John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Friday, May 29, 2009

Know your U.S. Presidents

A correction today from the Times Observer of Warren, Pa.:

An errant classified "personal" ad which appeared in Thursday's Times Observer has drawn the attention of law enforcement officials.

A person from Warren placed the ad, which apparently alludes to the wish that President Obama meet an untimely end by linking him with four assassinated presidents. The ad representative didn't make the connection among the four other presidents mentioned [emphasis added] and mistakenly allowed the ad to run.

Upon realizing the mistake early Thursday morning, the ad was immediately discontinued and the identity of the person who placed the ad was turned over to Warren City Police as per newspaper policy. The local police department forwarded the information to federal authorities, as per department policy.

The Times Observer apologizes for the oversight.

The ad — thank you, Mr. Romenesko — read: “May Obama follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!"


  1. Clearly, the ad rep did not read Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation." The book is not as grim as its title may imply.

    I'm really enjoying the blog, John!

  2. I can certainly understand yanking the ad, but calling the cops seems horribly over the top. It's not a crime, not yet, to wish that someone be killed, not even the President.

  3. Maybe I'm mis-remembering...but I think it might be a crime to make a threat against the president. And a published ad which wishes the president dead might be considered a threat. I know that people are investigated and even arrested for writing letters to the president which contain potentially threatening language.

  4. Even if not a crime, it must be investigated. I've been to Warren, Pa. They embrace their guns and religion and usually vote Republican.

  5. Was there any mention of whether or not rhe "ad representative" was an actual Times Observer employee located in Warren, PA? A few years ago a local newspaper in Southern California outsourced coverage of Town Council meetings to reporters in India, who would listen to the proceedings remotely, write up the stories, and forward them to the newspaper. Perhaps the person involved here might not have much knowledge of who these men were and what the connection was.

    Retired in Elkridge

  6. A couple of the presidents mentioned are recognized for their accomplishments in office. The others might be held in high regard by some. As a former law enforcement officer with a legal education, I am having trouble seeing a threat on the life of Mr. Obama, Cherie. B
    The Spectator, calling for the investigation, by who knows what organization, of people who vote Republican (no one knows how another votes in our election system) and embrace the Bill of Rights, strikes me as an extreme reaction.

    On another topic - John, may I call you John, I am disappointed that you have joined me in the ranks of the unemployed, but happy that you continue to vigorously participate in the life of our community, continuing to fill an active role.

    Bruce Robinson