CLEVELAND, Tenn. – A state lawmaker is warning business owners not to advertise in a weekly newspaper that reported he is dating a woman while waiting for his divorce to come through.
Republican Sen. Jeff Miller, who has represented this town of about 38,000 people 20 miles from Chattanooga for 11 years, sent the warning in a letter Dec. 13.
Some business owners said they resented the threatening tone of the letter, but Miller said he was trying to call attention to what he considers unfair treatment from the free Bradley News Weekly.
In the letter, Miller wrote: "Myself and many others are going to be watching in the next several weeks to identify and remember those in this community that wish to subsidize the destructive nature of this type of publication in our community."
In an interview, Miller did not dispute the newspaper's report about his girlfriend, but said he and his wife are working toward a divorce settlement and his "personal life should be left just that."
The newspaper said Miller's personal life is fair game because the lawmaker had a "family values" platform.
"Your platform is that of a guy who believes in the sanctity of marriage, and that marriage should be between one man and one woman. And your behavior doesn't support your platform. So, we report it," editor Barry Graham wrote in an open letter in the Dec. 21 issue.
The weekly has also called Miller an "irresponsible little boy" who would "rather be spending time with (his) lover" than tending to official duties.
Publisher Susan Shelton said that no businesses have told her they will stop advertising. In fact, she said, she has been approached by business people who want to buy new ads just because of the dispute with Miller.
Walter Presswood, an antiques dealer who occasionally advertises in the paper, described himself as a longtime acquaintance of Miller's family, but said of the lawmaker's letter: "I don't like to be threatened by anybody."
"It's the only way I can fight back," Miller said. "I can't go to press every week."