Up until now, I haven’t editorialized on this year’s mayoral race in Charleston, South Carolina – and I’m still not entirely sure I care who wins. Our producer/ reporter Dylan Nolan wrote a lengthy piece on the first round of balloting in this race – which took place earlier this month – and he has prepared a big follow-up which is about to drop ahead of next Tuesday’s head-to-head runoff election.
Dylan is covering this race insightfully and objectively – which is more than can be said for the “paper of record” in this contest, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
Ever since this race started, the Post has been nothing short of a propaganda organ for the campaign of incumbent mayor John Tecklenburg. And like most propaganda organs, it hasn’t been especially honest in its attempts to shade public perception in Tecklenburg’s favor.
Hell, it has even attempted to rewrite history related to its own prior reporting on one of the race’s defining issues … public safety. As Dylan noted in his piece, the paper’s recent editorial endorsement of Tecklenburg blatantly contradicted its own prior coverage of the violent downtown rioting that took place on May 30, 2020.
Forgotten about that? It’s when Charleston police stood down and allowed the widespread looting and destruction of the city’s historic King Street district.
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According to the paper’s own reporters, city police made it abundantly clear what their orders were on that fateful day.
“Nobody’s getting arrested tonight,” one Post reporter live-tweeted, quoting Charleston police officers.
Former county sheriff Al Cannon also left no doubt as to what went down during that spasm of lawlessness.
“The city’s position was that they were not going to arrest, and we followed that lead,” Cannon said at the time, citing the police department’s jurisdiction over King Street.
In the paper’s endorsement of Tecklenburg, though, it referred to the fact police stood down as a claim that had been “thoroughly discredited.” The paper also attacked Tecklenburg’s opponent – former state representative William Cogswell – for failing to articulate “what the city should have done (or should do) differently.” Never mind Cogswell had previously pledged to “give the police the support that they need to enforce the rule of law.”
Lies … and damn lies, as Dylan pointed out in his coverage …
“Its a very basic concept: The mayor should have told police he would support them in enforcing the state’s laws, it appears he failed to do so, and Cogswell pledges to not repeat that mistake,” he wrote.
The riots were just part of the worsening public safety problem, though. From 2019 to 2021, Charleston saw its murder rate soar. Under pressure, Tecklenburg finally acknowledged crime in Charleston was higher than average for a city its size – but he blamed the problem on state legislators, claiming the city was “prohibited from taking action.”
Earlier this week, the Post‘s status-quo sycophant/ “metro columnist” Brian Hicks penned another gratuitously pro-Tecklenburg pamphlet with a wafer-thin basis in reality. His theory? That Holy City residents should use their ballots to vote against “chaos” (a.k.a. supporters of Cogswell who are pushing for change on the local school board).
“If Charleston residents want to keep chaos out of City Hall, they’d better vote next week,” Hicks noted, proceeding to equate several recent endorsements received by Cogswell as part of some sort of Watergate-level conspiracy – and their attendant political fallout as constituting some sort of stain on the sanctity of the Holy City’s political discourse.
“There hasn’t been this much chaos at Broad and Meeting since the British shot the arm off our William Pitt statue,” Hicks wrote, summoning a level of righteous indignation I haven’t encountered since binge watching Dance Moms with my two daughters.
Are Hicks and the paper’s editorial and reporting staff really unaware that Tecklenburg has given them much more to be righteously indignant about in this race?
Or … are they just unwilling to cover those things?
RELATED | THE POST AND COURIER’S HANGING THREAD
On the one hand, I get it. The Post‘s editorial board and its featured columnist are not supposed to be impartial. Those pages exist to express opinions. I’m just saying the opinions expressed therein are demonstrably false. More ominously, I’m saying the paper’s so-called “objective” reporters are being particularly selective in what they cover (and don’t cover) in this race. Oh, and I’m also saying Hicks is a pearl-clutching candy ass whose work reads like a tear-smudged letter to the editor of Teen Vogue.
But while “fluffers gonna fluff,” the bigger question Charleston voters should concern themselves with is what is motivating the paper to be so aggressive in its support for the incumbent mayor. Who is pulling its strings … and why. Because let’s face it: That’s been a problem at the Post in the past.
Seriously: Why won’t the paper report on Tecklenburg’s abysmal record as a private business owner? Or offer something resembling a reality-based recapitulation of his tenure as mayor?
For example, Tecklenburg claims to be have founded the Southern Oil Company in 1978. Yet, the late U.S. senator Fritz Hollings took to the floor of the U.S. Senate upon the June 1993 death of the mayor’s father, Henry Tecklenburg, saying he lost a tremendous friend who had been chairman of Southern Oil for nearly three decades.
In other words, Tecklenburg wasn’t the founder of the company – his father was. He basically inherited the family business, changing its name from Southern Oil to Southern Teck. In addition to not correcting the mayor on this point, the Post has also consistently neglected to mention his deep oil industry ties whenever Tecklenburg rails against the evils of “big oil.”
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Once the son took the reins of the company, lawsuits and judgements hounded him for years. Capital Insurance Company was one firm successful in winning a judgement against Southern Teck, while the National Bank of South Carolina (NBSC, now Synovus) took Tecklenburg to court over $2 million in unpaid debts. In 2011, another bank sued the mayor for nonpayment in a real estate mortgage case.
With so many city projects massively over-budget, isn’t it worth exploring the mayor’s record as a businessman?
Tecklenburg’s sketchy track record has continued as mayor, including a variety of ethics controversies which include questionable office spending and alleged nepotism. Tecklenburg was also accused of self-dealing related to the estate of an elderly black woman with Alzheimer’s who had the misfortune having him appointed by the courts to manage her finances.
You know … probate fraud.
In February of 2016, while the über-liberal politician was running for mayor, Tecklenburg loaned himself $25,000 from this woman’s estate – without receiving prior approval from the court, as required by law. The stated purpose of this loan? “Living expenses” for Tecklenburg as he campaigned for public office.
Two other loans totaling $55,000 were made from the estate in previous years – also without prior court approval. Those proceeds were earmarked for a business run by Tecklenburg’s wife.
“The transactions show apparent self-dealing,” Charleston probate judge Irv Condon noted in a ruling removing Tecklenburg from his role as the woman’s conservator. “The transactions show that John Tecklenburg made unsecured loans to himself and his family members’ businesses.”
Tecklenburg was also at the center of an ethics debate regarding his son, Joseph Tecklenburg, who is a commercial realtor/ developer like his father. The mayor advocated for the city to purchase a building owned by his son’s bosses. City council members questioned the appraisals and council later scrapped the deal due to its price – and conflict of interest concerns.
So why has the Post and Courier been so quiet about Tecklenburg’s record? And so disingenuously vocal in attacking his rival in next week’s election? Many downtown insiders believe it all stems from the the cozy relationship between the mayor and the owner and chairman of the Post and Courier, Pierre Manigault.
Manigault has been redeveloping his property in downtown Charleston at Columbus and King Streets. He and his business partners have big plans for this area – plans which are currently sailing through City Hall. Recently, the former home of the Post and Courier – located at 134 Columbus Street – was shuttered and is scheduled to be leveled to make way for more development. Insiders believe Manigault wants Tecklenburg to remain in office so his development plans will not be hindered by a new mayor – one who favors renovating existing buildings rather than tearing them down and erecting mammoth commercial properties that generate more money for Manigault and his partners.
Is this what’s motivating the paper’s full-court press for Tecklenburg?
To be clear: I am not endorsing Tecklenburg’s opponent in this runoff election. I find Cogswell to be a preening, sanctimonious, self-important know-it-all who presumes himself to be the most knowledgable person in any room he enters. Maybe he will make a good mayor, but to be honest he strikes me as a sellout waiting to happen. Also, any candidate who accepts – and in fact promotes – the receipt of an endorsement from radical leftist Mika Gadsden will never get my backing. I understand Cogswell wants to exploit Tecklenburg’s weakness with black voters, but he should have immediately marked that endorsement “return to sender.” Gadsden is a cancer on the body politic in the Palmetto State – a definitional “dividerer” – and Cogswell is now infected with her divisiveness.
More fundamentally, Cogswell’s voting record in the S.C. State House (when he bothered to show up, anyway) was hardly conservative – including his sponsorship of a gas tax hike that did nothing to materially improve our state’s infrastructure but did succeed in saddling its least fortunate residents with huge added costs.
I suspect he would govern Charleston with the same failed “tax-and-spend” philosophy …
Cogswell is the quintessential “lesser of two evils,” and while there are some willing to lend their imprimaturs to such “choices” at the polls – I am not among them.
Voters in the Holy City have a difficult choice ahead of them on November 21. But unlike the Post, I’m not going to tell them what choice to make in the hopes of greasing the skids for some project accruing to my personal benefit. My outlet is going to continue providing them with the facts – as evidenced by Dylan’s insightful, objective coverage.
Oh, and I’m obviously going to keep telling them what I think of those facts … no matter what “chaos” may ensue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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