The following farragutpress editorial includes comments from Farragut residents, who were robo call recipients after farragutpress was “spoofed” in an attack on Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant 2nd U.S. Congressional District seat.
While the following editorial attempts to “clear the air” with caller and reader comments defending this newspaper and Burchett as spoofing targets, it is not intended to be taken as either advocating Burchett be elected to Congress or having any opinion about the validity of any non-spoofed accusations against the mayor.
“Spoofed” last Tuesday evening and night, Jan. 23, when thousands of “robo calls” disparaged Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett from a caller ID falsely listing farragutpress as the instigator, this newspaper must respond.
At least two different types of calls were made. One posed as a seemingly legitimate poll call
before turning negative, while
the other simply launched into a negative tirade against Burchett, who is running for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr.
Calls were made to residences in Farragut, Knox County and the entire six-county district that also included LaFollette, Dandridge, Lenoir City, New Tazewell, Loudon, Jellico, Cumberland Gap, Maryville, Greenback, Sharp’s Chapel and Jefferson City.
With an almost 30-year history of positive, community news devoid of negative “hit pieces,” farragutpress was defended by call recipients, as was Burchett.
“I just didn’t believe it,”
said Farragut resident Gloria Price, who added she “was absolutely shocked to death when I answered the phone.
“I was just so surprised that the call would have come from [farragutpress], and I just knew it could not be right,” she added. “We have lived here 34 years, and I read the paper every week. I [just] knew it didn’t sound right. That is just not who we are.”
Price was one of hundreds of call recipients who used their caller IDs to return the robo calls either that night or the following day — this time reaching one of the newspaper’s general assignment reporters whose number had been spoofed.
As a long-time marketing instructor who currently teaches at Hardin Valley Academy, Price said she regularly answers poll calls, and is eager to participate.
“It is scary to think about, these types of calls that are used to slamming people — [including] anyone wishing to do the right thing,” she said. “I am just pleased to know [the calls were not legitimate],” adding, “[Burchett] is a good man.”
Farragut resident Jeanne Brykalski also received one of the calls and was quick to defend both Burchett and the paper.
“The call infuriated and disgusted me at the same time. At first I was so angry that the paper [might have somehow been behind it], but I quickly did a 180 and knew they couldn’t have done this,” she said.
Brykalski said she has known Burchett for many years in her role as a victim’s rights advocate in the wake of her parents’ murders more than 20 years ago.
“My husband and I know him as a good and honest man,” she said. “This is not just dirty politics — only a coward and bully would do this.”
Brykalski posted a notice about the calls on the web page neighborhood.com, letting its readers know farragutpress had not instigated the calls.
Two responses to her lengthy post indicated similar calls — not yet substantiated — also had been made listing the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Tennova Health Care as points of origin.
“And all three of those numbers are ones people would trust,” Brykalski said.
Many callers were sympathetic to the spoofing situation and shared their own stories of deceit-based calls.
One said she was being harassed by an individual or business that was misrepresenting itself as a hospital.
Another said she had had her home computer hacked to the point that she could no longer use it, and had considered not getting it repaired.
“I am almost afraid to,” she said. “It will just happen again.”
The caller then mused, “They [scammers/spoofers] are pretty smart. But, it’s just disgusting what they get away with.”
In addition to the spoofing, the farragutpress website also was hacked last week.
In the meantime, farragutpress is grateful for its loyal readers who know who we are — and who we are not.
We promise to continue providing the honest, fair and up-front news coverage our community expects and deserves.