O'Dear did not stop there. He shared our communication with Stephanie Doolin O'Dear, his ex wife and current partner (they reunited, but apparently did not remarry in 2014), and she also has expressed her dismay with our reporting. Ms. O'Dear notes that she, like me, is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Perhaps that is where our connection is supposed to begin.
In any event, here is her full response, once Craig O'Dear forwarded my communications to her -- which I have no problem with, by the way. And I have to say that Stephanie O'Dear is a pretty darned good writer, as I would expect from a graduate of the MU J-School. Here is Ms. O'Dear's e-mail:
Dear Mr. Shuler,
As a fellow University of Missouri Journalism school graduate I am confounded by your definition of journalism and the motives from which you are operating. This approach of salacious and hurtful disclosure is not what we were taught to go forth and pursue with our degrees and that you are using that fine education to pursue such a trajectory saddens me.
What is especially troubling being the lack of backstory that you have elected to circumvent and that would not be obvious to anyone simply searching via Google for random details. Those details are difficult, complex and private and your notion that you will and have a right to force our hand is troubling. From what pedestal are you mandating this approach and what is your motive other than to attempt to humiliate and hurt a family that you do not know and in which you have no vested interest? It is perplexing and again, saddening, to know that anyone out there would embark upon this tactic and slander a family that has done you no harm.
Our family story is an amazing one but one that has withstood tests and trials the likes of which you cannot know or understand. Including, the breakup of our marriage and the struggles for our children that it inherently brought. If you must know, I take responsibility for the divorce and was the one who filed. The details of our downfall aren’t relevant here except that Craig never had an affair nor did I ever accuse him of such. If he did participate in any online sites as you are suggesting, he did so at a time and place that we no longer had a mutual marital obligation to each other and was free to pursue his life as he so chose. We both have deep regrets about that time period though as divorce simply does not bring out the best in anyone but Craig did nothing wrong and never violated his vows to me. And divorcing him is the greatest mistake of my life.
If you must go forward, what you must also consider is where we are today and that is truly the story, if you are looking for one. It is of redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness. It is of two people who genuinely never stopped loving each other and through grace and time found a way to be together again – which is what we have been working towards for some time now, culminating with me moving back into the family home this past Memorial Day. Craig and I are deeply committed to each other and unconditionally devoted to rebuilding our family together. To healing wounds and finding new opportunities. To loving each other better than we did before and to focusing on the future and all the wonderful things that lie ahead. To supporting our children as they launch into adulthood and to being there as their parents no matter what. To creating a life where we each have the other’s back and to supporting one another through the difficult times, like the one you have created today.
So if you want an interesting story to tell, I’ve just told you one. And if you are a man of integrity, honor, and grace – like Craig O’Dear is – and intent on pursuing a post on your blog then you will focus on our family’s future, rather than our past. We respectfully ask that you refrain from pursuing your post and move on. There is only a good news story here and it is one that inspires hope, a renewed belief in humanity, and the power of forgiveness. Thank you.
I feel the need to respond to a few of Ms. O'Dear's statements:
1. In the second paragraph, she references my right "to force our hand." Force their hand about what? I'm not sure what that means.
2. In the same paragraph, Ms. O'Dear says my post will "slander a family." I was required to take a course in Communications Law at MU, and I suspect Ms. O'Dear was, too. She should know that slander is a legal term with a specific meaning, and my reporting does not meet that standard -- not even close.
3. In the third paragraph she states that I'm "suggesting" Mr. O'Dear participated at Ashley Madison. My post isn't "suggesting" anything in that regard; it is directly stating that Mr. O'Dear's name is on the list of paying AM customers -- and he does not deny that.
4. Ms. O'Dear further says Mr. O'Dear never violated his vows to her, but my post never says he did. It says only that he was a paying customer at AM, a site designed specifically (according to its own marketing) to facilitate extramarital affairs. And that is true.
5. Ms. O'Dear says she and Mr. O'Dear are committed to helping each other through "difficult times, like the one you have created today." I'm glad to hear they are committed to working through difficult times; Lord knows, my wife, Carol, and I have experienced 16 years' worth of difficult times, thanks largely to corrupt individuals in Mr. O'Dear's profession. Aside from that, I applaud the O'Dears' commitment to move forward together. But I would suggest they realize that I'm not the one who signed up for Ashley Madison -- and I'm hardly the only journalist who has reported on this story. As far as I know, I am the only journalist to drill beneath the surface and report on the numerous prominent professionals and elites who signed up for the site. That's the kind of reporting I was taught at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and it has served me well for 35-plus years.
6. Ms. O'Dear notes that if I'm "a man of integrity, honor, and grace," I will focus on her family's future rather than its past. Well, I've done just that, by publishing her statement in full -- along with the statement of Mr. O'Dear.