By: Jennifer Saba
Jim DeFede’s afternoon got off to a promising start but ended in disappointment as Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler reiterated for perhaps the final time that he would not rehire the popular columnist.
DeFede’s hopes were buoyed earlier Friday when the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office issued a release saying it would not press charges against the journalist for secretly taping a July 27 conversation with Arthur Teele.
Shortly after DeFede ended an upbeat press conference, Fiedler circulated a staff memo stating that he is not going to re-hire DeFede despite the state attorney’s findings.
“It seems to show that Tom isn’t interested in the facts,” DeFede said when reached this afternoon. “All the reasons the Herald used for firing me — he believed I was making this tape as grist for a column. That’s not true.
“I don’t think it’s a question of my integrity anymore but Tom’s and the Herald’s,” he said. “Are they going to stand by a decision they made simply because they made it? It seems to me they are more interested in being defensive.”
For his part, Fiedler said if he had to do it all over again he wouldn’t change a thing. “It’s clear on two levels that Jim’s actions were unacceptable,” Fiedler said, adding that DeFede broke the law and violated Herald standards. “The [Herald’s ethical] code prohibits surreptitious behavior. Taping someone without their permission falls squarely within that.”
Fiedler also countered the notion, put forth Friday during DeFede’s press conference, that he made a hasty decision in firing DeFede. Fiedler said he spent close to four hours “agonizing” over the decision. “It was swift but it wasn’t impulsive,” Fiedler said.
Earlier this afternoon, DeFede, who has lived in Miami for 14 years, said he wasn’t interested in suing the paper and he doesn’t regret turning in the tapes. “This is to me perhaps the saddest part. I always thought the best thing to do if you had an issue or question is to come forward and be honest,” DeFede said. “I’m just an unemployed guy. Any newspapers that need a Metro columnist should let me know.”