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Gaston County Sues for Retraction of False Gazette Article

GASTONIA, N.C. – Today, Gaston County filed suit in state court against The Gaston Gazette over a defamatory story published last week.

The Gazette’s story, “Gaston commissioners settle nearly $400K in claims behind closed doors,” contained numerous and easily proven falsehoods. The County provided evidence and explained to Gazette management why the story was wrong and unfairly damaged the reputation of the County and its seven-member Board of Commissioners.

The Gazette, through attorneys from its parent company, Gannett, declined to retract the story or apologize.

Gaston County Government values the role of a free press. According to North Carolina’s State Constitution, in Section 14: “Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained, but every person shall be held responsible for their abuse.”

“We’ve seen and heard a striking volume of fake news over the past few years, but when a newspaper goes so far as to publish patent falsities with such reckless disregard about what is going on at any level of government, they must be held accountable. And that is exactly what we are doing collectively and individually in taking legal action against Gannett,” Gaston County Chairman Tracy Philbeck said.

The County has provided every opportunity for The Gazette to fix its errors and prove to the community its commitment to delivering the facts. And despite this legal action, the County will continue to provide information to The Gazette reporters when requested, as part of its commitment to transparency and good governance.

Jeremy Stephenson of the law firm Pope, Aylward, Sweeny and Stephenson is representing the County in this case. This release will serve as the County’s full statement on this matter and neither County staff nor members of its board will comment further on what is now pending litigation.