Former Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney has admitted to creating fake online identities to attack a politically active public relations executive in an attempt to influence Kathleen Donovan’s 2014 re-election campaign for county executive.
“The accusations I disseminated through phony names about Mr. Marcus were not true,” McNerney said in a signed statement that ran as a paid advertisement in Sunday’s edition of The (Bergen) Record. “They were part of a campaign I designed, implemented and shared with members of the Bergen County Democratic Organization to scandalize Mr. Marcus for the benefit of Democratic candidates.”
Donovan defeated McNerney when he sought a third term in 2010. Democrat James Tedesco unseated Donovan four years later.
In addition to a public apology, McNerney said he has “agreed to a significant financial settlement with Mr. Marcus” and is helping to get some of his comments removed.
Marcus sued McNerney for $16 million, alleging that McNerney and his wife used more than two-dozen screen names and posted nearly 90 comments accusing the former Assembly Clerk and Donovan campaign advisor of bribery, blackmail, fraud — and even trading county contracts for sex.
“In retrospect, it is clear to me that this is not how political campaigns are or should be run,” McNerney wrote in his apology. “I regret my failures in this regard.”
The Record, which covers local politics in Bergen County, accepted a paid advertisement that ran in their newspaper, but they did not cover the settlement as a news story. The North Jersey daily has lost 71% of their paid circulation since the sale of the newspaper to Gannett, and the McNerney apology did not appear online.
Editor’s Note: After the publication of the New Jersey Globe report, the Record did add a news story.