Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tucker Carlson v. Freelance Genius

This story from the Washington Post caught my eye, because it featured my favorite video store:
Clerk's Blog Spells Trouble

It all started with a simple video rental. Who knows where it will end?

Potomac Video store clerk Charles Williamson, 28, posted a message on his blog, Freelance Genius, Dec. 23 that described how he set up a movie rental account for MSNBC host Tucker Carlson at the MacArthur Boulevard store the day before.

"I could tell you what he and his ridiculously wasped-out female companion (wife?) rented if you really want to know," he wrote. "I won't tell you where he lives, though. That would be wrong and stupid." Williamson also joked that he wouldn't send 10,000 copies of Jon Stewart's best-selling political satire, "America (The Book)," to Carlson's home; Stewart ridiculed Carlson on "Crossfire" before the 2004 election.

A week later, Williamson had forgotten all about it, he told us yesterday. That is, until Carlson, 37, reappeared at the video store and, said Williamson, "got pretty aggressive." According to Williamson, Carlson confronted him about the blog and said he viewed the post as a threat to him and his wife. "He said, 'If you keep this [expletive] up, I will [expletive] destroy you,' " Williamson recalled.

Williamson said he agreed to remove the blog post and did so later that night: "All I remember thinking was I was worried about what this guy was going to do." He consulted a lawyer friend and was told he had probably not broken any laws. "What I said was pretty juvenile, I'll admit," he said.

In a phone interview Thursday, Carlson acknowledged that he approached Williamson in the store and said he was "very aggressive" because he wanted the post removed: "I don't like to call the police or call his boss. . . . I'm a libertarian. I'm not into that."

On Monday, Williamson said, his Potomac Video manager called and fired him. Williamson said he was told the company was threatened with legal action "and the owner doesn't like that." He re-posted the original Carlson item later that day. Williamson said he later learned that a man who identified himself as a lawyer for Carlson had been in the store and asked Potomac Video employees questions about him.

Carlson told us that he was concerned for the safety of his family, but did not threaten legal action against the company or push to have Williamson, who still has his office-manager day job, fired.

"He implied he was going to come and do something to my house," Carlson said. "I've got four kids at home and I've had serious problems with stalkers twice. . . . This guy is threatening to come to my house and I'm on the road all the time. What would you do? This guy is threatening my family."

Carlson said he took no further action and said he couldn't have called his lawyer because he doesn't have one.

"He's trying to make it sound like I'm this big, bad guy trying to hurt the video store clerk," he said. "I don't understand why he's hassling me. I just wanted to rent a Woody Allen movie."

A manager at Potomac Video told us the situation was "absurd" but refused to answer questions. The company's lawyer, Steven Kramer, said he is investigating the matter, but would not comment further.

Williamson told us Thursday that before the incident his blog usually received a handful of hits a day from friends and a few other bloggers. linked to the post on Tuesday and, as of yesterday, over 6,700 readers had checked in.

"I'm just a guy with a blog," he said. "I live over MacArthur Boulevard and I go to work and sometimes I see famous people. . . . I blogged about seeing Karl Rove, and the Secret Service didn't knock down my door."
You can read Williamson's minute-by-minute account of the story on his personal blog, Freelance Genius:
I have been asked to write a timeline of all the interactions and incidents surrounding the Tucker situation. I am worried that too much more on this is going to turn my ego space into a one trick pony, but I do take requests on occasion. The real problem with ponies is that I don't know how to ride ponies and they are enemies of the state.

Between 8 and 9:30 pm on Friday, December 22, 2006: Tucker comes to store, opens account and rents unspecified movie.

Approximately 12:15 am Saturday, December 23, 2006: Chuckles publishes blog about encounter.

Between 6:30 and 8 pm on Friday, January 5, 2007: Tucker enters store, threatens Chuckles, leaves. Chuckles resumes working and tries not to let shit get to him.

Approximately 11:15 pm on Friday, January 5, 2007: Chuckles takes post down from site in order to be a basically nice guy, even though he doesn't like being threatened in his place of business.

Between 12:30 and 1:30 pm on Monday, January 8, 2007: Chuckles receives call that his employment at the unnamed video store has been terminated due to threats of legal action against the store.

Approximately 2:31 pm Monday, January 8, 2007: Chuckles reposts the original offending post, updates it, updates the explanation post, then posts his statement of the entire affair.

Between 7:00 pm and 8:15 pm Monday, January 8, 2007: A man identifying himself as a lawyer for Tucker Carlson enters the video store and asks questions of employee (whom we shall call EmpAlpha) about Chuckles such as Chuckles' full name, blog address, home address, current employer, whether the post was removed, whether the blog was deleted, etc. Chuckles arrives at video store shortly after this person has left.

10:40 pm Monday, January 8, 2007: Chuckles updates the post about the whole thing.

Sometime after 5 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2007: A person enters the store asking an employee (now called EmpBeta) questions about EmpAlpha. It is currently not known whether the questing person on Wednesday was the same as the person on Monday. The questing person on Wednesday did not identify himself as a lawyer for Tucker Carlson so far as Chuckles knows. Chuckles receives word of this incident from EmpAlpha, not EmpBeta. EmpBeta has not read Chuckles' blog, apparently.

Between 2:00 and 2:30 pm Thursday, January 11, 2007: Chuckles gives interview to Washington Post Reliable Source column.

3:14 pm, Thursday, January 11, 2007: Chuckles receives word that Tucker Carlson is denying having a lawyer and Tucker also states that he is not pursuing any action against The Genius.

You all may make your own conclusions from the facts of the situation. Personally, I doubt the person that had been asking questions about me will ever show up again. The simplest answer is that Tucker called the lawyer off as soon as he received a phone call from the Post. It is almost too bad that moron of a lawyer couldn't figure out how to either find me or contact me, even after I posted an email address on this blog. I doubt that guy is worth the money, but what do I know? I am just a member of the peasant class.

I wonder if he's going to sue? If so, we'll follow the story here...