The Muskogee Phoenix newspaper today published a lie about MuskogeeNOW.com owner Leif M. Wright (me), in part stating that I planned to plead guilty to several charges against me.
In their grammatically incorrect headline (the word “plea” should be “plead”), the newspaper claimed that I was going to plead guilty to assault and child abuse.
That claim is 100 percent false. The newspaper attributed the information to an unnamed “representative of the McIntosh County District Attorney’s Office.”
The story went on to say that my attorney, Steve Money, declined comment. Money said he never spoke to anyone from the Phoenix.
“Someone called and they were told I would call back and I totally forgot about it and didn’t call them back,” he said.
I personally called Elizabeth Ridenour, the new executive editor of the newspaper, and said they’d be needing to print a retraction since I have never planned nor do I now plan to plead guilty to charges of child abuse, assault with a dangerous weapon and domestic abuse. Further, I told her, my attorney did not speak to the paper.
“My reporter said they talked to Steve Money,” she said. “And we got the information from the DA’s office.”
“My number is published on my site,” I replied. “You have had my phone number for 20 years. Why wouldn’t you call me and ask me if that is true before you publish a lie like that about me? Furthermore, my attorney never spoke to your reporter, so you might want to start checking your reporter’s reporting.”
As a top editor at that newspaper for 20 years, I was in charge of training newspaper staff like Ridenour to avoid this kind of libelous reporting when she was hired.
When I told her the Phoenix must correct or retract the story, given that the person they’re saying “plans” to plead guilty is on the phone telling her he has no such plans, Ridenour said “We stand by our reporting.”
I said, “Your story is saying I’m planning to plead guilty. I’m on the phone right now telling you that isn’t true, it’s incorrect. I’m not planning to plead guilty. How do you not retract that story, given that I’m telling you your story is reporting 180 degrees opposite the truth?”
Her response: “We stand by our story.”
To set the record straight: I have never planned, nor do I now plan, to plead guilty to any of the charges against me.