CLEVELAND — *EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from November, when Kucinich conceded defeat in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral primary.
Former U.S. Rep. and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich says The Plain Dealer Publishing Company tried to stymie his bid to get back in the mayor's office last year by tying him to the scandal-ridden FirstEnergy Corp.
Kucinich, who was the city’s mayor from 1977-79, said The Plain Dealer falsely claimed he took money from FirstEnergy Corp., which is at the center of a public corruption and bribery case.
The lawsuit says that on Feb. 5, 2021, The Plain Dealer posted a story on its website — cleveland.com — that said Kucinich was exploring a mayoral bid with the "financial backing of [Cleveland Public Power] adversary, scandal-immersed FirstEnergy." Kucinich's tenure as mayor decades ago was marked by drama and by his successful efforts to fend off the sale of the city's municipal electric company — then known as Muni Light — which saved residents millions of dollars in cheaper electric rates for decades.
The thrust of The Plain Dealer's story was the link between Cleveland businessman Tony George and Kucinich. George has been friends with Kucinich for 30 years and has a long track record of making political donations to candidates in local and national races (George also contributed to three other 2021 mayoral candidates). He also has ties to FirstEnergy lobbying efforts and has supported politicians friendly to the company, whose subsidiary competes with Cleveland Public Power.
In response to inquiries about his ties to George, Kucinich told the paper:
"I have friends who may by close to FirstEnergy but that is their cross to bear. This is not a nodding acquaintance. Tony George has been a friend of mine for 30 years. No one buys my friendship, and no one buys my opinion. And no one has ever bought my vote."
The lawsuit says that on the same day the article was published, Plain Dealer Editor Chris Quinn hosted a podcast during which he and reporters mocked Kucinich and his comments about George. The filing states The Plain Dealer later removed that portion of the podcast and clarified in the original story that it incorrectly claimed Kucinich was exploring his bid for mayor with the financial backing of FirstEnergy Corp.
But according to the lawsuit, despite these updates, the podcast and article — and others later published by the paper — still give the false impression that Kucinich consorts with FirstEnergy. Therefore, Kucinich's reputation and "credibility as a public power advocate and author, his commercial value and brand have been harmed substantially as a result."
3News reached out to Kucinich's lawyers and to Plain Dealer Editor Chris Quinn for comment. This post will be updated with their responses.
You can read the entire lawsuit below: