The Lee County Republican Party lashed out in personal terms at a Sanford Herald reporter on Thursday, giving him a Donald Trump-style nickname and suggesting he used family connections to have his editor fired:

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The post — which is childish by nearly any standard and contains numerous violations of the rules of grammar — appeared to be a reaction to the news of Lee GOP chair Jim Womack’s re-appointment to the North Carolina Oil and Gas Commission (the post was deleted a few hours after it went online).

The post somewhat bizarrely included a Sanford Herald story from last month by reporter Zachary Horner which described Womack’s attempt to convene a meeting of the OGC while it had been determined that his membership on the board was in question. That meeting was delayed, and a bill reappointing Womack, as well as former state House Representative (and friend of The Rant) Mike Stone, to the OGC was filed on Wednesday in the state legislature. It appears to have made significant progress since.

“Well, it appears ‘little NO FACT Zach’ is at it again. As he writes ‘Lee County GOP Chair Jim Womack, who claims to be a member of the commission’-lol …The town already knows ‘he CLAIMS to be a journalist’ while adding his little opinions to his bias (sic) news. I guess he missed it AGAIN! What a joke,” the first paragraph read.

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Next, the post suggests that Horner used influence with his father, former Herald Publisher Bill Horner III, to have Editor G. Chambers Williams fired. The Rant reported that Williams had left the Herald on Wednesday after just four months at the helm, but the circumstances behind his departure were unknown.

“Anyone else heard the rumors this little silver spooned (sic) fed kid went crying to his Daddy Warbucks about the new editor? Anyone want to guess who the next editor will be or how much longer they can stay in print?” the post went on, concluding with a series of poorly-executed hashtags.

Further, the two comments on the post as of Thursday afternoon were penned by one of the Lee GOP’s elected officials, school board member Sherry Lynn Womack, and Blaine Sutton, identified in this Herald story (subscription required) as the local party’s fundraising director.

Now, look. It would be unfair to pretend we haven’t been critical of the newspaper in the past. But as we’ve written before, we focus on criticizing — if we feel it’s necessary — the things the newspaper reports, the way it reports them, and the editorial decisions its leaders make.

A phrase each of us was familiar with in our years as daily newspaper reporters was “well, the pay sucks, but at least the hours are shit.” So when we’ve pointed out thoughtless editorial practices on the Herald’s part, we’re still certain that the Herald’s reporters are working against huge challenges to bring us local news every day.

Those challenges shouldn’t also include a party organization so personally hostile that they’ll attack you over who you’re related to.

Thursday’s post was unfair, callow, mean and absolutely beneath the dignity of a political organization. Even in the Trump era.

There are a handful of of elected Republicans locally who sources tell us don’t toe the line drawn by GOP chairman Womack. They should speak up against the trash emanating from the party’s headquarters on Steele Street.

The Lee County Republican Party is in desperate need of an adult in the room.

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