Monday, August 2, 2021

Byko's Star Witness In Inky Defamation Case --Bill Marimow

By Ralph Cipriano

On the afternoon of July 17, 2019, former Inquirer Editor and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Marimow was reading an email from his daughter, Ann.

"Everyone is asking about the Inga Saffron goodbye speech story that's going viral among reporters -- and noting that Dad is featured in the photos," she wrote. "You'll have to fill me in when we talk next."

But Marimow could not wait to give his take on the fireworks that transpired when Saffron, the Inquirer's Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic, trashed former Daily News and Inquirer columnist Stu Bykofsky at his going-away party as a sexist, ethically challenged print dinosaur with "a taste for child prostitutes in Thailand." 

"Dear Annie," Marimow wrote on the same day that an incendiary story and four video clips from the party were posted on "Inga assailed Stu in a totally inappropriate way in front of virtually the entire newsroom. It was incredibly tense and at one point, I was concerned that Stu was going to physically accost her." 

"David Preston, who organized the farewell party, invited Inga to speak because he thought that the tension between them was friendly and fake animosity. It turned out to be intense dislike, and David Preston -- along with everyone else present -- was chagrined."

A day later, Philadelphia PR guru Larry Ceisler emailed Marimow to talk about those videos. 

"I saw you in the background of the picture in Philadelphia magazine from the Byko going away party," Ceisler wrote. "Wow, that was really rude of Inga . . . I don't know why anyone would have her speak at a going away party . . . or even a funeral for that matter. Really poor form."

Marimow agreed. "Inga's diatribe was an unmitigated disaster," he wrote. "Vindictive, mean-spirited and shocking. Unbelievable."

Saffron's remarks made at Bykofsky's July 12, 2019 going-away party prompted the retiring reporter of 47 years to file a lawsuit against the Inquirer and Saffron alleging defamation.

It's a lawsuit that's not going away. On Dec. 14, 2020, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge James Crumlish III ruled against the Inquirer's motion to have Bykofsky's complaint dismissed. 

The case is now in the discovery stage. But from the looks of what transpired in after-party emails among the Inquirer's top management, it might be a smart move to settle the case before it ever goes to trial. 

And before Bill Marimow testifies as Bykofsky's star witness.

Marimow, who now works for Brian Communications, Brian Tierney's current public relations firm, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither did Saffron.

Inquirer Editor and Senior Vice President Gabriel Escobar and Managing Editor Patrick Kerkstra also didn't respond to a request for comment, but they did forwarded my requests to a PR firm. 

Timothy N. Spritzer, executive vice president of Tierney, Brian Tierney's former PR firm, wrote back in an email to say that "The company is not going to comment regarding ongoing litigation."

Bykofsky, now a blogger, referred me to Mark Schwartz, his lawyer, who declined comment.

In his emails from the Inquirer newsroom, Marimow did not confine his condemnation of Saffron to just his online conversations with his daughter and Ceisler. 

On July 19, 2019, former Baltimore Sun columnist and author Kevin Cowherd, who had just seen the videos posted on, wrote Marimow to commend him for keeping his cool during the Bykofsky going-away party.

When he wrote back two days later, on July 21, 2019, Marimow was still upset about Saffron's behavior.

"As for the Bykofsky farewell, Kevin, Inga Saffron's talk was a disgrace -- totally inappropriate and unprofessional," Marimow wrote.

On July 21, 2019, another old pal of Marimow's, former Penn State Journalism Professor Tony Barbieri, wrote to ask if the Byko party was "a normal Inquirer sendoff." If so, Barbieri quipped, he was planning to invite David Simon to speak at Marimow's going-away party. 

For years, Simon,  a former Baltimore Sun reporter who hit it big as the creator of the HBO series "The Wire," has waged a war of words against Marimow, his former editor at the Baltimore Sun.

"Inga's comments were disgraceful -- a blatant disregard for all standards of civility," Marimow wrote back to Babieri. As to Barbieri's suggestion about guest speakers at Marimow's going-away party, Marimow wrote,"There's no doubt that Simon would do it."

And then Marimow got philosophical. 

"I'm a great believer in the old adage that holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and thinking that it's going to harm your enemy," Marimow wrote. "Those grudges -- like the ones Simon holds -- just poison the grudge holder."

Marimow's emails and status as a former Inquirer icon present a sticky problem for the newspaper in its defense against Bykofsky's lawsuit. Here's another problem -- the ominous prose of the judge in the case.

In his 22-page memorandum opinion that rejected the Inquirer's request for summary judgment, Judge Crumlish noted that the Bykofsky retirement party was organized by senior management, and held on company property.

The judge then cited Bykofsky's complaint, which stated that it was the Inquirer management who "singled out Saffron" to speak at Bykofsky's going-away party, "despite knowing that she [Saffron] bore animosity toward Bykofsky."

The judge wrote that during litigation, the defendants "concede that Saffron did not offer her remarks as a journalist." The judge also rejected the defendants' argument that Saffron, an opinion columnist, was merely offering "an opinion" at the going away party attended by about 60 people in the Inquirer newsroom.

The judge also rejected the defendants' characterization that the gathering of journalists in the Inquirer newsroom constituted a "sophisticated, pre-informed audience . . . well versed in discerning statements of actual facts from expression of opinions."

"Defendants do not suggest that Saffron intended her statements in question in the context of a good natured 'roast' or satire of a retiring colleague," the judge wrote. "Defendants inscrutably posit that Saffron and Bykofsky 'had a history' which somehow justified her remarks, remarks that the complaint alleges are defamatory and portray him in a false light."

During the party, Saffron singled out an "infamous" 2011 column that Bykofsky wrote about a visit to Thailand, saying it revealed "his taste for child prostitutes in Thailand."

In the video of the party, Bykofsky responded, "This is a total fucking lie."

In the column, still posted online, Bykofsky talked about how open the sex trade was in Thailand, featuring "an endless supply of girls with no marketable skills but rentable bodies." He also talked about being in a bar where just about every female was for sale, but he didn't say he was ever a buyer. 

In his lawsuit, Bykofsky argued that his column was “devoid of any assertion or implication that he had a ‘taste for child prostitutes.” Bykofsky also wrote in his column that the sex trade industry was “terrible” and that it “makes me feel bad."

In the lawsuit, Bykofsky ripped Inquirer management, saying that at the going-away party, they “exhibited jocular laughter and then personal discomfort at the accusations leveled by Saffron against Mr. Bykofsky.

“Given their professional experiences,” the lawsuit states, Inquirer management "clearly knew the difference between playful ribbing and malicious falsities. Notwithstanding, they did nothing to restrain, cut-off, or otherwise abate Ms. Saffron’s tirade.”

As far as the judge was concerned, Saffron did a deliberate hatchet job on Byko. From the video, the judge wrote, it was clear that Saffron was reading from prepared notes. And as she spoke, the judge wrote, Saffron "made frequent eye contact with the recording video/audio and photographic equipment and appeared to intentionally direct her remarks thereby the immediate newsroom."

"Based upon Saffron's demeanor, facial expression, intonation and gestures while delivering the remarks, a reasonable interpretation is that she was commenting on Bykofsky's character and not simply giving a characterization of the article," the judge wrote.

In his memorandum, the judge rejected the idea that Saffron's denunciation of Bykofsky was a "hermetically sealed 'inside joke.'" 

The judge noted that the video of the Bykofsky going-away party was forwarded to other news media outlets. He added that Inquirer editor Escobar didn't help matters when he "commented obliquely" to the Washington Post that Saffron and Bykofsky "had history" before saying he would let the video "tell the story."

The judge also stated that he agreed with Bykofsky's argument that although Saffron was an opinion writer, it did not render her oral remarks opinion. Saffron, the judge wrote, "had such a degree of high position, superiority, professional or employment status and related ethical guidance and expertise that she knew exactly what she was doing and intended to demean and degrade Bykofsky."

In addition, the judge said that Saffron's remarks "infers that Saffron had 'inside' knowledge about Bykofsky not contained in her remarks" or the original Bykofsky column about his trip to Thailand. The judge also made a point of mentioning Saffron's "humorless demeanor" and he concluded that at the going-away party, Saffron "was speaking about Bykofsky as a person and not about a column."

The judge pointedly mentioned that the defendants's responses so far in the case "do not address liability of The Inquirer for the conduct of Saffron," and her "potentially defamatory" remarks.

Besides Marimow's emails, contemporaneous emails between the newspaper's top managers poses another set of problems for the paper of record. Taken together, the emails show an alarming penchant for group think as well as a shared blindness regarding the newspaper's potential liability in defaming Bykofsky.

On July 17, 2019, the day the videos from the going-away party were posted on, then-Editor Stan Wischnowski wrote a slack message to Kerkstra and Escobar, saying, "It was only a matter of time."

Rather than worry about liability on the part of the Inquirer, Wischnowski was more concerned about Twitter and Facebook.

"How is it going on social," Wischnowski asked.

"Lot of love for Inga," Kerkstra responded. " Most people seem to be seeing it as vaguely fun/odd news room comedy."

Kerkstra noted that Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym had taken Saffron's side. On Twitter, Gym praised Saffron as a "Pulitzer Prize winner, feminist avenger, goddess of journalism and afflicter of the too comfortable," versus that "racist sexist caricature troll Byko."

"Seems Inga is winning on big on social media," agreed Wishnowski. 

That apparently was fine with the Inquirer's progressive editors, who had begun a purge of non-progressive voices in the paper by basically shit-canning Byko. They did it by sending him a message that after 47 years, they were deep-sixing his column and exiling him to the sports copy desk.

Bykofsky's options -- accept the demotion or quit, and take a buyout. 

Then, Escobar joined in the conversation, revealing exactly how the response to a PR crisis was hatched by the Inky brain trust, a response subsequently panned by Judge Crumlish.

"Washington Post reporter just reached out for comment," Escobar wrote. "Looks like a story is in the works."

"A no comment is not going to fly well," Escobar wrote. "What if I say, 'The video captures two opinion journalists with strong views and long histories. It speaks for itself."

"That's what I thought was the angle," Wischnowski replied. "Two opinion journalists" from two newspapers that were "highly competitive" against each other.

"How about: "These are two opinions writers with strong views and long histories. Aside from that, we'll let the video tell the story," Escobar wrote.

"A long history," agreed Kerkstra.

"That works," agreed Wischnowski, now the executive editor and vice-president of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who could not be reached for comment. 

"OK," Escobar said.

A day later, Escobar was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that Saffron and Bykofsky were "opinion writers with strong views and a long history."

"Aside from that, we'll let the video tell the story," Escobar told the Post.

"Poorly written piece," Wischnowski complained about the Post story. "Hack job. He treats us like just another failing regional news operation."

Wischnowski, however, may have found the Post story distasteful because it inspired some in-house criticism of how the Inquirer's top brass was handling an unfolding PR disaster.

"Boardman just sent me a crappy 'this isn't good for our credibility' message," Wischnowski complained.

David Boardman, dean of Temple University's Klein College of Media and Communication, is also chair of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the nonprofit that owns the for-profit Inquirer.

Another problem, Wischnowski wrote, was that "Lauren is insisting we find out who gave Philly mag the video ('It's against company policy . . .') which I told her is next to impossible to determine."

Lauren Kauffman is vice president of People and Culture at the Inquirer, formerly known as Human Resources. 

"The video was taken by Stu's wife," Kerkstra wrote, mistakenly referring to Bykofsky's girlfriend.

"That's what I figured but what possibly could HR do with that," Wischnowski wrote.

"Nothing!!" replied Kerkstra.

"I'm getting a little vibe from her that we should have been more proactive in containing things," Wischnowski wrote about the messages he was receiving from Kauffman.

"I've said we treated fairly and responsibly as journalists and newsroom leaders attempting to give employees a chance to honor a 47-year employee," Wischnowski wrote.

Some honor.

"It was an impossible situation," Kerkstra replied. "There were no good moves."

Not by these guys.


  1. Byko should give thanks to the Satan that he has worshipped for being employed by the Inky for 47 years. He made a career as a hatchet man along side his ass hole Buddy Marimow.

    The Most Telling side of This Piece is that Marimow landed with that scumbag Tierney. If He would have taken Byko along for the Ride there would probably never have been a law suit for a dismissal that proved that there is a little justice in life and a lot of karma.

    Good Work Inga, You are Heroic.

    Jason Brando

    1. Agreed.
      Much on the lawsuit...little investigation on the allegations. Media oligarchs shift focus to confuse, deflect and disorient the readership.
      Could some one please investigate the serious allegations?

  2. 1984 wasn't supposed to be an instruction manual. "Vice president of people and culture" actually sounds more ominous and like someone who wishes to take agency of others than just saying VP of human resources.
    These people acted abysmally and their subsequent actions reveal who they really are and what they really intended here. I hope Stu stomps them in legal proceedings.

    1. But what of Stu's actions?
      We need to rigorously investigate them.
      The Inquirer would soft pedal this as "troubling workplace behaviors".

  3. Who in the general public could possibly care? Wasted ink on non-entities. Where's the story.................

  4. Brian Tierney has been forever maligned as the well paid flack who protected the abusive and profligate Cardinal Bevilaqua when uncensored reports were Published of His Questionable Spending and malignant Crimes and Misbehavior.

    On the St Joseph's Campus, the Cardinal enjoyed a favorite past time of counseling female gymnasts.

    Dr. Larry Nasser is serving a Life Prison Term for Crimes that may be minor to the alleged Spiritual and Sundry Assaults of The Protected Benign Advisor.

    Tierney and Marimow should be advising Andrew Cuomo, they have a great track record for making the Story Fit Disjointed Lies and Mistruths.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.