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Murfreesboro publisher accused of harassment

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Pete Doughtie

A local Gulf War veteran said she is being harassed for speaking her mind.

Sara Mitchell reported to the Murfreesboro Police that she has received threatening phone calls and her husband’s car was egged after she called advertisers from The Rutherford Reader, a Rutherford County-based weekly newspaper.

What was more concerning to Mitchell was that her phone number and address appeared on the Stand Up for The Rutherford Reader Facebook group, and last week her phone number was printed in Publisher Pete Doughtie’s weekly column.

“I was not expecting this,” she said. “Now, I have to try to figure out if they are harmless bullies or something worse. If we all join forces against this madness, maybe there won't be enough hate to go around.”

Doughtie said he has no comment on the police report or Mitchell’s allegations.

Mitchell’s troubles started in mid-July after she had called a few of the advertisers from The Reader to express her displeasure at the content of the newspaper.

The Reader regularly prints, along with local columnists and announcements, columns from DailyRollCall.com and other sources that are critical of Islam. For example, a guest column appeared in the Aug. 2 edition by Darrel Whaley, from Murfreesboro-based Kingdom Ministries Worship Center. The column was titled “No Muslim is a free man” and alleged Muslims are attempting to take over America.

Mitchell said she has seen similar material in The Reader over the years. So, on July 16, she called its biggest advertisers and told them she will not support their businesses as long as they support The Reader with advertising dollars.

She said she received a phone call from Doughtie at 7:30 p.m. July 16.

“He threatened a lawsuit because he says you can't just go around calling anything hate speech,” she said, adding Doughtie then asked her where she works and said "I know where you live."

The next night someone egged her husband’s car. Since then, she has received threatening phone calls from various people.

One came at 12:50 in the morning, July 19. A woman, who called herself “Marjorie Smith,” asked Mitchell why she was threatening Smith’s friend.

Another call at 10:30 the same night was from a man, calling himself “Mohammed,” who said “thank you for your support. Thank you for sucking my big, fat c***.”

“The obscene guy said his name was Mohammed, but I doubt it. He had a very heavy – probably faked – accent,” Mitchell said, adding there was another phone call where the caller asked if she was a member of the Rutherford County Democratic Party, which she is.

She said she thinks it is too much of coincidence that the harassment and vandalism started within a few days after calling The Reader’s advertisers. And she’s particularly concerned about her address being posted in the Facebook group.

“It's definitely too much of a coincidence,” she said.

This isn’t the first time a defiant reader has garnered the ire of The Reader.

In 2010, Anthony Mijares said he complained to several companies about The Reader’s content. The paper was subsequently pulled out of local Kroger grocery stores and a KFC.  

Doughtie allegedly threatened to sue Mijares but never filed. Instead, he printed Mijares’s home address along with the words “Combat Him” in the paper.

Mijares said nothing came of it but he “considered it a threat of violence” and talked to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it.

“I spent three weeks wondering if I was going to get assassinated,” Mijares said.

He hasn’t actively campaigned against The Reader in months, except for a call two weeks ago to the American Honda Motor Company’s headquarters in California to tell them about a local car dealer, who advertises in The Reader.

“This is the last thing that I did,” Mijares said. “It’s been six months and not because I’m scared, but because I have other things to do.”

Mijares believes it was that phone call to Honda, and a subsequent column in The Daily Breeze, a newspaper in Torrance, Cali., where Honda’s headquarters in located, that precipitated Doughtie printing his home phone number in The Reader’s Aug. 2 edition.

Others in town claim to have been harassed by Doughtie and those associated with The Reader, including George Manus, owner of Out Front on Main, a local theater that stages plays with adult content.

Manus allegedly got a strange call last year from Doughtie about an e-mail to The Reader.

Doughtie accused Manus of sending an offensive e-mail from his e-mail address, and threatened retaliation against Manus and the theater.

“I thought it was an idle threat,” Manus said, adding the theater is supportive of the local Muslim community.

“He was trying to negate our involvement of the Democrat Party and support of the mosque,” Manus said.

Mitchell said the harassment is likely done by “a small, vocal minority."

“It is time for our community to heal,” she said.

Editor's note: The bolded sections are corrected from the print version.

Read more from:
Anthony Mijares, Crime, Democrats, George Manus, GOP, Harassment, Islam, Journalism, MPD, Murfreesboro, Pete Doughtie, Politics, Religion, Rutherford Reader, Sara Mitchell
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Members Opinions:
August 09, 2012 at 11:45am
So let me get this straight... she harassed advertisers who supported a newspaper that expresses opinions. Then when people harassed her about expressing her opinion, she's now the victim? Weren't the advertisers’ victims of her unwanted calls too? This is like the pot calling the kettle black.
August 09, 2012 at 1:17pm
No, Aaron. She called advertisers to inform them that she would not purchase their products as long as they support bigotry and hatred. That's standard operating procedure in a boycott, and advertisers like to know these things, especially big corporations, as they usually don't like their products to be seen as connected with hatred and bigotry. (This is why advertisers started pulling out of Crazy Glenn Beck's show when he finally went totally off the deep end.)

There is a far cry between calling a company's comment line (printed on the back of every package they sell) and posting an individual's personal phone number and address in a newspaper and encouraging people to engage in acts of harassment, vandalism, psychological terror and possible violence.
August 09, 2012 at 5:28pm
really Aaron?? wow! I would like to respond more at length but Jenn already broke it down with eloquence. The Reader is one of the best examples of the slow evolution of thought in these parts. It's a shame and a disgrace! I think I will follow Ms. Mitchell's fine example and do the same. I will urge others to do the same because I'm sick of what the Reader represents AND I believe that these actions are a form of terrorism themselves. Considering how much space the Reader devotes to "possible" terrorists in our town I find these hateful if not juvenile actions incredibly ironic and MORONIC.
August 10, 2012 at 10:46am
Actions speak louder than words. Instead of calling the advertisers, why not just avoid purchasing their services?

If you don't like what someone has to say, or write, don't read it.

Instead of being a negative person who only calls to complain to companies, do you also call companies to thank them for supporting newspapers you support?

Obviously, companies advertise in newspapers that get readers. The more readers, the bigger the target audience.

But if you speak up against any subject, expect a response. It may not be an appropriate response, like in this example, but you can't be one-side and expect people to only listen to you and not have something to say back. People have a right to their opinion just as much as you do.
August 10, 2012 at 11:53am
I wonder how many people are like me and have never heard of the "Rutherford Reader" until now. She has probably boosted sales of the paper as those who are just curious buy one. (I won't be among them.)
August 10, 2012 at 4:33pm
Aaron, so right - she could just quit reading the Rutherford Reader as well. I once lived in Oklahoma City - it amazed me the people would write in complaining about an adult entertainment channel late at night - sometimes their complaint was very graphic. I wondered "Why are you watching it if you do not like it?"
August 10, 2012 at 5:41pm
Respectfully, that doesn't make sense. If folks disagree with the Reader and it's open political and religious agenda we would be doing a disservice to the advertisers by not telling them why we will not support them as long as they advertise with the Reader. They would be losing income and not even know why. This boycott of the Reader will probably grow and many businesses could take a hit and not even know why. Thats not right!! There is a business that I have used for years that has advertised with them and awhile back I mentioned my displeasure at the ad and that I would have a hard time continuing using their services because I believed the Reader ultimately is bad for this community and stirs up fear and paranoia in the easily incited. The owner listened and said he would think about that. Then it becomes the advertisers choice. Which is fine with me. If he continues and feels that it's not something he wants to stop. I would respect that. He's not writing the drivel. But at least he would know why he lost a loyal client. Every business wants that information. The Reader is not by subscription or you don't pay for it so simply not picking it up will not effect their ability to push their agenda. Taking the information and choice away from the businesses is not fair to them. I care about local business and this community . The Reader does nothing for this community but stir division and hate. They made the choice to go from a simple trade paper to one with an agenda. Every choice has a consequence.
August 11, 2012 at 7:55pm
The Rutherford Reader is an embarrassment to our community. Boycott their advertisers.
August 13, 2012 at 1:48pm
We can’t seem to see the woods for the trees. Let’s ask ourselves a few common sense questions: Why does a congregation of 250 families with 45 wages earners need a 52,000 sq. ft. facility, or even a 12,000 sq. ft. facility? This project has already cost approximately $1.2M. A 52,000 sq. ft. facility will cost $5M+. Who is paying for that? If these people did not want to be Americans, why did they leave the Middle East? If they do not wish to use our churches, schools, and many fine community parks and centers available to them, why are they here? Why do they own several blocks of land on Veal’s Road? Why are they in such close touch with Washington? Why does the DOJ send lawyers to defend them when they meet the slightest resistance to their plan?

A little research into Islam, the Quran and the current policies in Washington DC will answer these questions. If Islam is allowed to spread in Middle TN and across America, our children and grand-children will be slaughtered in the streets just as people are being killed every day in the Middle East. It’s not about religion, it’s a 7th Century political system that hates all “infidels” and instructs death. That’s everyone but them folks. As far as I know, there is no religion that instructs their members to kill everyone that does not convert to their social and political system. It is a system of oppression and submission. We are living in a dangerous time from which only a higher power will be able to save us. The Reader is the only publication that has the guts to publish the truth in this Community. THINK!!
August 13, 2012 at 9:52pm
Gwen..they left the middle east to escape radical elements. They came here to practice in peace away from the fringe violent sects. You SHOULD know this but alas your paranoia and lack of real knowledge is showing. They built a large mosque for the future...for growth hoping and praying that others would escape the hardline radicals that reign terror on the peaceful. If you did your homework you would know that more Muslims have died by the hands of Radical Islamists than all the Non-Muslim . The number is way higher. Think about that for a minute. They came here to escape persecution and violence from radical groups. Unfortunately they seem to have picked a town that seems to be closer to their home than they thought. I could pick apart any religion and find stuff that would feed a fearful and radical mind. Heck the Klan did that for years! You seeing Islam in black and white and it's many shades of grey. I think it's ironic that you are telling others to think! And really you have done a nice job of taking the comments of point! But maybe thats your point anyway...
August 14, 2012 at 1:22pm
Gwendolyn The per capita cost of the Mosque pales in comparison to that of the World Outreach Church and with the Pastor having studied at Jerusalem U and with his connections in Israel one would have to a little naive not to suspect that animosity being promoted there.
August 14, 2012 at 3:41pm
All the commenters, to some degree, make valid points. However, we must not allow ourselves to become caught up in the superficial, neurotic hype spewed by the prime time media: specifically, anytime anyone makes a strong comment about a minority, a religion, or a sexual preference it, automatically, is defined as "hate" rhetoric! Granted, Doughtie writes with a right-wing slant, and, too, he could've been more careful regarding the case of one Sara Mitchell. However, I challenge each of you to go over everything Doughtie has written in The Reader and find one tid-bit of "hate" rhetoric. Conservative, yes, "hate," no. Do not allow the prime time media to beguile you - they're not that good nor persuasive!
August 18, 2012 at 11:40am
Conservative...gee I hope not!! I grew up in a conservative family and non-of them would have supported the views of the reader. I have read the reader many times. I read articles that painted all Muslims with the same brush. Wheres Mr. Doughties thoughtful interview of the people he wants out of our town? His every word (i have read) is an argument against allowing these people to peacefully build their house of worship. If I work against a group of people and try to convince others how they are all the same framing my articles with paranoid rhetoric thats fires up the fearful you should label my speech as at least hate influenced...wait..hmmm...I may have gotten yo a point of hating the reader. Labeling the Reader as simply Conservative is a bit much.
August 18, 2012 at 2:42pm
AaronR: As I understand this article, the people who spoke to businesses expressing their opinions were not in any way threatening, abusive or otherwise acting inappropriately. They were, apparently, only stating their opinion to the business(es) to explain their viewpoint. As consumers, we need to not only "vote with our dollars", but also with our words. If we don't let the business know "this is the reason I am considering taking my business elsewhere", they can't do anything to resolve the problem. They would only see one less customer and have no feedback to consider, be that feedback positive or negative. And to answer your question - yes, I DO often call, email or personally express my appreciation when I encounter a business and/or it's employees that I feel deserves praise. You are correct when you say that people (all people) are entitled to their opinions and viewpoints. However, all people are also entitled to being able to appropriately express those opinions without fear of being terrorized and having their right to privacy trampled.

Gwendolyn: There is just so much about your post that boggles my mind, I don't even know where to start. I guess my first question would be about your opening sentences. Let's add ONE word and see if you'd feel the same way.
"Why does a CHRISTIAN congregation of 250 families with 45 wages earners need a 52,000 sq. ft. facility, or even a 12,000 sq. ft. facility? This project has already cost approximately $1.2M. A 52,000 sq. ft. facility will cost $5M+. Who is paying for that?"
Would you have the same "common sense questions" if your paragraph were written about a group of Christians? Somehow, I think you might not feel quite the same if that were the case. I respectfully ask that you do a little more research, but this time you don't limit yourself to "resources" like Fox News. In fact, read up a bit on the Crusades and the history of pograms. I think you'll find that PLENTY of people have died in the name of our Christian God.
Jesus Christ did not hate. He lived as he teached - lovingly, with acceptance, with peace. In my opinion, to be a true Christian we must strive to walk in the path Jesus walked. Do you think Jesus would have advocated for this sort of behavior towards our fellow men and women (and yes, Muslims are humans, too!)?

2isonU: According to the website definitions.uslegal.com, the legal definition for "hate speech" is as follows: "Hate speech is a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women."
Given this LEGAL DEFINITION, it seems plausible that Mr. Doughtie was, indeed, using "hate speech".
It's also possible that he could be in trouble for committing a "Terroristic Threat". The same website I mentioned above has this to say about:
"A terroristic threat is a crime generally involving a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience. It may mean an offense against property or involving danger to another person that may include but is not limited to recklessly endangering another person, harassment, stalking, ethnic intimidation, and criminal mischief.
The following is an example of a Texas statute dealing with terroristic threats:
(a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:
cause a reaction of any type to his threat[s] by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building; room; place of assembly; place to which the public has access; place of employment or occupation; aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance; or other public place;
cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state."

I no longer live in Middle Tennesssee, but I will always feel it is my home. It saddens me that when my home state garners nationwide attention, it's often because of something that is closed-minded and ugly. It is wonderful to see folks like JennK, rick, hikerman and bota on this comment thread. Keep striving for basic human kindness.
August 19, 2012 at 6:20pm
Nice post! But I fear it will fall on deaf ears. People don't seem to listen anymore they simply spend the time they should be processing information on framing their next argument defending the indefensible. I agree that his actions border on a form of terrorism but I doubt he sees it that way and thats the truly sad part much as the statement that he wasn't using hate speech and the reader is just being conservative. Your points are well made and you back them up with actual facts...unfortunately...and I hate to even say this...it may be over some folks heads. I'm still in awe of the conservative statement. I may lean to the left but I know that our country needs good heads and ideas from both sides for our country to work effectively...the Reader kind of conservative only thinks of the other side as an enemy they must defeat using some twisted logic that will fail. Fear has a shelf life and many Americans are figuring that out. Cris Christie is a popular conservative and he went off last week on sharia law paranoia. As more intelligent conservatives turn against the radical weirdos I suspect we'll see a reclaiming of the party in a much more enlightened way. I hope.
August 19, 2012 at 7:24pm
This issue really comes down to a couple basics. You either believe in freedom of religion or you don't. There is no gray area because you don't like a particular religion. The Reader has singled out American families that have shared our community peacefully for decades. When have we in America decided that we fear women and children. The reader has called for the ban of the Burka. This is singling out a minority female population for expressing their devotion to God. The Reader in against the freedom of religion, and therefore anti American. As for the concern that a minority religion is going to force their religious laws on the rest of us is nothing but hate filled paranoia. Seriously how much of a dedicated population would it take to make this happen? The christian community holding a majority, the last I checked, cant even get the 10 commandments posted at will. Most Muslim students attending MTSU are female. Would anyone like to explain how these women, who are getting a college education, fit the stereotype of the oppressed Muslim women. The only one who has called for their oppression is Pete Doughtie. I have seen no legitimate security concern from the reader. This is nothing but a witch hunt.
August 21, 2012 at 7:38pm
a "conservative" breaking it down...
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