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December 14, 2010 3:17 pm

EDITORIAL: Verify before you judge

Written by Tessa Schweigert

There’s an old fable about a gossiper who didn’t understand the consequences of her slanderous words. A wise man tells her to take feathers from a pillow and scatter them throughout town. After doing so, she is then challenged to pick up every single feather.

The task proves impossible. Wind sweeps the feathers far beyond her reach, and she gathers only a few.

Just as it was impossible for the gossip to pick up every scattered feather, so it was impossible to completely repair the damage wrought by her slander.

The analogy comes to mind as a case of damaging accusations plays out in the Big Horn Basin.

Last week, dozens of residents received an anonymous letter containing apparently libelous accusations about Dr. Jimmie Biles, who has practiced medicine in the area since 1987.

The letter contains a mug shot of Biles, obtained from the Park County Sheriff’s website, and a list of allegations that are almost entirely unfounded. Though Biles was in fact arrested for a DUI in October, other accusations in the letter are complete fabrications.

In a statement Friday, Sheriff Scott Steward said someone “altered that information to include more serious offenses that never occurred.”

The sheriff’s office is investigating where the letter originated and who is responsible for the mass mailing.

It’s worth noting that after the letter surfaced last week, West Park Hospital issued a statement affirming Biles as a professional, trusted physician and denouncing the contents of the anonymous letter.

In an interview with the Tribune, a representative with the Wyoming Board of Medicine said the allegations of medical misconduct were unfounded.

Dr. Biles also addressed the matter, and wrote in a statement, “These allegations are simply not true; and they are designed to hurt me, my medical practice and my family.”

Unfortunately, words can create incredible damage. The malicious nature of this letter has the potential to cause harm, unless local residents choose to separate truth from lies.

It is our hope that residents verify the facts before making a judgment — and before spreading damaging words that can never be taken back.

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