNBC had a similar article a while back.

    By Blogger LonewackoDotCom, at 08 November, 2007 19:11  

  • Chris Core and his employer chose to settle this case out of court rather than face a judge and answer a charge of libel. About a month later, Chris Core was fired for "reasons unknown." He is now a pitchman for products that are advertised on WMAL in WashDC.

    By Anonymous Gary Jacobsen, at 15 May, 2009 14:37  

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