Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2007

Local Reporters Threatened by Celebrity

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 11:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Montel Williams has multiple sclerosis and he appears on behalf of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a pharmaceutical-supported organization that provides prescription medicines to poor people. Williams was recently in Savannah GA to appear at an event for the Partnerships “Help is Here Express.”

Before the event, Williams was interviewed by Courtney Scott, a 17-year-old high school journalism intern for the Savannah Morning News. Scott’s second question irritated Williams:

“Before the rally in Johnson Square, Williams stood for an interview with Scott. With her second question she asked, “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?”

It was a question she came up with after discussing the issue with her Advanced Placement English teacher.

Williams bristled. “I’m trying to figure out exactly why you are here and what the interview is about,” he replied. He asked if she suffered from any illness, to which she answered no.

“I’m here as a patient advocate talking about the fact that medications available today are saving people’s lives, that’s what saving mine and after that, this interview is done.” He snapped his fingers, said thanks and walked away.”

Susan Catron, the Savannah Morning News Executive Editor, defended Scott’s question but it’s what happened later that day that made news:

“Later, Scott, web content producer Joseph Cosey and intern Phillip Moore went to the Westin for an unrelated assignment featuring gingerbread houses at the hotel. Williams and his bodyguard were in the lobby, too.

“As we were preparing to film, Montel walked up with his bodyguard and got in Courtney Scott’s face pointing his finger telling her, ‘Don’t look at me like that. Do you know who I am? I’m a big star, and I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up,’ ” Cosey said. “At this time he was pointing randomly at all of us.” Moore and Scott corroborated the statement.

“He was really mad. He was angry at me,” Scott said. She is a 17-year-old senior at Jenkins High School working for the Morning News in an apprenticeship program through Savannah-Chatham public schools. “I wasn’t expecting him to come at me and go off, I was expecting him to say, ‘No hard feelings from before.’ I’m not sure if he meant ‘blow me up’ and ruin my career or really blow us up, but it was threatening.”

Williams later released a statement about the incident:

“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” the statement read. “I mistakenly thought the reporter and photographer in question were at the hotel to confront me about some earlier comments. I was wrong and I apologize for my overreaction.”

Scott conditionally accepted Williams’ apology:

“I won’t accept the apology unless he does it on his show in front of everyone,” she said, “because he embarrassed me in front of a crowd.”

Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, “said the question would have been better directed to himself because he represents the drug industry, and Williams is paid to raise awareness of the drug program.” While Johnson agreed that Williams’ behavior was not acceptable, he also pointed out that “[m]ost people have no idea of the pain he [Williams] suffers because of MS.”

I am sympathetic to Williams’ medical condition but if he is going to appear on behalf of and be paid by a pharmaceutical organization, he should be prepared to answer questions like this. In any event, it was an excellent question and it sounds like Courtney Scott kept her composure in a difficult situation.

— DRJ

Port Security Good News/Bad News

Filed under: Government,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:16 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Here’s a good news/bad news story:

“Two stowaways from the Republic of Djibouti were detained for immigration violations after being discovered hiding aboard a military cargo ship.

The two men were found three weeks ago on a ship carrying military equipment to the Port of Beaumont, U.S. Coast Guard officials said. The stowaways were detected after they asked crew members for food and water.

The ship, owned by Alaska-based Tote, was headed toward the 842nd Transportation Battalion, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James E. Walters. The incident did not affect operations at the port, officials said. The ship was boarded offshore and the men were taken into custody before the vessel entered the Sabine-Neches waterway.”

The Good News:

US port security successfully detained illegal immigrant stowaways on a military cargo ship before they entered the US …

The Bad News:

… apparently the stowaways were not found for days/weeks until they turned themselves in because they were hungry and thirsty.

(Sigh.)

— DRJ

TNR Let Beauchamp’s Wife Fact-Check His Stories

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:02 pm

As I see it, here are the major takeaway items from Franklin Foer’s piece on Scott Thomas Beauchamp. I spoke to Bob Owens and he confirmed that these facts were revealed for the first time in Foer’s piece.

  • Beauchamp’s wife was involved the fact-checking of Beauchamp’s pieces.

    See page 3 of the 14-page statement:

    But there was one avoidable problem with our Beauchamp fact-check. His wife, Reeve, was assigned a large role in checking his third piece. While we believe she acted with good faith and integrity–not just in this instance, but throughout this whole ordeal–there was a clear conflict of interest. At the time, our logic–in hindsight, obviously flawed–was that corresponding with a soldier in Iraq is logistically difficult and Reeve was already routinely speaking with him. It was a mistake–and we’ve imposed new rules to prevent future fact-checking conflicts of interest.

    It takes new rules to ensure that someone’s spouse is not involved in fact-checking their pieces?

    Amazing.

  • One of the corroborating witnesses for Beauchamp’s tales was removed from Iraq by the Army due to mental health problems.

    See page 9 of the statement:

    Beauchamp had described Kiple to me as the figure in his story who stabs his mashed potatoes in disgust at the sight of the disfigured woman and cracks jokes at her expense. When the “Shock Troops” controversy emerged, Kiple was in the process of leaving the military and was being held at a base in Germany. He told me the Army had removed him from Iraq on mental health grounds. Once in Germany, he had gotten into trouble for “out on the town stuff” and “resisting arrest.” We’d left messages on his MySpace page for him to call. Several days after Beauchamp went incommunicado, Kiple called me on a Saturday morning.

    Kiple understood that he didn’t make the ideal witness, given his current predicament. But he did recall the events Beauchamp described.

    So TNR told us that there were corroborating witnesses — but neglected to mention a credibility issue like this?

We also learn that the other corroborating witnesses for Beauchamp’s story were Beauchamp’s buddies. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall that having been disclosed previously either.

As I said, the fallout is going to be ugly.

Push the button, Frank.

UPDATE: Bob Owens’s Pajamas Media piece is out. Read it here.

BREAKING: The New Republic Retracts Beauchamp Stories

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:46 pm

On October 12 — shortly after the news broke that Scott Beauchamp had spoken with editors of The New Republic and refused to stand by his story — I asked a very simple question:

if Scott Beauchamp can’t stand by his story, how can The New Republic stand by his story?

As it turns out, they can’t.

Bob Owens reports that TNR has issued a statement, amusingly titled Fog of War. (In the “Fog of War,” who can remember whether they mocked a disfigured woman in Iraq or in Kuwait?) Buried deep down in the TNR statement is this:

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.

In my October post, I said:

Where I suspect this is headed is simple: the editors can’t hide forever. Sooner or later they are going to have to address this. And if they can’t get something solid from Beauchamp, then they are going to have to retract the story.

. . . .

And if, as Power Line suggests, the content of their conversation with Beauchamp becomes public, and it suggests that what I have said above is true — that despite a public face of confidence in their story, they were actually trembling with fear over their reputations — then the fallout will be very ugly indeed.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the fallout. In fact, I think it may be just beginning.

Stay tuned to Pajamas Media for a more detailed reaction from Bob.

UPDATE: The Instapundit says:

AMIDST A CLOUD OF INK, TNR RETRACTS AND FLEES THE SCENE.

That’s a great metaphor. It’s a reference to the octopus, which squirts out ink as a defense mechanism. Here is an elaboration of the metaphor by a prosecutor, who used it to portray defense arguments as an effort to obscure the truth:

I am reminded of a story that the writer, Victor Hugo, tells us about an octopus who really has no feet to attack its enemies like a bird, it has no claws like a lion and it has no teeth like an alligator. What the octopus does when it attacks is it releases a big pouch filled with ink into the water, and this ink is released and it clouds up the water. And the octopus swims away while the water is still muddied up, and his enemies cannot see him.

Why I tell you that is you have been given a big ink pouch in this case.

Similarly, as the Instapundit notes, TNR editors have issued their retraction in the middle of a big cloud of ink. But it won’t work. We are still able to behold the form of the retreating octopus.

UPDATE x2: Michelle Malkin: “Buh-bye, Franklin Foer.” (Thanks for the link, Michelle.)

UPDATE x3: Thanks to Instapundit for the link. He adds: “My take? Push the button, Frank.”

Heh.

An octopus metaphor and an MST3K reference, all in fewer than 50 words. Now that’s how you express concepts clearly and concisely. No octopus ink there!

UPDATE x4: I discuss the takeaway points from Foer’s piece here. My favorite: TNR let Beauchamp’s wife participate in fact-checking one of his stories.

Tim Rutten Blasts CNN: The Corrupt News Network

Filed under: Media Bias — DRJ @ 12:20 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

LA Times’ columnist Tim Rutten fired both barrels at CNN (or as he calls it, the Corrupt News Network) over its handling of the Republican YouTube debate:

“The United States is at war in the Middle East and Central Asia, the economy is writhing like a snake with a broken back, oil prices are relentlessly climbing toward $100 a barrel and an increasing number of Americans just can’t afford to be sick with anything that won’t be treated with aspirin and bed rest.

So, when CNN brought the Republican presidential candidates together this week for what is loosely termed a “debate,” what did the country get but a discussion of immigration, Biblical inerrancy and the propriety of flying the Confederate flag?

In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable to play the political role the Democratic and Republican parties recently have conceded it.

Selecting a president is, more than ever, a life and death business, and a news organization that consciously injects itself into the process, as CNN did by hosting Wednesday’s debate, incurs a special responsibility to conduct itself in a dispassionate and, most of all, disinterested fashion. When one considers CNN’s performance, however, the adjectives that leap to mind are corrupt and incompetent.

Rutten begins with a discussion of why the debate questions were not representative of ordinary Americans:

“Corruption is a strong word. But consider these facts: The gimmick behind Wednesday’s debate was that the questions would be selected from those that ordinary Americans submitted to the video sharing Internet website YouTube, which is owned by Google. According to CNN, its staff culled through 5,000 submissions to select the handful that were put to the candidates. That process essentially puts the lie to the vox populi aura the association with YouTube was meant to create. When producers exercise that level of selectivity, the questions — whoever initially formulated and recorded them — actually are theirs.

Next, Rutten points out that CNN’s hand-picked questions did not ask about subjects that the vast majority of Americans think are important issues:

“That’s where things begin to get troubling, because CNN chose to devote the first 35 minutes of this critical debate to a single issue — immigration. Now, if that leaves you scratching your head, it’s probably because you’re included in the 96% of Americans who do not think immigration is the most important issue confronting this country. We’ve got a pretty good fix concerning what’s on the American mind right now, because the nonpartisan and highly reliable Pew Center has been regularly polling people since January on the issues that matter most to them. In fact, the center’s most recent survey was conducted in the days leading up to Wednesday’s debate.

HERE’S what Pew found: By an overwhelming margin, Americans think the war in Iraq is the most important issue facing the United States, followed by the economy, healthcare and energy prices.

However, Rutten’s harshest criticism was reserved for what he labels as CNN’s self-serving agenda. By devoting a large part of the debate to immigration, Rutten argues that CNN boosted its ratings by focusing on an issue championed by Lou Dobbs, its most popular news host:

“So, why did CNN make immigration the keystone of this debate? What standard dictated the decision to give that much time to an issue so remote from the majority of voters’ concerns? The answer is that CNN’s most popular news-oriented personality, Lou Dobbs, has made opposition to illegal immigration and free trade the centerpiece of his neonativist/neopopulist platform. In fact, Dobbs led into Wednesday’s debate with a good solid dose of immigrant bashing. His network is in a desperate ratings battle with Fox News and, in a critical prime-time slot, with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. So, what’s good for Dobbs is good for CNN.

In other words, CNN intentionally directed the Republicans’ debate to advance its own interests. Make immigration a bigger issue and you’ve made a bigger audience for Dobbs.

That’s corruption, and it’s why the Republican candidates had to spend more than half an hour “debating” an issue on which their differences are essentially marginal — and, more important, why GOP voters had to sit and wait, mostly in vain, for the issues that really concern them to be discussed. That’s particularly true because that same Pew poll reported findings of particular relevance to Republican voters, the vast majority of whom continue to support the war in Iraq.”

Rutten reserved a big helping of disdain for CNN’s use of a religious/Biblical question to hurt Mitt Romney and help Mike Huckabee, “who, as a Baptist minister, had a ready answer, and who happens to be television’s campaign flavor of the month.”

Rutten concludes by urging Democrats and Republicans to remove CNN from electoral affairs. Somehow I don’t think the Democratic Party will take him up on that idea but the GOP probably would should.

— DRJ


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