Judging by this snarky response, the American newspaper the Jewish Messenger had called for an American Chief Rabbi of sorts.
This did not sit well with Isaac Mayer Wise, who wrote the following in his paper the Israelite (June 20, 1862):
The "celibate" editor of the Occident is Isaac Leeser, who was a bachelor. Wolf2191 of Ishim ve-Shitos recently called my attention to the Letters of Rebecca Gratz, who mentions Leeser a few times. In a letter dated Feb 2, 1834 Gratz writes to her sister about Leeser's suffering from smallpox. Apparently he was self conscious about his looks to begin with, but now the resulting facial disfigurement means he probably won't get married.
Here's a picture of him where you can see his scars:
In any case, Wise's nasty comment about Leeser's personal status did not come out of the blue. Not long before Leeser had publicly questioned whether Wise was a rabbi at all (Leeser did not claim to be one) and opined that if he was then he ought to produce his semicha certificate.
Aryeh Rubinstein pointed out two later sources which discuss Wise's ordination (Isaac Mayer Wise: A New Appraisal," Jewish Social Studies 39 (1977). In the Selected Writings of Wise (1900) the editors write that he was ordained with the title Morenu at age 23 (1843) by the Prague beis din, headed by Rabbi SJ Rapoport (Shir), with Rabbis Ephraim Leib Teweles and Samuel Freund. There is no source given. Presumably it is what Wise himself had told supporters and confidants, although certainly this claim had not reached Leeser, who was in contact with Rapoport who was still very much alive, and could have been asked.
However, Rubinstein points out that in the 1919 number of the Yearbook of the Central Conference of American Rabbis there is a centennial birth tribute to Wise by Gotthard Deutsch ("who could hardly have been unaware of that claim") and the latter states that Wise was ordained by Rabbi Falk Kohn, and he had heard this from the wife of a former pupil of Wise. (Rabbi Falk Kohn is referred to as Rabbi Falk Kat"z in the responsa collection Olat Shmuel by Rabbi Shmuel Leib Kauder, link).
This comes so out of left field that one wonders if it isn't the truth. If that were so, the truth was that Wise was ordained by a rabbi of no great importance, but he inflated it into an ordination of importance. It is no wonder then that he would not produce his certificate. He couldn't since it didn't exist. On the other hand, he could have proved that he was ordained a rabbi, but only by showing the wrong certificate. But of course many took his failure to produce a certificate on demand as proof enough that he was never ordained (Rubinstein points out that Wise granted himself a doctorate that we know he never earned).
On April 4, 1862 a reader wrote to the Israelite basically asking Wise, "Why don't you produce your certificate of ordination, as Leeser demands? After all, שתיקה כהודיה, Silence is an admission."
Wise responded that if he sent his diploma to Leeser, the latter wouldn't be able to read it being as it's written without nekkudot (vowel points)! שתיקה כהודיה, how about לא ראינו אינו ראיה (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence)?
On the one hand, I can well understand the indignity of being demanded to produce a credential. On the other hand, his response doesn't so much mention that as wildly insults Leeser. So even bearing my theory in mind (that he was ordained) one wonders.
In any case, Wise had publicly been taunting Leeser's supposed lack of scholarship for years. Below is a comment that I am reasonably sure is about Leeser, from January 1858:
In fact true or not, Isaac Leeser did not call himself a rabbi at all.