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updated: 5/31/2012 6:19 PM

Talk with the Editor: Our duty to report on Kirk's divorce

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  • U.S.Rep Mark Kirk with his ex-wife Kimberly Vertolli.

      U.S.Rep Mark Kirk with his ex-wife Kimberly Vertolli.
    DANIEL WHITE | Staff Photographer


Hello, just returned from a restful vacation in Hawaii, and it's good to be back in the saddle. But being a little stumped for a topic, I asked for ideas on Facebook. A friend there suggested that, in light of this week's reports on the allegations Sen. Mark Kirk's ex-wife has leveled against him, I explain whether we have any second thoughts when writing about the divorces of politicians.

Second thoughts? I wouldn't say that.

But stories like that do merit special care, sensitivity and a great appreciation for the vested interests that can color the truth.

Divorce often -- make that, almost always -- is a tumultuous, emotional, messy thing. It's not unusual for people going through one to feel hurt, angry, conflicted, lost, used -- to feel any or all of those things and not just feel them but to feel them with an intensity that exceeds almost any other life experience.

It is not unheard of that someone going through the pain of divorce blatantly lies about the spouse for one reason or another. But that's probably rare, A greater threat to accuracy is that much more often, someone going through a divorce may simply be too dazed or conflicted for the time being to see things clearly.

So yes, we recognize that allegations such as those Kimberly Vertolli filed with the Federal Election Commission against Kirk may be cluttered by emotional issues we're not in a position to sort out.

But when she makes a formal complaint that the Kirk campaign may have improperly disguised money that went to Kirk's former girlfriend, we also know when Kirk's office characterizes the charge as little more than the spurious complaint of an embittered ex-wife, that response is issued with no small degree of vested interests too.

Kirk's got an obligation to respond with facts to the charges. It's that simple, and it's our job to insist that he does.

Our responsibility is to use care and precision in reporting the allegations, to sort out as much as possible the emotion from facts that can be substantiated -- and frankly to exercise some healthy skepticism when considering the arguments raised on either side.

Eventually, the facts will out, and the public has a right -- even a need -- to hear the arguments.

As always, I'm interested in what you think.

• (We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... We expect to publish some of today's comments in the print editions ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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