In one of the most petty, petulant and pusillanimous acts of perfidy in the annals of alleged journalism, the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has resigned from the board of directors of the Nevada Press Association in a fit of pique over longtime newspaper columnist John L. Smith being named to the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, according to sources.
The announcement of Smith’s well deserved and frankly overdue induction into the Hall of Fame officially came during the NPA awards banquet in Mesquite Saturday night. Publisher Craig Moon’s resignation from the board came the day before. He reportedly did not attend the banquet, though few would have recognized him if he had.
Smith, who has written a general interest column four or five days a week for more than 30 years at the Review-Journal, about 5,500 columns, resigned earlier this year after being told he could not write about two of the most significant characters in the Las Vegas gaming industry — Sheldon Adelson, now owner of the newspaper, and casino executive Steve Wynn, both of whom had unsuccessfully sued Smith for libel over passages in two of the 15 books he has written.
Smith was among a handful of writers at the Las Vegas newspaper who unearthed the identity of Adelson as the paper’s new owner in December. That enterprise contributed to one of the newspaper’s awards Saturday night. Adelson heads the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino operation and is a generous donor to Republican political candidates. All the reporters who unearthed Adelson as the new owner have since left the paper. At least two of them won writing awards in the NPA annual contest.
In the resignation letter that he left on the desks of fellow staffers, Smith wrote, “I learned many years ago about the importance of not punching down in weight class. You don’t hit ‘little people’ in this craft, you defend them. In Las Vegas, a quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that ‘commentary’ tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed. … If a Las Vegas columnist is considered ‘conflicted’ because he’s been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it’s time to move on.”
Adelson’s suit said Smith’s book “Sharks in the Desert” made false implications that he “was associated with unsavory characters and unsavory activities.”
Adelson asked that the libel case against Smith be dismissed when Smith’s attorney, Don Campbell, obtained confidential Gaming Control Board records. “In short, Adelson’s claims were about to be exposed for what they were … false and vindictive,” Campbell said at the time. Though he prevailed, the litigation forced Smith into bankruptcy.
Wynn sued when an ad for “Running Scared,” an ad Smith did not write, said the book ”details why a confidential Scotland Yard report calls Wynn a front man for the Genovese crime family.”
The book itself reported that the New Scotland Yard report was “not entirely accurate” and was politically motivated and largely based on investigative efforts of U.S. authorities who did not reach the same conclusion. Smith eventually was dismissed as a defendant and the publisher of the book reached an undisclosed settlement.
That the suits over books unrelated to his job as a columnist were dismissed for lacking merit mattered not to the new Adelson minions, who haven’t been in Las Vegas long enough to learn what the word “juice” means, though they certainly kowtow to those who have it.