Outrage continues to grow after a northeastern Pennsylvania columnist lied about being an Iraq war veteran to obtain free drinks at a bar.
And while the newspaper’s publisher, The Times Leader Media Group, apologized for the “stolen valor,” as some veterans have charged, Weekender columnist Justin Adam Brown is still employed.
The Weekender serves residents of Wilkes Barre and Scranton, Pa., and while Brown was laid off as a full-time staffer in November, he continues to write a weekly column, according to the Times-Tribune.
“I discovered the secret to getting a few drinks without having a vagina: just say you’re a veteran,” he wrote in last week’s column. “Everyone wants to buy a vet a free drink.”
Brown bragged about how he and a friend tricked a drunk Vietnam vet to believe he had served in Iraq.
The Times-Tribune reported:
Brown wrote he accepted at least five top-shelf drinks from the veteran after telling him, “I fought in Iraq.” He joked about how his buddy also sold a camouflage shirt to the veteran for $100 after telling him he got it from President George W. Bush.
The shirt was purchased at Macy’s, according to Brown.
As the backlash to the column mounted, Brown issued an apology, but even there he shifted some of the fault onto the veteran, saying the man approached them after noticing the camouflage shirt and insisted on buying them drinks, the Times-Tribune reported.
He said they initially denied being veterans, but “ultimately played along after being harassed and feeling uncomfortable.”
“We never intended for anyone to believe we were veterans,” he wrote. “I have an unwavering gratitude and admiration for veterans. I have friends, acquaintances, and family members who have fought and died for our country … To our veterans, and to anyone else I offended, I apologize.”
Weekender Editor Sarah Haase also apologized for running the column, but Times Leader Media Group’s publisher, Doug Olsson, told FoxNews.com that “the apology is not enough.”
“We recognize that we made some errors in judgment here and there’s a couple things we’re doing internally to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Olsson said, adding they’ll now require two editors — not one — to read and approve all columns.
“Our thought process is two judgments are better than one,” the publisher said. “We’re also investigating some training for our newsroom staff in terms of sensitivity to the community and various groups.”
Olsson also said he’ll reach out to local veterans groups “to set the record straight.”
Veterans and social media users alike not only called for Brown to be fired, but to be prosecuted for his actions.
Here’s a sampling of comments to the story:
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