Eddie Curran is in a fightin' mood. But is this war of aggression from the erstwhile Mobile Press-Register reporter getting him anywhere? Doesn't look like it.
Not content to throw rhetorical bolo punches at Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson and Harper's legal-affairs contributor Scott Horton, Curran now takes aim at 60 Minutes. And we're not talking about a private missive to the folks responsible for the recent story on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
No, our guy Eddie apparently has disseminated his letter to a number of right-wing blogs. It can be found at several sites, including Granddaddy Long Legs here. Curran's letter also appears at the Web site of the Alabama Republican Party.
Most mainstream reporters I've know in my almost 30 years in journalism would be horrified to see something they had written touted on a political party's Web site. But I've got to give Curran credit: He's given up all pretense of being an objective reporter.
The fellow who is credited with breaking the Siegelman story and sparking the investigation that led to the former governor's conviction seems perfectly content to be a blatant advocate. But for what is he advocating? Let's take a look at his letter to 60 Minutes and see if we can figure that out.
Curran contends that reporter Scott Pelley and producers David Gelber and Joel Blach bungled the Siegelman story. The primary charge is that statements made by Siegelman attorney Doug Jones were false.
This has to do with Jones' statements about the testimony of former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey. According to the show's transcript, Bailey testified that Siegelman walked out of a meeting with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy holding a check for $250,000.
But Jones says: "They got a copy of the check. And the check was cut days after that meeting. There was no way possible for Siegelman to have walked out of that meeting with a check in his hand."
Curran says Jones did not represent Siegelman during the 2006 trial and heaps criticism on 60 Minutes for using Jones as a source. Also, Curran says, Jones had it wrong:
"Jones was actually correct when telling your wide-eyed host Pelley that the check was dated after the meeting. However, it was given to Siegelman at a later meeting. Neither prosecutors not witnesses at trial, Bailey included, said the check was given by Scrushy to Siegelman at the first meeting."
Now Curran covered the trial, and I did not. But let's take a closer look at Curran's allegations.
Throughout his letter, Curran admonishes 60 Minutes for not presenting corroborating evidence to support statements made by Jill Simpson. But what kind of corroborating evidence does he present to support his claim that Doug Jones' statement was false? Zip.
Of course, Curran couldn't pull evidence from the trial transcript because one still does not exist. But he could have quoted a relevant passage from one of his own stories. He does not.
The Mobile Press-Register's coverage of the Siegelman trial does not appear to be available on the Web, so I have not been able to check Curran's stories. But I have checked coverage from The Birmingham News. And that revealed something interesting.
In a story written by Kim Chandler and titled "Former aide says he OK'd phony invoices" (Birmingham News, March 5, 2006), we find this passage:
Bailey also admitted his initial recollections to a grand jury were incorrect. He said that, after meeting with Scrushy in 1999, Siegelman showed him a check for $250,000 signed by Scrushy. On the date Bailey recalled, the check hadn't been written, and the check was from a Maryland land company, not signed by Scrushy.
Unless I've lost my ability to comprehend the English language, that passage backs Jones' statement, almost to the letter. The Birmingham News wrote stories about Bailey's testimony on May 3, 4, 5, and 6 of 2006. I find no mention of a second meeting where Siegelman was presented a check.
Perhaps Curran will unearth some "corroborating evidence," maybe one of his own stories, to support his claim that Doug Jones didn't know what he was talking about. But so far, I see no proof that Jones got anything wrong.
Keep in mind that The Birmingham News and reporter Kim Chandler could hardly be described as "Siegelman friendly." But what else do we learn from Ms. Chandler's stories, items Eddie Curran neglects to mention in his letter to 60 Minutes?
From "Siegelman lawyers assail credibility of prosecution witness" (May 4, 2006), we have this:
Defense lawyers showed that Bailey's initial recollection to prosecutors about the meeting between Scrushy and Siegelman had to be false. Bailey said that after the meeting, Siegelman showed him a check Scrushy had given him, but the check was dated later. Bailey admitted he wasn't sure when the meeting occurred.
From "Former aide says he OK'd phony invoices" (May 5, 2006), we have this:
Earlier in the week, Bailey testified that Scrushy made campaign contributions to get a seat on the state Certificate of Need Review Board. But under cross-examination by Scrushy lawyer Art Leach, Bailey said he was never in the room when his boss met with Scrushy.
McDonald set out testimony that Bailey had racked up thousands in debts trading stocks on credit while was a member of Siegelman's cabinet. McDonald said the debts totaled $250,000.
And from "Bailey claims lobbyist made clear demand" (May 6, 2006), we get details about Bailey's interactions with HealthSouth lobbyist Eric Hanson. The story says Bailey testified that it would be normal for a governor to hit up CEOs such as Scrushy for large donations at campaign time, and it would be normal for a lobbyist such as Hanson to try to help his client when talking to a member of the governor's staff. Then we have this:
However, Bailey acknowledged that Hanson did not tell him the money wouldn't come unless the administration made the appointment. "He didn't threaten me, no," Bailey said.
We get none of this information in Curran's letter to 60 Minutes. Wonder why that is.