Integrity and honesty. Two traits that everyone should strive to obtain. I put quite a bit of value on them. If someone says they will do something, they should do it. They should not lie about it, nor should they weasel out of a promise made. It speaks volumes about a person if they do not deal with others honestly or keep their word. Such actions make them untrustworthy. If you cannot trust someone in relatively small matters, then it becomes difficult to trust them with larger matters. This is particularly important when it comes to dealing with businessmen who have managed equity investments and specialize in mergers and acquisitions. You would expect them to honor their contracts.
There was one person in whom I really did want to see a glimmer of integrity and honesty. Despite his callous, abrasive nature, I really did hope that when he made a promise, he would keep it. I'm speaking, of course, about Generation Rescue and Age of Autism's Mr. Jonathan B. Handley.
A Promise Made
Back on November 16, 2010 (cached version here), Mr. Handley made a rather outrageous claim that blogger Sullivan was really Bonnie Offit, wife of pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. In that post, he made a promise (emphasis added):
Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer:
If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the pauloffit.com website is given to you and your husband for good.
In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.
In this quote, Mr. Handley essentially created a contract between himself and the Offits. The transaction would consist of transferring ownership of the domain name pauloffit.com to Bonnie and Paul. The price of the transaction was the production of "a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan". Upon production of that individual, Mr. Handley has explicitly agreed to make sure that the web site is given, permanently, to Dr. and Mrs. Offit. He did not set any timeframe for the revelation of Sullivan's identity.
One April 27, 2011, Sullivan revealed himself as Matt Carey, father of an autistic child. He blogs under the name Sullivan and has a good understanding of medical and scientific literature. In fact, he presented at this year's IMFAR conference in California.
Two days after this revelation, I had to post a followup, giving Mr. Handley props for keeping his word. You see, Mr. Handley admitted his error and wrote the following (cached version here:
I also offered to give up the website www.pauloffit.com...‘Nuff said, in the world I live in, a deal’s a deal, even if you took five months to get here. Just email me, plenty on the dark side know how to find me, and we can work out the details.
Shortly after that, the web site pauloffit.com, which had, until then, contained defamatory articles about Dr. Offit, displayed nothing but a white page with the image of Sullivan, from Monsters Inc..
Many people took this to mean that Mr. Handley had handed over ownership and control of the web site to Mr. Carey. It was very amusing and garnered a lot of praise.
A Promise Broken
And then yesterday, the site had reverted to its defamatory origins, with the addition of Mike Wazowski to the title.
|Click to enlarge|
This was first spotted by Liz Ditz, at I Speak of Dreams.
I decided to do a bit of investigating. Unfortunately, WhoIs wasn't any help, as the ownership of the domain name has been kept anonymous. So, I decided to contact both Mr. Carey and Dr. Offit to find out if they had been in contact with Mr. Handley regarding transfer of ownership of the site. Mr. Carey responded:
After Mr. Handley emailed me I replied that he could transfer the domain directly to the Offits. He never contacted them. As far as I can tell, the Sullivan picture was JB Handley's work.
And Dr. Offit's response:
I suspect that Mr. Handley did turn over the site. He just didn't turn it over to me or my wife. But his dishonesty isn't particularly surprising.
I can live with Handley's ill-informed and misguided attacks against me. But he reaches a new low when he accuses my wife of something she never did. Frankly, I've never come across anyone so relentlessly mean-spirited.
After promising that he would turn the site over to the Offits, Mr. Handley has reneged on his deal. He broke his contract with Dr. and Mrs. Offit and Mr. Carey. He is not a man of his word. In short, he is a liar.
Now, I am not a lawyer, so I cannot say if Mr. Handley's original offer could be held up under Oregon law (he's a resident of Portland), but his actions do make me wonder about how he deals in his other business. If he will not honor a deal as minor as this, will he honor other deals? Might he renege on financial deals with his clients? Perhaps not honor a merger/acquisition agreement? I cannot say, but my personal opinion is that I could not trust him to honor any contract after this. (For those who are lawyerly inclined, here are the Oregon laws on sales and contracts.)
Mr. Handley still has opportunity to make things right. He still has the chance to honor his word and turn pauloffit.com over to Dr. and Mrs. Offit. I would like to believe that even he can show some integrity, but it really is up to him to show it.
So, what's it going to be, Mr. Handley? Are you going to remain in breach of your contract or are you going to do the right thing and honor your offer?
UPDATE: I received an e-mail from Dr. Offit, informing me that he received an e-mail from register.com at 11:50am today (May 15, 2011) stating that Mr. Handley was willing to transfer pauloffit.com to Dr. Offit. The site, as of 6:08pm, May 15, 2011, looks like it is mirroring paul-offit.com:
Because Mr. Handley burned us all once with the Sullivan image, I'm going to wait a few days before I fully trust that Dr. Offit has finally gained control of the domain.
UPDATE: On May 16, 2011, Mr. Handley put up a post at Age of Autism about this whole affair in which he, once again, breaks his word. He writes about Dr. Offit, which he promised not to do ever again. Granted, he doesn't actually use Dr. Offit's name, instead referring to him as a "vaccine profiteer". I guess Mr. Handley just is not a man of his word, allowing his hatred of Dr. Offit to bring him to the point of breaking his promises.
UPDATE: The picture is becoming somewhat clearer. This evening (May 16), I received e-mails forwarded from both Mr. Carey and Dr. Offit, showing me exactly what they received and when. From what I can see, it appears that on May 2nd, Mr. Handley contacted a third party who apparently controlled the web site. On the 3rd, that third party replied to Mr. Handley letting him know that the domain was unlocked and that anyone could request a transfer (note that this is not the same as actually processing the transfer). Around 1pm on Sunday, May 15, a confirmation e-mail was sent to Mr. Handley indicating that the "Transfer of Registrant for pauloffit.com from JB Handley to Paul Offit" had been processed successfully. This information was provided to me by Mr. Carey, who has a more detailed account at Left Brain/Right Brain.
As to Dr. Offit, he forwarded to me the following e-mail, which he received yesterday, May 15, at 11:50am:
Checking the WhoIs listing for the site, today, revealed that the site is now registered to Bonnie Offit.
I am not clear on exactly what the delay was between Mr. Handley's May 2nd e-mail to the third party and the e-mail received by Dr. Offit 13 days later. I am also unclear on why the site changed to the picture of Sullivan and subsequently reverted back to false and erroneous articles denigrating Dr. Offit.
At any rate, based on what was publicly known between April 29 and May 13, I feel that my comments above were at least understandable. Mr. Handley had the option of sharing with me the e-mails involved, which would have clarified matters much more quickly and avoided this whole debacle, instead of complaining in the comments here and elsewhere, as well as in a lengthy article at Age of Autism blog. Certainly, taking such actions instead of calling me an "asshole" would have been far more constructive and avoided much of the temper-laden fallout.
Mr. Handley, while I am not entirely clear on what the problems were, I am glad that the issue is finally resolved and that you have followed through on your promise to ensure that the pauloffit.com web site be transferred to the Offits. In the future, should you feel that I am in error, I invite you to share with me any objective evidence (e.g., e-mails with headers included) that you feel may convince me. If you take the time to engage in a civil manner with me, you will find that I will respond in kind, even if I may disagree with you.
Unless you wish to discuss anything further, I consider the matter settled.
Disclaimer: This post represents my understanding of the facts and my interpretation and opinions thereof. They do not constitute declarations of fact in and of themselves and should not be interpreted to be libelous. If any errors of fact are discovered, I am more than willing to review my words and change them as appropriate.
Copyright disclaimer: The images and names of Mike Wazowski, Sullivan and Monsters Inc. are property of Disney and Pixar. I make no claims to them and use them only to illustrate my points.