But what was it about Stuart Miller that caused such a panic? Miller himself declined to comment, but it's no secret that the Miller family, supported by many powerful business people, lashed out at the Herald in response to a column written by Jim DeFede (a New Times alum) shortly after the death of Leonard Miller. Amid the many articles and obituaries lionizing Miller for his philanthropic contributions, DeFede wrote on August 1, 2002, that "Lennar built many of the homes in South Miami-Dade reduced to kindling during Hurricane Andrew," and the company was "hit with allegations of shoddy construction." Miller's good deeds tended to insulate him from such criticism, DeFede wrote, adding: "It's like a form of money-laundering, only I call it reputation-laundering." Three weeks later he wrote another piece critical of Lennar.
The reaction was intense. Letter-writers excoriated DeFede. An ad hoc group of civic leaders descended on Ibargüen, demanding that DeFede be fired. But to their credit, Herald bosses left the columnist alone. "As you can see I'm still at the paper," DeFede said last week. "I've never been told I can't write about anyone."
Herald execs scrambled to seize all issues of Street featuring Stuart Miller (left) and replace him with José Canseco
So relations between the Herald and the Miller family have been strained for a while. Given that the Lennar Corporation is a major business presence in South Florida, it may be tempting to think that Diaz and/or Ibargüen wanted to avoid further offending a man whose advertising decisions could affect the Herald's bottom line. A tempting thought perhaps, but one without the tiniest scintilla of a shred of evidence to support it.
That ill-fated issue of Street was changed in other ways. It also contained an opinion column by staffer Greg Baker that castigated Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele for his controversial plans to redevelop Little Haiti. Baker didn't like what he'd heard about Teele's scheme and ranted that after a recent city commission meeting Teele, "who jabbers at the meetings like a lit-up crackhead," didn't return his calls. Baker went on to wonder whether the other commissioners were "smoking from the same loaded pipe." An illustration accompanying Baker's column depicted Teele reclining with a crack pipe. A tad over the top, not off-the-chart funny, but clearly commentary and thus protected under the First Amendment. In fact Beatty told me that "the legal reasons [for pulling Street] did not pertain to the Art Teele column."
But Street editor Brett O'Bourke, having been spanked for the Stuart Miller item, apparently wasn't about to take any more chances. And so he took advantage of the seizure to quietly decontaminate Baker's column by excising all references to crack and replacing the illustration with a head shot of Teele -- all without Baker's knowledge.
Baker didn't want to comment. Neither did O'Bourke. I guess they've thrown enough attitude for one week.