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Jack Delehanty Photo: District Attorneys Association of the State of New York
Jack Delehanty Photo: District Attorneys Association of the State of New York

Anti-Semitism charged as Big Tupper rancor deepens

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The debate in Tupper Lake over the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort has taken another bitter turn.

For years the community has been sharply divided over the massive real estate project.

Now the local newspaper, the Tupper Lake Free Press, has accused opponents of the development of sending an email that includes an anti-Semitic slur.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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The charge follows an email sent in early February by Jack Delehanty, one of the most prominent and outspoken opponents of the Adirondack Club and Resort project.

Delehanty's email was sent to members of his hunting camp. Photo: Brian Mann
Delehanty's email was sent to members of his hunting camp. Photo: Brian Mann
Delehanty sent the email to members of his hunting club, a leased camp which is located on property that will become part of the new resort if it is developed.

In the email, Delehanty noted that the home of Tom Lawson, one of the lead developers of the Big Tupper resort, is in foreclosure proceedings.

He suggested to club members that they make an offer on the Lawson family's property, writing "dibs on their brass bed."

Delehanty then added a comment that has sparked a furor in Tupper Lake.

"Soak at your own risk in the hot tub," Delehanty wrote, "after The Nearly Hassidic One has been there."

Dan McClelland's editorial in the Tupper Lake Free Press accused opponents of the resort of anti-Semitism. He published the accusation without interviewing Delehanty or other ACR critics.
Dan McClelland's editorial in the Tupper Lake Free Press accused opponents of the resort of anti-Semitism. He published the accusation without interviewing Delehanty or other ACR critics.
That phrase prompted Dan McClelland, publisher of the Tupper Lake Free Press and one of the project's major boosters, to run a lead editorial, blasting opponents of the resort. (Click here to listen to a June, 2011, interview with Dan McClelland about his paper's advocacy in favor of the Adirondack Club and Resort.)

In his commentary, McClelland suggested that the email was an anti-Semitic attack against Susan Lawson, who is Jewish.

Without naming the email's author, McClelland accused anti-resort activists of "nasty and deeply injurious religious and racial slur."

"To me, this was a new low," McClelland said, in an interview with NCPR.

"That's all I was saying in the editorial. And it sort of disappointed me that this was the sort of information that was circulating in the community."

Susan Lawson, at right, believes that Delehanty's email was an anti-Semitic slur. She is pictured with her husband, developer Tom Lawson, and lead developer Michael Foxman Photo: Mark Kurtz
Susan Lawson, at right, believes that Delehanty's email was an anti-Semitic slur. She is pictured with her husband, developer Tom Lawson, and lead developer Michael Foxman Photo: Mark Kurtz
That view was echoed by Susan Lawson, wife of ACR developer Tom Lawson.

Lawson declined to be interviewed about Delehanty's language. But in an email to North Country Public Radio, she wrote "I do not think there is any doubt that it was an anti-Semitic slur aimed at me."

Delehanty, in a lengthy interview with NCPR, disputed that account. He described his email as an off-color joke, aimed not at the Lawson family, but at another member of his hunting club.

"That was my reference to a very affable club member who has a Judeo-Christian background," Delehanty said.

"And when I was making reference to that person who is one of my best friends on the planet, that's who I was referring to."

North Country Public Radio interviewed the other club member referenced by Delehanty, a respected member of the Tri-Lakes community who corroborated Delehanty's account.

Agreeing to speak on condition of anonymity, the individual – who said he is a supporter of the resort project and has Jewish heritage – described off-color jokes as common in the club's culture.

"Anybody in that hunting camp would have known that that reference was probably directed at me," said the club member, adding "I've known Jack for 25 years. There's not an anti-Semitic bone in his body."

Other members of the Tupper Lake community contacted by NCPR agreed that Delehanty had no record of anti-Semitism or prejudice.

Delehanty, a former assistant district attorney in Franklin County, was clearly shaken by the charge that he had attacked Lawson, a neighbor, on the basis of her religion.

"I condemn prejudice in all its forms, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, any other religious prejudices," Delehanty insisted.

"It's been my education and training and experience and I've worked my entire life to bring equal justice to all people."

Delehanty acknowledged, however, that the wider tone of his email – celebrating the fact that the Lawson family was in financial distress and that they faced foreclosure of their home – was offensive.

"I know that I took a little too much pleasure perhaps, but nevertheless I did take some, and I'm guilty of that, in finding out that my neighbors were coming upon difficult financial times," Delehanty said.

In her email to NCPR, Susan Lawson blasted Delehanty for talking in his email about her family's private life.

I do not know what I did to deserve such hatred. -- Susan Lawson
"This is my bed and my hot tub," Lawson wrote, referring to elements of her private home described in Delehanty's email. "I do not know what I did to deserve such hatred."

The tone in Tupper Lake has been deeply rancorous for years, with all sides leveling personal attacks, questioning the motives and the ethics of those involved in the resort debate.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said that, in this instance, Delehanty deserves blame for coarsening the debate further.

"I'm sort of ashamed to say that Jack Delehanty wrote that letter. His mention of the Lawson family's personal background is disgraceful, in my book," said Mayor Maroun.

Delehanty, meanwhile, has charged that supporters of the resort, including the Lawson family, have used his off-color email to discredit him.

Delehanty points out that his name was on the original email, yet the local newspaper failed to contact him before running its editorial with charges of anti-Semitism.

"I don't know why Dan [McClelland] didn't contact me," Delehanty said.

"His source could not have handcuffed him from contacting me to get the true story before he stated incorrect facts and opinion about my innocent email."

McClelland acknowledged that he made no effort to talk to Delehanty before publishing charges of anti-Semitism in his lead editorial, despite the fact that Delehanty's name was clearly visible on the original email.

"I didn't call Jack because I didn't know for sure that Jack had produced it," McClelland said.

"It was obvious to me that it was someone who was against the ACR, or against the Lawsons or who wasn't a friend of the Lawsons."

In his editorial, McClelland suggested that there were multiple authors of the email and indicated that the message was part of a campaign sponsored by the resort's opponents, describing the effort as "shameful and disgusting."

But McClelland could provide no evidence to support the claim.

While the bitterness in Tupper Lake continues to deepen, the state permits issued by the Adirondack Park Agency that would allow the resort to move forward remain entangled in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.

Despite published reports of personal financial troubles, the backers of the project say they are prepared to move forward as soon as the legal challenges are cleared.

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