Patterico's Pontifications

5/4/2007

Bud Cummins Sheds Further Light on The L.A. Times’s Mischaracterization of His Views Regarding His Firing

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:20 am

In response to an e-mail from me, Bud Cummins, one of the fired U.S. Attorneys, has written me to shed further light on the L.A. Times‘s mischaracterization of a statement he made concerning his firing.

On March 17, I noted that Cummins had directly contradicted the major premise of an L.A. Times article published about him, in an e-mail to TPMmuckraker. L.A. Times reporter Richard Serrano had written an entire article around a single premise:

Still uncertain exactly why he was fired, former U.S. Atty. H.E. “Bud” Cummins III wonders whether it had something to do with the probe he opened into alleged corruption by Republican officials in Missouri amid a Senate race there that was promising to be a nail-biter.

The story was based on a single quote from Cummins: “Now I keep asking myself: ‘What about the Blunt deal?’” (Matt Blunt was the Missouri Governor, and the L.A. Times asserted that the investigation was connected to him — something Cummins later denied.)

In his e-mail to TPMmuckraker, Cummins disputed that he had asked himself any such thing:

I do not know of any connection whatsoever to the Missouri investigation and my firing. I am not asking myself (or anyone else) about that.

He also said this should have been clear from context:

Unfortunately, that isn’t what I said, or at least what I intended to say, and it is not the case.

The context of my conversation with LA Times reporter Richard Serrano was clearly that I do not know of ANY connection between the Missouri investigation (which actually had nothing to do with Governor Blunt) and my termination.

I wrote the paper’s Readers’ Representative seeking a correction or clarification. She responded:

As The Times story said, Cummins “wonders whether it had something to do with the probe he opened into alleged corruption by Republican officials in Missouri.” . . . According to what you sent, Cummins said that he didn’t “intend” to say something in a certain way; he didn’t, as seems to be your interpretation, “deny the central premise” of the Times story.

I strongly disagree. That is exactly what Mr. Cummins did. The paper said he had wondered aloud about a possible connection, and he said in his TPMmuckraker e-mail that he not wondered any such thing.

But in comments to my post about the paper’s refusal to correct the record, some commenters wondered whether Mr. Cummins had written the paper about this. I was curious about that, but had no way to contact him — until yesterday, when I saw an e-mail exchange between him and James Comey, in which Mr. Cummins’s e-mail address had been poorly redacted. I thought I could guess his e-mail addresss, and wrote him. In the extended entry is his response, which he authorized me to quote. I have bolded the parts that I think are relevant to the accuracy of the L.A. Times story:

Mr. Frey,

Miraculously, I have read your blog! I say “miraculously” only because I didn’t even know what a “blog” was before the USA controversy heated up. I remember hearing about their role in the fake National Guard Letters/CBS debacle, but didn’t really drill down to see what blogs were all about at that time. Since January I have found that several blogs including yours and TPM actually seem to get to the new developments faster than the other, older, forms of media. Pretty darn cool.

To answer your question, there is no doubt in my mind that I made it clear to Mr. Serrano that I knew of no connection between the Missouri investigation and my dismissal. I am certain that I told him that more than once. I did then engage in a discussion of the consequences of losing credibility and how people start questioning things they weren’t questioning before. I MAY have said something along the lines of “so now, you are asking me: ‘what about the Missouri deal?’” to illustrate how people are asking about things that weren’t being questioned before.

But I can promise you that I have never had a reason to wonder if there was a connection. I wrote TPM because I had been regularly visiting their site, knew the focus they had put on the story, and felt they would not want to get that part of the story wrong. I also gave what seemed like two dozen interviews the day after the LA Times story ran, mostly to Missouri media outlets, consistently telling them what I had told Mr. Serrano and what I had told a dozen or so reporters before I ever spoke to Mr. Serrano. Since I did not know of a connection, my account has appeared in few newspapers, but I can assure you there are dozens of reporters around the country who have heard me tell my version of this the exact same way. Mr. Serrano is the only one who heard it differently.

I did not write Mr. Serrano or the paper and I never bothered to ask for a retraction. He did call me soon after the story ran and talked to me about it. He seemed apologetic, but insisted that was how he heard it. I was annoyed by the whole thing, but never really worried about it mainly because of the great number of times I have repeated the story to others and always consistently. I don’t get mad easily and seldom harbor a grudge, so I have kind of let it go. In fact, I actually gave Mr. Serrano another interview later, but I was pretty careful about what I said and how I said it! Being a ‘left coaster’, he might not be understanding my Oklahoma/Arkansas accent!

I can’t say what was going on in the minds of the “deciders” in Washington who created this mess. They very well may have been considering something about our Missouri investigation when they made their decisions. But I can only tell you that I have seen no evidence of that, and there was nothing about that investigation that made me believe anyone in Washington was interested in it. We did not get pressured in any way from any quarter.

I just think the LA Times just got it wrong that day, and/or I was not speaking as clearly as I thought I was. But I promise you the story was wrong. I guess it happens. One newspaper referred to me as “Ed” Cummins and a television host introduced me once as Henry “Bud” Cummins (my name is “Harry”).

Thanks for your interest in the story. The real import of all this is that there are thousands of career federal prosecutors out there, and a bunch of committed political appointees also, who literally risk their lives to protect their local communities. This whole affair has cost them their most precious asset: credibility. People are questioning a lot of good people, their actions and their motives. It is a predictable consequence of something like this. They will get that credibility back through a lot of hard work. But this simply shouldn’t have happened. It is a great disappointment to folks like me who ARE Republicans, worked hard to do it right and represent the President well by doing so, and have now seen the whole record clouded by this episode.

Best regards,
Bud

Ps you can quote anything you want to quote.

I agree with Mr. Cummins: this episode shouldn’t have happened. Like Mr. Cummins, I’m still not willing to assume without evidence that the episode was the result of the Bush Administration trying to influence political prosecutions. It may well have been simple incompetence on the Administration’s part — the result of over-delegation to the callow Kyle Sampson. But the affair was mishandled terribly, to the detriment of some who appear to have been fine public servants. I would place Mr. Cummins in that category. I thank him for responding to my inquiry.

I continue to be astounded that the L.A. Times editors feel comfortable leaving the record uncorrected on this. Their entire story was premised on the idea that Cummins had wondered about a political connection to these firings. He says he wondered no such thing. And the paper thinks their readers aren’t entitled to know that??

8 Responses to “Bud Cummins Sheds Further Light on The L.A. Times’s Mischaracterization of His Views Regarding His Firing”

  1. Good job. I’m continually astounded at how weak the media’s commitment to accuracy is, especially but not only when it involves correcting their own mistakes.

    Crust (399898)

  2. Thanks. This was fantastic.

    And as poorly redacted things go, leaving “****” in there gives us a strong clue to your last name. Or is that no longer a secret?

    Jay D. Homnick (82ac73)

  3. Come on Patterico…it is the Los Angeles Times after all! Who reads it? Why read it? I don’t subscribe.

    Sue (e1a952)

  4. (typo: “He paper said” should be “The paper said”)

    Daryl Herbert (4ecd4c)

  5. Is this the interview mentioned in the original Times story:

    HINOJOSA: So when you hear that Democrats and—and even Republican Arlen Specter, are trying to investigate whether or not the—the firings were motivated by a desire to squelch corruptions in—corruption investigations that may have involved Republicans, you say what?

    CUMMINS: There was a time when I would say that that was a little bit too conspiratorial or a little too paranoid, and—and that it probably doesn’t reach so far to retaliate against somebody that conducted a corruption investigation, or to stop someone from conducting another one, or to punish somebody for not investigating a voter fraud case or a Democrat public corruption case. But at this point, the—the credibility of some of these people involved in this is so low that I wouldn’t—you know, I really wouldn’t wanna put my credibility on the line and tell you that it—that didn’t happen.

    http://www.pbs.org/now/news/311-transcript.html

    alphie (015011)

  6. This is a big story, Patterico, and I salute you for bringing it public. I salute Harry Cummins doubly so for having the integrity to tell the truth.

    I too am astounded at the amazing dishonesty of leftist institutions like the L.A. Times (worst of the worst?) that think honesty doesn’t matter a damn as long as you are struggling to bring down a duly elected Republican administration.

    I find leftists of that stripe frightening. It is hard to think of them in terms of other than the “enemy”.

    What I mean is not that we should raise up arms; that’s daft. The pen being mightier, etc. Yet… these people are conscienceless and we try to fight them with conscience. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but their conscience never raises itself.

    What a disaster the editors of the L.A. Times are. They should not only be ashamed, they should positively be embarrassed — if they had a conscience.

    Christoph (12b77c)

  7. Patterico– why the heck are you (and Crust, and Cristoph) astounded by this? Nothing that the mainstream press does astounds me anymore. Perhaps I would be astounded to see a story in the L.A. Times or the New York Times or the Washington Post which reported the facts of a politically-charged matter in a fair and unbiased matter, but I doubt this will happen anytime soon.

    Voice of Reason (4ffc3d)

  8. Ah, it’s good to see that alphie world continues to orbit Neptune. You see, in alphie/neville world this;

    But at this point, the—the credibility of some of these people involved in this is so low that I wouldn’t—you know, I really wouldn’t wanna put my credibility on the line and tell you that it—that didn’t happen.

    equals this;

    former U.S. Atty. H.E. “Bud” Cummins III wonders whether it had something to do with the probe he opened into alleged corruption by Republican officials in Missouri amid a Senate race there that was promising to be a nail-biter.

    Generalization as opposed to a pointed accusation.

    And, in alphie/neville world this;

    I can assure you there are dozens of reporters around the country who have heard me tell my version of this the exact same way. Mr. Serrano is the only one who heard it differently.

    He’s just hoping that nobody notices. But some of us did notice when his BDS obsession got him banned at another site for this little gem, contributed on a thread dealing with the shootings at VT;

    Myself, I would have pointed out this shooting is just a typical hour’s civilian toll over in Iraq.

    Posted by alphie | permalink
    on 04/16 at 02:41 PM

    Sweet guy, no?

    bjtexs (f726cb)


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