Fiedler Apologizes, But For What?

The apology by Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler in this morning's newspaper was among the strangest things I have ever read in my life. On the front page, with his picture, he apologized for using "an unfortunate term" in a staff meeting.

He didn't say what the comment was — nor did he disclose why he would comment publicly about something said among his reporters and editors.

But according to sources at the Herald, the comment in question had appeared in the paper the day before. Here's what it said:

In staff meetings Tuesday, Herald reporters asked whether the paper was caving to critics. Editor Tom Fiedler dismissed that notion, saying the ''22 people who listen to Cuban radio'' were being stirred up by ''little Chihuahuas nipping at our heels.'' He later apologized for his choice of words.

The comment about Chihuahuas came in response to a question/comment from general assignment reporter Ellie Brecher. Fiedler had denied that publisher Jesus Diaz's resignation on Monday was a result of complaints from the Cuban community. But Brecher said that the radio listeners and hosts of station like WQBA-AM (1140) and Radio Mambi (710-AM) were indeed crowing about the resignation.

"The comment about Chihuahuas raised another round of ethnic-inspired vitriol on Cuban radio," says a source at the Herald. "It was taken as a massive insult. Tom has been apologizing all over the newsroom ever since."

Fiedler declined comment on the dispute. "I'm going to follow Will Rogers' advice. 'When you're in a hole, stop digging.' " Chuck Strouse

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Frank Houston