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Bauerle: Now in Life & Arts

That was quick. 

The Buffalo News’ scary-important follow-up story, detailing that (a) Tom Bauerle was back on the air at WBEN on Monday; and (b) the town of Amherst is denying FOIL requests seeking reports of last week’s incident, was published in the Life & Arts section. Sunday’s story, by contrast was FRONT PAGE ZOMG. It didn’t take long for this Page Six gossip column to be relegated to the section where you’ll find the Golden Globes, a psychic, the Buzz, and a plan for an art barge on the Erie Canal. 

It would seem that the information the News obtained from two unnamed police sources was likely an improper release of private personal information, and cannot be corroborated. 

Though The News filed a Freedom of Information request regarding the 2:50 a.m. incident on Jan. 8, Amherst Town Attorney Thomas E. Jones issued a denial letter Monday.

“No crimes or arrests are reported,” Jones said. “The records do contain medical and other personal information concerning the subject. It is our opinion that the release of the report would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined by the Public Officers Law.”

The relevant parts of the FOIL read, 

2. Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that:

(a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute; 
(b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;

2. (a) The committee on open government may promulgate guidelines regarding deletion of identifying details or withholding of records otherwise available under this article to prevent unwarranted invasions of personal privacy. In the absence of such guidelines, an agency may delete identifying details when it makes records available.
(b) An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy includes, but shall not be limited to:

i. disclosure of employment, medical or credit histories or personal references of applicants for employment;
ii. disclosure of items involving the medical or personal records of a client or patient in a medical facility;
iii. sale or release of lists of names and addresses if such lists would be used for solicitation or fund-raising purposes;
iv. disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it;
v. disclosure of information of a personal nature reported in confidence to an agency and not relevant to the ordinary work of such agency; or
vi. information of a personal nature contained in a workers’ compensation record, except as provided by section one hundred ten-a of the workers’ compensation law.
(c) Unless otherwise provided by this article, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision…

…(2) Nothing in this section shall require disclosure of: 
(a) personal information which is otherwise prohibited by law from being disclosed; 
(b) patient records concerning mental disability or medical records where such disclosure is not otherwise required by law; 
(c) personal information pertaining to the incarceration of an inmate at a state correctional facility which is evaluative in nature or which, if disclosed, could endanger the life or safety of any person, unless such disclosure is otherwise permitted by law; 

So, when I suggested in comments that the HIPAA law might apply, I was wrong. It was the FOIL itself that appears to expressly prohibit release of information concerning Bauerle’s psychotic episode. “Karma” doesn’t make it newsworthy. “Bauerle is an asshole” doesn’t make it newsworthy. The fact that his guns were confiscated under the NY SAFE Act – something with which he said he would never comply – is newsworthy, however. 

I asked you on Sunday to consider what it was that made the Buffalo News’ original Bauerle story newsworthy. I explained that Artvoice didn’t reach the same conclusion, and explained why.  Several people misinterpreted my article as a criticism of the News – it wasn’t. Many people left comments here and on Facebook, and some of them were thoughtful and persuasive. Many of you understood that I wasn’t necessarily saying the News was wrong for publishing the story, but asking people to ask themselves, or explain, why it was newsworthy. 

Some of you pointed out that Bauerle’s hatred of the NY SAFE Act, and the fact that firearms were involved in the underlying incident that led to Bauerle’s police involvement made it relevant, together with his prominence in the community. I found that to be among the most persuasive arguments. 

However, I had a lot of people pointing out this WNYMedia.net article as a good counterpoint. I didn’t find it persuasive at all. In fact, it underscored my perception that many people in favor of publication were simply happy that an enemy had been exposed, and performed some mental gymnastics to justify it. Let’s take a look. 

If your social media news feeds are anything like mine, you’re probably scratching your head a bit at this faux empathy being kicked around today surrounding Tom Bauerle.

Fortunately, we don’t share that empathy.

I’m not sure there is any site in Buffalo who has criticized Tom Bauerle and WBEN more over the last 12 years.  Today, anyone familiar and fed up with WBEN’s resident whack job finally got the small verification we’ve been waiting for :

I don’t understand how someone can so quickly determine another person’s motives (here, “faux empathy”), but WNYMedia’s Marc Odien cannot read minds. He argues that it is impossible/incompatible/inconsistent to, on the one hand, hate things that Bauerle has said; and, on the other hand, believe that he deserves some modicum of privacy with respect to a health issue. I disagree. Over the past 10 years, I’ve written more than my share of “oh my God, look at this horrible thing that Tom Bauerle said” posts. So when he has a personal crisis, that’s front page news? 

But instead of celebrating a possible final reprieve to all the hate, racism and conspiratorial nonsense Western New Yorkers have to endure on a daily basis, anyone criticizing him, including the Buffalo News, suddenly became the villain.

Police report or not, of course this is newsworthy!

1. The police have been called to his house 13 times since November 18th. Anytime public resources are used that much in a short period of time, it certainly worth scrutiny and reporting:

The “villain” crack links to a Tweet that Chris Smith posted: 

 I had a similar reaction. In fact, when we recorded this Trending Buffalo podcast on Thursday January 9th, we considered talking about the Bauerle story, and agreed not to, because there’s a difference between criticizing crazy opinions and openly mocking what appeared to be mental illness.  No one accused anyone of being a “villain”. On the contrary, I merely asked people to think about it.  Chris merely asked people to be human. You know – “Buffalo, it’s the people” and “good neighbors” and whatnot. 

So, WNYMedia.net declared that, “of course” it’s newsworthy. The first rationale is 13 police calls. No one’s seen the reports. No one’s heard the 911 tapes. One source told the News that it was 13 calls since mid-November. Not all of them from neighbors. If true, it seems like a waste of police resources, and possibly a neighborhood issue. Point taken. Does Bauerle’s celebrity make that a front-page story? 

2. Whether you listen to WBEN or not, a lot of people around here do and often relate to the nonsense spewed over WBEN airwaves. Regardless of what you think of Tom Bauerle, his ranting and raving on WBEN since 9/11 has caused irreversible damage to society and falsely influenced thousands of other WNY’ers to buy into and believe his brand of craziness.

I don’t know what this 2nd rationale is supposed to mean, except to say that Bauerle is a right wing asshole and therefore he is a right wing asshole. So, because he’s said horrible things on-air, he has forfeited all rights to privacy? That seems unreasonable. 

Linking to the audio from Bauerle’s paranoiac rant of December 30th, Odien continues, 

3. Have you heard this?  Heads should roll at WBEN as to why this was allowed to continue for 17 minutes:

Saying Mental Illness is a “serious” matter is like asking if a “bear shit’s in the woods”.  OF COURSE IT IS !!  But that doesn’t negate the newsworthy of a trusted and influential radio personality officially going off the deep end. I have people very close to me who deal with mental health issues daily and of course mental illness isn’t something to “joke” about.  (except on twitter apparently)

Since they are not reporters, our friends and colleagues at Artvoice thought reporting on the Bauerle incident amounted to joking about mental health and instead published this post claiming they “knew all about” Tom Bauerle’s recent plunge into the mental health pool, but decided to take the high road:

Should heads roll at WBEN over that clip? Maybe. I’ve complained to Entercom and WBEN numerous times about some of the horrible things I hear on that station. They love it, when they don’t ignore it. 

Odien acknowledges that mental illness is “serious”, but concludes that, here, its seriousness is outweighed by the “trusted and influential radio personality” is “going off the deep end.” But he’s been going off the “deep end” on the air for years. The only person writing regularly about those episodes? Me. Didn’t we just go through a charade about mental illness being “serious” before dismissing this episode with a throwaway euphemism for an apparent psychotic episode?  It all detracts from the underlying thesis that this all scary-important information for the public to know.  

Odien goes on to cast doubt on whether Artvoice had the story at all. We did. He quoted the second paragraph of my story and went on to say,

Please… If you believe that, then I’ve got a Tom Bauerle conspiracy theory to sell you

The moment I heard the gist of what had happened (from two completely unrelated people), I tweeted this: 

When we began looking into it, I posted this: 

After we decided that this was more TMZ than Artvoice, I concluded with one of Bauerle’s declarations from the December 30th broadcast: 

Quoting from the part in the Buffalo News article where Bauerle supposedly told a cop that Cuomo’s spies had magical shoes that left no prints in the snow, Odien writes, 

The WNYmedia archives are filled with posts, articles, funny pictures, videos and podcasts calling Tom Bauerle and his ilk “batshit crazy”.  What’s been OK for the last 12 years is now suddenly a taboo subject according to your alternative news source?

However, this is a personal medical matter and one affecting perhaps his neighbors, but not you or me.

Maybe on the surface.

But what Tom Bauerle represents to this community and tea-baggers everywhere should not be minimized.  Nor should we minimize putting mentally unstable person on public airwave spewing hate, racism and other ridiculously false political claims in order to justify a warped political agenda for more than a decade.

So, this is a matter of critical public import because Bauerle had a breakdown of some sort and he has a hateful on-air persona? (I Googled “Batshit crazy” + “Bauerle” and it’s not a common combination, and not one that I have ever used). Calling someone “batshit crazy” because he espouses opinions that are batshit crazy does not give me license to mock and expose him if it turns out that there’s a genuine psychiatric problem. There’s a difference. 

Artvoice stopped looking into it; the News canvassed the neighborhood – notice the News went to the neighbors, not vice-versa. I took to Twitter to mock the mockables – shoes with no footprints and Treebeard surveilling Williamsville radio guys.  But that was it.

A guy running around the neighborhood with a loaded gun, thinking trees are out to get him is a problem, for sure. If you’re in the immediate area. But is it one that needed front-page coverage by the Buffalo News? Is every neighborhood disturbance to be in the Buffalo News now?

As I explained, I didn’t take a shot at or criticize the News for doing their job, I wanted there to be a conversation about what people thought made the story newsworthy. 

Alan Pergament took to his blog to blast WBEN’s handling of the whole thing, and added this: 

I sympathize with Bauerle and hope he gets help.

But anyone who doesn’t think this story has journalistic merit needs to go back to Journalism 101.

The Bauerle story fits several textbook criteria of what makes news –  including prominence, conflict,  timeliness, proximity and novelty.

Additionally, Bauerle is an influential voice in the community and should be held to a higher standard. He has constantly used his daily show to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act.

However, politics is a secondary issue of this story. The primary issues are the safety of the community and how a radio station can keep a guy on the air who has exhibited such bizarre behavior without giving him enough time to recover.

Shame on WBEN management for apparently failing to realize that it crossed the line of worrying more about the bottom line than of the health and safety of its own employee, its staff and the community.

A lot of people think that Kate Middleton’s baby bump, or Kim Kardashian’s most recent pronouncements merit journalistic attention. Some think it’s important whether the separated Eliot Spitzer has a girlfriend whom he *gasp* might be sexing.  The question of journalistic merit is an interesting one; hence, Sunday’s post. 

But one unifying theme among the people defending the Buffalo News against non-existent criticisms is that it’s important because Bauerle has said crazy things on the air. Well, yes. He has. Where have you guys been

Almost exactly a year ago, for instance, Bauerle decided that the U.S. Government was a “greater enemy than al Qaeda.” There was a sitting NYS Assemblyman on the phone, who remained silent as he said it.  I wrote about it at length here. The Buffalo News didn’t deem that to be newsworthy. Neither did WNYMedia.net. 

WNYMedia and The Buffalo News did not write anything when Bauerle gleefully, but incorrectly reported that Americans now predominately fear the government. They didn’t write anything when Bauerle suggested that Islam is “not compatible” with Western Democracy

When Bauerle devoted an entire show in 2009 to the topic: are liberals “insane”, “psychotic asshats” who want to “destroy America”, the Buffalo News wrote nothing. During that same show, Bauerle  spoke approvingly of a new civil war in America, hoped for an armed, military coup against the federal government, and suggested that the military side with the “people”, rather than with the “liberals”. The Buffalo News’ newsworthiness radar was broken. WNYMedia paid attention because I wrote about it there

When the brother of blogger Mike Blake made a phony phone call to Bauerle’s show and was subsequently the target of harassing texts, the Buffalo News was silent. Nary a peep from the News about this or this or this; you get the picture.

There have been quite a few outrageous outbursts on hate radio in the last several years, and suddenly now it’s important? What Bauerle said on December 30th is downright tame compared to his earlier suggestion that al Qaeda was better than Obama. 

So, I’m not the person to lecture about the horrible things that WBEN has allowed on its air. Pergament’s criticism of WBEN management is beside the point, 

Additionally, Bauerle is an influential voice in the community and should be held to a higher standard. He has constantly used his daily show to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act.

Yes. I have acknowledged that this is a good argument in favor of disclosure. 

However, politics is a secondary issue of this story. The primary issues are the safety of the community and how a radio station can keep a guy on the air who has exhibited such bizarre behavior without giving him enough time to recover.

How can you reach this conclusion without a medical degree or an examination of the patient? Bauerle expressly addressed this on Monday, explaining that he was medically cleared to be on the air, that WBEN gave him unlimited time to get himself right, and that he was on-air of his own volition. He sounded perfectly normal. 

I don’t know. It seems to me that a lot of the arguments in favor of publication come from a base, ‘screw that guy’ place. Many other arguments are, ‘we should know because we deserve to know’. That’s not enough for me. Whatever. 


  • http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com Jaquandor (Kelly Sedinger)

    The man is a public figure and a highly visible one, and the brand of crazy he put on display isn’t completely separate from the things he does and has done to BECOME a public figure and a highly visible one. To me it’s newsworthy when someone who has spent their entire professional life fanning the flames gets partially consumed by their own fire. The fact that the News has ignored his creepy behavior in the past is an indictment of THEN, not an implication that they should back off NOW. At least, that’s how I see it. A lot of local public opinion, and therefore a lot of local public policy, gets enacted through the filter of Tom Bauerle. We just overwhelmingly reelected a County Sheriff who is a fellow traveler. It’s news. It’s not good news, it’s not pretty news, it’s not happy news. But yes, it’s news. Pointing out all the stuff that’s NOT news, or all the stuff that IS news that they don’t cover, doesn’t really bear on this particular incident.

  • UncleBluck

    So the substance abusing wako slept off his latest late night binge and is back on the radio spewing his filth…oh well….one thing is for sure…that stuff is very addicting and Bauerle will be back under its influence shortly, my guess would be Friday or Saturday night…watch out neighbors there are Cuomo trees lurking out there……

    • John Wilcox

      That what I was thinking as well.

  • Ridgewaycynic2013

    It’s odd that every Bauerle story in the BN is having the comments locked. I wonder what the BN is afraid of?

  • Marquil

    The call on newsworthiness on this story isn’t even close. Simply weigh the elements individually: 1. Two major, ongoing public policy issues: gun control & the availability of guns to persons with mental illness (the emphasis on the latter, arguably a post-Newtown diversionary strategy seized by opponents of the former; 2. A vocal opponent (and enabler of opposition) to a prominent law enacted to deal with both issues; 3. One or more public psychotic melt-downs involving #2 and a loaded gun. Throw in a thinly-veiled threat on the life of a governor, how could you not say this is newsworthy?

    If BN had waited until the gun went off—God forbid—with tragic consequences, we would be wringing our hands asking why they hadn’t seen (and reported) the warning signs. Opponents of gun control are advancing this sort of preemptive judgment on mental fitness to bear arms in lieu of broader restrictions on guns and ammunition. Ironically, Bauerle presents a case study in the troubling aspects of this approach to curbing gun violence.

    Be sensitive on mental health issues, by all means. Stifle the urge to savor the schadenfreude, if you must. But report the story.

  • tomsneighbor

    I live on Tom’s street, and our two primary concerns are: #1 safety for everyone in the vicinity (including Tom, all our neighbors/neighborhood children, and the police) and #2 his right to personal privacy associated with his health.

    I think I speak for most in the neighborhood when I say we don’t give a rat’s ass about his political opinions, his radio show, or gossiping to the Buff News. Period!! He is a good neighbor and is lucky to have landed himself on a street filled with individuals who care about others.

  • Wrongful Acquittal

    You are over-thinking. There is no journalistic integrity, especially at the BN. That notion is silly. It’s all about the money, just like everywhere else these days. They will print anything, and they will suppress anything, based on money and influence.

  • hwhamlin

    1. A local radio host is on the air.
    The abject failures on the Buffalo School Board have decided en masse to run for reelection.
    Which story is more “scary-important”?
    2. My understanding is that Bauerle’s guns were not confiscated. He was permitted to deliver them to his attorney, which he did, with the exception of the one in his possession when the authorities arrived. NY SAFE irony is misconceived.

  • HapKlein

    I never thought Bauerle was very significant and I tried listening several times just to get the drift of Right Wing views but his rudeness was pretty exasperating and I didn’t bother.
    I saw the article Sunday and thought is was appropriate coverage since the NY SAFE Law does open a door that normally separates Law Enforcement and the mental health community and did make an early comment about this connection.
    But comments were soon barred and I was told by a BN contact that there was not particular thread that caused the censorship just a management decision not to allow comments. I have been tracking many inane comments about SAFE for a year and I don’t blame them for avoiding more drivel sprawled across cyber space.
    I would have enjoyed the coverage to include the actions of the Amherst Police and contrast this with the possible quandary the situation may have met with the Sheriff’s Department.
    It still sounds if the Sheriff is personally involved enforcement is doubtful but Deputies have a free hand in deciding. Cafeteria Justice rarely produces consistent results.
    But in the end it is interesting that regardless of the status of his mental he has his guns confiscated and obviously very faithful fans.
    I bet I am not near as happy as Bauerle’s neighbors who by fortuitous circumstance were not peering out their windows as he stalked demons in his yard.
    It won’t matter to me I am more fascinated with the newest stand your ground situation in Florida where a retired cop shot a guy for texting his daughter during the Trailers.

  • ROCKY dICKSON

    Bauerle’s 17 minute radio rant about being stalked by Cuomo’s secret agents – the rant that WBEN sensored on its web site, was textbook paranoia. I can’t imagine any mental health professional listening to that and calling it anything but paranoia. I suspect that whoever evaluated and cleared Bauerle – if indeed he was cleared – didn’t hear that tape. I wonder if it was withheld. I know this: If Bauerle was making similar veiled threats against President Obama instead of Gov. Cuomo, the Secret Service would not be as lenient as the Amherst PD.

  • John Wilcox

    While doing his second show since “the article”, Bauerle sounds as though he thinks he’s auditioning for a national syndicated show. He’s all hyped up and full of “good guy” banter. Sadly though, as another poster pointed out, if one listens to that now-infamous Dec 30th show, you will either conclude that he is mentally unstable or is dabbling in some serious substance abuse. In either case, he won’t be walking away from either all that easily and in spite of his Wink Martindale-esque performance the last 2 days on-air, the spooky-scary paranoid Tom will return again before long. Seriously, does anybody think this crazy mindset that has been festering for weeks, if not months, if not years, is going to just vanish overnight due to a BN article? Forget about people-trees and magic snow shoes, THAT would be the real oddity.

  • jimd54

    The thing is Dan Herbeck is a pretty serious reporter. If this was frivolous I bet he would not have wrote it. On the other hand Bauerle has pissed on the News for for years. Maybe they figured he had it coming. At any rate it would be nice to think this might spur WBEN to show a little class.

    • ckg1

      Sadly, I think we’ll see the exact opposite. Even sadder-and I hate to say it-the next time Bauerle gets in the paper, it may be for worse reasons. I really hope it doesn’t happen, but I fear it might.

  • rastamaniac

    Reminds me of Limbaugh going into detox for his hillbilly heroin habit. What really eats away at the empathy base is his habit of behaving like an unfeeling vindictive prick any time anyone else screws up or needs a little love. The Karma gods have spoken. Doesn’t Buffalo have some other fish to fry?

    • John Wilcox

      Only Limbaugh never thought any of his palm trees were government agents. And shoes that don’t leave tracks in the snow? We’ll never know his thoughts on that, as he lives in Florida.

      • rastamaniac

        …the parallel wasn’t so much one of shared delusion as one of un-empathetic judgmental a-holes who suddenly found themselves in a position to be ridiculed, judged and damned in much the same way as they had done to countless others. Sucks when it’s your turn with the shit fairy.

  • ROCKY dICKSON

    Tom Bauerle is a textbook case of somebody who shouldn’t be packing a gun. Listen to his tape of Dec 30th, 2013 – the one that WBEN is hiding – and tell me he’s not paranoid. Read the police comments about the tree that’s actually a man and tell me he’s not paranoid. Clearly, he suffers from paranoia. And it bears repeating that paranoiacs are dangerous to society because a paranoiac will shoot you before you have a chance to shoot them. At least, that’s their twisted rationale. If Adam Lanza lived in Williamsville and had access to guns, would you feel safe? Of course not. No one would. If Tom Bauerle has gone over the edge, and for all appearances he has, then for the safety of the community at large, he should not have guns. A prima facia case has been made that the man is disturbed and needs help. Now is not the time to look the other way because he’s a radio personality. It’s time for the authorities to act.

  • rastamaniac

    So much for the high road and the lack of newsworthiness in Rush Jr.’s meltdown….