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Memo From The Midwest, By Dave Gorak
Anatomy Of A Smear: The Case Of Jim Oberweis
The week began innocently enough for Illinois gubernatorial candidate Jim Oberweis.
"I went to bed Sunday night watching Judy Barr Topinka on TV, and when I woke the next morning I tuned in Fox News to learn that I had hired illegal aliens to clean my store and was paying them half the minimum wage," Oberweis told me in a recent telephone conversation.
"What the hell is this all about?" wondered the man who you would think by now has had a bellyful of political backstabbing and betrayal by his own party.
What "this" was all about was the pro-illegal alien Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (and their good buddies), under the direction of its showman extraordinaire Joshua Hoyt, announcing that anti-illegal immigration advocate Oberweis had (gasp) broken his own rules by having two admitted illegal aliens clean one of his area ice cream stores.
And now the two "undocumented workers," Jorge Ibarra and Rosa Ramirez, were suing the dairy owner for having "taken advantage" of them.
Oberweis said several of his representatives, including his campaign manager and his corporate attorney, went to ICIRR's Chicago office in order to learn more about the charges being leveled.
"They were asked to leave," Oberweis continued.
In fact, he said, they were escorted out of the building,
"And that's when I knew that this was no informational meeting."
Hmmmm. Nothing like giving a guy a chance to confront those seeking to demonize him, right, Mr. Hoyt? (e-mail him)
Gee, can you believe this coming from the executive director of an organization that drones on day and night about "justice and human dignity" for illegal aliens?
The accusations directed at Oberweis, frankly, smelled to high heaven as soon as they hit the airwaves and, almost immediately, we learned that Hoyt's quickly orchestrated media circus was nothing more than a cheap shot that would make any Chicago precinct captain proud.
In a nutshell, here's how the events played out (Oberweis' complete account can be seen here):
Last May Eduardo Martinez, an employee of Patmar Janitorial Service, hired Ibarra and Ramirez to clean several Oberweis ice cream stores in the Chicago area.
Martinez did this without the knowledge of Patmar; he paid the two out of his own pocket. One evening, while driving by one of the Oberweis stores, Patmar's owner discovered the two workers he had never seen before and immediately fired them.
Martinez, who Oberweis said, "has disappeared," also was fired shortly thereafter.
According to Oberweis, who also gave Patmar its walking papers,
"We still haven't determined if Martinez hired them on his own or if they approached him as part of a plan to discredit me."
Odds are that it was the latter.
We now know that Ibarra and Ramirez pulled the same stunt earlier this year with another local janitorial service, but the owner of that service, Ruben Montiel, who Oberweis said offered to stand with him during any press conference, paid off the two rather than risk losing a major account he had worked years to win.
(Montiel, who declined to be interviewed for this column, has been in business 18 years and his primary account is the Bally Fitness Centers.)
In a subsequent telephone conversation with Hoyt, Oberweis said Hoyt did not apologize. In fact, Hoyt continues to hold Oberweis "accountable" on his web site.
Hoyt, according to Oberweis, has other complaints about him, including showing up last spring with free samples of his ice cream at a FAIR meeting on Chicago's North Side (the nerve!) and – hold onto your hats – opposing drivers licenses for illegals.
But Hoyt isn't the only one who lacks the guts and civility to admit that Oberweis is owed an apology.
Even though the Chicago Tribune had the facts, the next day its lead editorial "Help Wanted" continued to reflect its disregard for the rule of law and long-standing opposition to anyone, especially somebody who wants to govern the Land of Lincoln (and its estimated 400,000 illegal aliens), who has the temerity to demand strict enforcement of our immigration laws.
Here's an excerpt from this deliberately misleading editorial:
"Did Oberweis hire illegal immigrants? Apparently not. He put the blame on a subcontractor who provided cleaning services for the store. There is no evidence to show Oberweis himself knew of their immigration status. [Memo to the editorial's author: Oberweis is prohibited by law from asking the immigration status of an employee or those who work for him through a subcontractor.]
"But there is no question that he benefited from their labor. There is also no question that a lot of people like Oberweis have benefited from the labor of illegal immigrants in the U.S."
But it is the last sentence of this editorial that speaks the loudest about the judgment of Bruce Dold, editor of the paper's editorial page and who must approve all its contents, and the vindictive and childish nature of the editorial's author:
"From all appearances, he [Oberweis] got a clean shop out of the deal." ["Help Wanted," Editorial, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2005]
(To the best of my knowledge, none of Chicago's other major media went to the lengths the Tribune did to ridicule Oberweis and lend credibility to Hoyt and his anarchist allies.)
In an e-mail exchange several years ago, Dold (e-mail him) told me that the Tribune is "not biased."
Right…in his dreams!
And those many columns lay bare just how far many reporters and their editors have strayed from the fundamentals of good journalism and their own code of ethics.