(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Erie Reader on July 26 issued a response to U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly who last week criticized an opinion piece in the local publication.

On July 14, the Erie Reader published an opinion piece, “Erie at Large: A Congressman and a State Senator Walk Into a Bar” written by Jim Wertz, a contributing editor and Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party. The opinion piece attempted to connect Kelly to findings from the January 6 Insurrection Hearings. The piece suggested Kelly was on a pardon request list that was submitted to then President Donald Trump.

The suggestion drew the ire of Kelly who threatened to sue the Erie Reader, and he held a contentious press conference with members of the local media. (Wertz also held a separate press conference defending his opinion piece.)

Kelly also allegedly sent an email to the Erie Reader demanding that the opinion piece be removed and a public apology be issued.

Now, the Erie Reader has issued a response to Mike Kelly’s criticism and demands by publishing a formal letter from attorney Paula Knudsen Burke which was sent to Mike Kelly’s campaign.

“…The Erie Reader has no intention of complying with your baseless demand,” Knudsen Burke wrote. She noted that Kelly didn’t identify “any specific fact stated in the Op-Ed that you allege is false and should be corrected.” Knudsen Burke notes that the Op-Ed was labeled as an opinion piece and “the author and his political affiliation is stated in the author note at the bottom of the post.” She wrote that the opinion piece is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and cited judicial precedent.

“Given the public interest in, and importance to the public, of the topics discussed in the Op-Ed, as well as the accurate factual basis for the piece, The Erie Reader rejects your July 22, 2022 demand that it remove the Op-Ed and ‘publicly apologize to the readers and to Congressman Mike Kelly,'” Knudsen Burke wrote.

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Knudsen Burke is a local legal initiative attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.