©2003 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
My Name’s Been Stolen
Two years ago, someone broke my car window, took some things from the glove compartment and a suitcase I had left on the back seat. Twenty years ago, I had a motorbike stolen from my garage. In the Army, at Fort Bragg, someone went through my footlocker and took $20 I had saved for the day I could get a 24-hour pass. These were the only brushes with crime I’d had in my life until recently. Now, several thieves have taken something of great value from me - my name.
More than a year ago, people started sending me copies of an email that was appearing on computers all over the country. It was a list of about 20 comments, each one or two sentences long, under my byline. The piece was titled, "In Praise of Older Women-By Andy Rooney." It was sappy and obviously nothing I might have written, but harmless. While I didn’t like the idea of someone using my name as his own, I didn’t try to do anything about it.
Several months after I first saw the email, a man named Frank Kaiser wrote asking why I had put my name on something he had written in 2000 for his syndicated column called Suddenly Senior. I called Frank immediately and he accepted the fact that someone else had taken what he wrote and put my name on it.
There have been two other instances of someone distributing a list of opinions under my name. What would make someone write down a series of personal observations and distribute them using my name as the author? It mystifies me.
About a year ago, I became aware of a more serious theft of my name and it is so hurtful to my reputation that it calls for legal action against the thief. Hundreds of people have written asking if I really wrote the 20 detestable remarks made under my name that have had such wide circulation on the Internet.
The list of remarks begins:
"I like big cars, big boats, big motorcycles, big houses and big campfires."
"I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some governmental stooge with a bad comb-over who wants to give it away to crack addicts for squirting babies."
"Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer."
"I have the right NOT to be tolerant of others because they are weird, different or tick me off."
Some of the remarks, which I will not repeat here, are viciously racist and the spirit of the whole thing is nasty, mean and totally inconsistent with my philosophy of life. It is apparent that the list of comments has been read by hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of whom must believe that it accurately represents opinions of mine that I don’t dare express in my column or on television. It is seriously damaging to my reputation.
The only good thing to come out of this incident is the dozens of letters I’ve received from people saying they know me well enough to know I didn’t write the comments. There must be many more, however, who are ready to believe I did write them.
I have tracked the email back to an address in Tucson and a Web site called "CelebrityHypocrites.com," which is owned by a man named Dave Mason. Mr. Mason lists as his address, "405 East Wetmore Road, No. 117 PMB 520, Tucson, Arizona 85705." I was in Tucson recently and foolishly went to that address thinking it might be Mason’s home or business. I’d like to know more about Mason, but the address was a commercial mailbox business and I didn’t wait around for him to show up so I could confront him. If it is Dave Mason who has stolen my name, I demand that he put out a retraction that reaches as many people as his fraudulent email did.