Editorial: Custer's blame game wearing thin

Jeremy Custer

“You just published that to sell newspapers.”

We’ve heard that refrain sung many times, typically by the people identified in the Commonwealth who publicly have done things to embarrass themselves.

Of course they’re right.

All of what we publish “is to sell newspapers,” just as all of the food Culver’s produces is to sell meals. So guilty as charged.

But we plead innocent to former mayoral candidate and Ripon College student Jeremy Custer’s claim that “the Commonwealth never gives me a break.”

In a letter published in the newspaper in its entirety last week, Custer announced his withdrawal from the race for Ripon mayor, forthrightly accepting responsibility for what he described as “youthful indiscretion.”

Malfeasance borne from that indiscretion has included allegations of a call made from Custer’s cell phone falsely reporting a fire at Merriman House, an ID card violation, public urination, a warrant for his arrest due to failure to pay a fine (which he eventually paid in full), and underage drinking (though Custer explains his beer was legal because his father had furnished it to him).

“It is clear to me that I have some growing up to do,” Custer wrote, in a remarkably clear-headed assessment of his checkered past.

Two days later, however, he wrote in a current-events blog that he was unfairly cited for alcohol consumption — police are at fault.

And he observed “the Commonwealth never gives me a break” — the newspaper is at fault.

And previously he has observed that he made the false fire call because he was “very upset ... with how the residence life staff [was handling] underage drinking issues” — Ripon College is at fault. ...

The Ripon Police Department and Ripon College can speak for themselves, but the Commonwealth won’t let the charge that it “never gives me a break” go unanswered. Fact is, the Commonwealth knew several weeks ago from an anonymous tipster that police had an outstanding warrant for Custer’s arrest following his non-payment of a fine.

We probably could have sold more newspapers had we published a story noting that a warrant was out for the arrest of a mayoral candidate, but we sat on it to enable police to carry the process forward. ...

Newspapers are in the Catch-22 of being blamed for what they report, while never being able to reap any credit for exercising editorial forbearance.

The Commonwealth has given the boy-who-would-be-mayor several breaks, and probably the police, college and other authorities have as well. The world’s a pretty forgiving place for those, particularly young people, who sincerely repent.

So Custer must now decide whether to continue to indict others for his own problems, or to begin accepting full responsibility for who he is and what he has done. ...

Now that he’s returned to the privacy of non-candidacy, we wish Custer well, thank him for having the good judgement to step aside and suggest that if he continues to point fingers at others, he remember that for every one pointing elsewhere, four point right back at him. — Tim Lyke

Read the full editorial in the Dec. 31, 2009 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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