One of the South's most nauseating right-wing media puppets recently had someone return fire. The puppet howled in pain when the buckshot found its target--right in his white, doughy flanks. We're still struggling to wipe the smile from our face.
John Archibald, a columnist for The Birmingham News, consistently has trumpeted the Karl Rove agenda in Alabama over the past 10 years or so. Anything GOP Governor Bob Riley did was pure and honorable. Anyone pursued by Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys Alice Martin and Leura Canary was guilty. Official "corruption"--if it involved a Democrat, person of color, or individual who refused to testify falsely against Don Siegelman--was public enemy No. 1.
Archibald specializes in clucking at the misfortune of others--whether they have committed wrongdoing or not. So imagine our delight in learning Archibald has some untidiness in his own closet. When confronted about his personal mess, Archibald first lied about it, claimed ignorance, and then essentially blamed his wife. What a guy!
This all came to light thanks to a new blog called The Birmingham Skews, which apparently is dedicated to uncovering the foibles of the folks who produce Alabama's largest newspaper. Our hats are off to the producers of The Birmingham Skews, and our only regret is that we weren't involved in the effort to unmask John Archibald as a massive hypocrite.
How did Archibald step in doo-doo? It started with the usual clucking sounds and one of his favorite topics--the financial difficulties of the Jefferson County Commission. In a column dated March 18, 2011, Archibald noted with barely restrained glee that the commission might be moving closer to bankruptcy, and he took it as an opportunity to make fun of public figures (especially black ones) who have experienced bankruptcies. Among his targets were the late actor Gary Coleman, boxer Mike Tyson, actor Sherman Hemsley, and musician M.C. Hammer. The over-the-mountain, white suburbanites who make up Archibald's target audience must have been rolling on the floor in laughter. Archibald threw in a few white folks in an apparent effort to conceal the racism that tends to permeate his newspaper's pages.
In the comments to the Archibald column, an alert reader going by the name "The Truth," raised an intriguing issue--public records show that Archibald himself has gone through bankruptcy. That apparently caused some serious shuffling in chairs at News headquarters.
Is there anything inherently bad about having experienced a bankruptcy? Of course not. It's a common legal remedy to problems that occur in our capitalistic system. But when one skewers others over their financial troubles, only to have had such troubles of his own, it raises the big "h word"--hypocrisy.
The Truth fired his first shot at 7:54 a.m. on March 18, with this comment:
Pot, say hello to kettle!!! It is my memory that John Archibald filed for bankruptcy sometime in his past!
About five hours later, Archibald resorted to his natural instincts--he lied, posting this comment:
Wrong John Archibald, unTruth. Check yourself.
He walked right into The Truth's trap. The Truth, it turns out, was armed with public documents, the thing corrupt individuals and their apologists hate most:
John Boy, check case number 03-09402-TOM13 in the US Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Alabama. I think you will find the bankruptcy files for Alecia S. and John A. Archibald.
Archibald apparently realized he couldn't squirm out of this one, and it took him about two hours to come up with this response:
Dang, it appears my family did file for reorganization in 2003. I apologize. I should pay more attention to what goes on in my household.
Notice how Archibald tries to avoid responsibility. It's his "family" that had to file for "reorganization". (Others have bankruptcies; John has a reorganization.) And by pointing to his "family" and claiming personal ignorance, Archibald seems to be blaming his wife.
I guess you get that kind of disingenuous response when a right-wing media blowhard is caught in the perfect sting. The Birmingham Skews, which had entered the blogosphere on March 3, was ready with a post titled "The Flim Flam Man: John Archibald" on March 19.
What could Archibald do? Not much, other than to respond with a pathetic column last Friday titled "They Want John Archibald Fired." Get a load of his explanation:
I've been intentionally detached from my family's finances for a long time. I left that chore to others and am guilty, frankly, of not wanting to know.
There's no excuse for that.
Then two weeks ago, with the county in financial crisis, I wrote a light-hearted column on celebrities (nine white and five black, for those counting) who lived through bankruptcies. An internet commenter demanded to know why I had not listed my own bankruptcy. I fired a denial, believing he had the wrong guy. I checked the record moments later and, well, I was the one who was confused.
I went from indignant to dismayed in a flash. I apologized at once, but of course it was too late. You can't "unsend" something like that. All I can do is apologize again, and tell my story.
My family and I did go through a catastrophic financial collapse. We lost a house. We declared Chapter 13 in 2003. We have since -- I checked the record -- repaid that debt. I'm looking for a financial counselor.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want sympathy. I get what my inattention deserves.
I'm sorry I never paid more attention to money, or cared much about it. I'm sorry I looked the other way and sorry I gave the wrong answer. I'm sorry, most of all, if I've given you reason to lose confidence in me, or this paper.
Memo to Archibald: Very few people have confidence in you or your paper anyway. But how do you plead ignorance of your own bankruptcy, going so far as to deny it happened? The Birmingham Skews reports that Archibald himself signed bankruptcy-related papers in at least three places. Seems the guy who enjoys holding others' feet to the fire sort of loses it when the torch is aimed at his own tootsies.
A number of media folks have weighed in on the Archibald story. The Birmingham Times, which bills itself as "The Southeast's Largest Black Weekly," was quick to point out Archibald's two-faced approach to the news. Good for them.
Kyle Whitmire, who has been a contributor for The New York Times and several local publications, stood up for Archibald. Whitmire apparently went to the "Protect Any Member of the Tribe" school of journalism:
Someone obviously went through a fair amount of trouble to dig up dirt on John Archibald. There are a few groups out there that are practiced at this sort of thing. John’s subsequent column here mentions one of them, perhaps the most notorious. It was John’s subtle way of saying he wouldn’t be bullied or cowed. . . .
The problem remains, though, that there are firms that exist to do this sort of thing. They exploit the secret sins of imperfect people. They are the Donald Segretti’s and G. Gordon Liddy’s of the world who read the Art of War and believe the ends justify the means. Often times their juvenile pranks go further than planned and the pranksters end up in prison, but more often something worse happens. They cause a lot of good people who would otherwise volunteer to serve their communities, their state or country to shirk away, for fear of embarrassing themselves or hurting their families. They’re a big part of what’s wrong with politics and public service.
Gee, would it be possible for Whitmire to be a more overwrought? I don't think so. He says someone "went to a fair amount of trouble" to "dig up dirt" on Archibald and exploit "secret sins." Actually, it isn't a fair amount of trouble to look up bankruptcy records; I've done it several times, and it's a breeze. All you have to do is look up a public record, the kind of thing real journalists are supposed to do on a regular basis. John Archibald's bankruptcy file is not "dirt" and it's not "secret." It only became an issue because of Archibald's colossal phoniness.
Whitmire compares a blogger/Internet commenter to Richard Nixon's henchmen? Good grief. And since when is it a "juvenile prank" to bring public records to light? Again, that's what journalists do.
Archibald and Whitmire seem to be blaming The Truth's revelations on Matrix LLC, a Montgomery-based public-relations/lobbying firm, and they are particularly alarmed that the inside scoop on Archibald is coming from anonymous sources.
My response: So what? Obviously, I believe in transparency because I write every word of this blog under my own name. But I've also experienced the downside of transparency; as regular readers know, I was cheated out of my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because of my coverage on the Don Siegelman case and other matters. That's not a guess on my part; I've got audiotaped evidence that proves it:
Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case
So I can understand why the author of The Birmingham Skews wishes to remain anonymous. Archibald and company probably want his name so they can go after his job--the way someone went after mine.
Archibald and his buddy, Whitmire, seem to be engaging in an effort to "flip" the story--a common tactic when conservatives get caught with their pants down. literally or figuratively. Notice how Archibald/Whitmire try to twist the story so it is not about the revelation of a public record--and Archibald's effort to cover it up. Instead, they want the story to be about the writer's anonymity--as if there is something wrong with that.
If The Birmingham Skews were printing false information about Archibald, there would be something wrong with that. But that's not what the blog is doing. It's printing the unvarnished truth--on a topic that Archibald raised himself.
No wonder Archibald wants to deflect attention from the real story. The Birmingham Skews has revealed him to be a windbag who enjoys skewering other people, only to lie and cover up when the white, hot light shines on him.
How low a person does that make John Archibald? It's hard to get much lower.
Update: My cross post of this item has made the Rec list at Daily Kos. Quite a few of the commenters are having a field day with our friends Mr. Archibald and Mr. Whitmire. I've taken a few shots in my time from the Daily Kos crowd, so I'm glad to see Archibald and Whitmire join me in the firing ring. You can check out the Daily Kos comments here.