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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Al.com reporter Charles J. Dean bemoans inaccurate reporting in the modern world of digital journalism while engaging in wildly inaccurate reporting himself


Charles J. Dean
An Alabama mainstream journalist, in an article published yesterday, bemoans the proliferation of inaccurate reporting in modern journalism--and then proceeds to engage in . . . inaccurate reporting.

Charles J. Dean, of al.com, manages to pull off that neat trick in an article titled "Separating rumor from fact and remembering don't believe everything you read."

Dean's article is so poorly written--and al.com apparently no longer can afford to employ copy editors to clean up reporters' messes--that it's hard to tell what he's trying to say. But here is my best guess at his key points: (1) Reports are false that Rebekah Caldwell Mason, adviser and mistress to Governor Robert Bentley, left the state to work on the presidential campaign of Ohio Governor John Kasich; (2) Reports are false that Bentley legal adviser David Byrne has resigned; (3) An unnamed "blogger," apparently me, is responsible for these journalistic transgressions.

There is a slight problem with Dean's apparent claims: I've never reported that Mason went to work for the Kasich campaign, and I've never reported that Byrne resigned from the Bentley staff. In other words, Dean engages in the very inaccurate reporting that he attempts to decry.

On top of that, Dean fails to disclose to his readers the likely reason for his personal animosity toward me and this blog. In summary, Dean's reporting is inaccurate, sloppy, poorly written, and deceptive. Are we supposed to take this guy as a paragon of journalistic virtue?

Dean starts by informing us that a political interest group called Forward Alabama had posted on the Web about Mason's alleged work for the Kasich campaign. This leads Dean to tsk, tsk as follows:

A so-called progressive political group "Forward Alabama" didn't make up that post to Facebook. They picked it up from a blogger who must be part of the so-called "political insiders" group.

Some insiders.

Who is the blogger in question, how does Dean know Forward Alabama picked up the Mason-Kasich story from him (or her), and what is this "so-called political insiders group"? Dean doesn't bother to enlighten us on any of that.

He does tsk tsk again on the subject of Byrne's alleged resignation. Writes Dean:

Of course the blogger who originally posted that Mason was working for Kasich had also posted that Bentley's chief legal advisor, David Byrne was resigning and implied it was over the unsubstantiated rumor that a romantic relationship between Bentley and Mason is why Diane Bentley is divorcing her husband of 50 years.

And by the way, Byrne was also in the hallways of the Legislature working too – for Bentley. He has not resigned.

Dean again mentions an unnamed blogger and leaves all sorts of questions unanswered. Based on my research, both the Kasich and Byrne stories originated with Alabama lawyer Donald Watkins, who has written extensively about Bentley/Mason affair on his Facebook page.

Dean never mentions Watkins by name, but he does write the following, which clearly is a reference to me:

We live in an age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can post anything, including one blogger who has written about Bentley and Mason. That blogger, by the way, has been sued for defamation and jailed on related contempt of court charges. A Jefferson County judge in April ruled against the blogger and awarded the woman he had defamed by writing she had had an affair with a state official $3.5 million.

This is one of the few parts of Dean's article where the writing is clear; he's referring to a pair of defamation lawsuits filed against me in fall 2013, roughly one month apart, by Republican operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Dean, of course, conveniently leaves out a few facts:

(1) The contempt-of-court finding that led to my incarceration in the Riley matter was contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law, and even right-leaning legal analysts have written that it was blatantly unlawful. A paragon of journalistic integrity, such as Chuck Dean, should know his First Amendment law.

(2) The $3.5-million figure in the Garrison case was a default judgment, which grew from my unlawful incarceration and the wrongful foreclosure on our house, which made it impossible for me to defend myself. In other words, the judgment is not supported by law or facts, the plaintiffs' version of events never has been challenged under oath in a court of law, and my reporting in neither case never has been found to be false or defamatory by a jury. In fact, neither case went to a jury.

Why is Chuck Dean so quick to trash me? Well, it's almost certainly because I recently outed him for participating in the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site. I also asked this question: Has Chuck Dean been reluctant to report on the Bentley-Mason affair because he himself has engaged in--or tried to engage in--extramarital activity via Ashley Madison?

Before publishing my article, I gave Dean an opportunity to comment and to answer questions such as the one above. He chose not to respond.

Before trashing me, did Chuck Dean offer to interview me, to give me an opportunity to respond to questions he might have? Did Dean even bother to check the court files to discover the facts about the cases in question? Nope, Chuck Dean did none of that.

We are supposed to learn something about journalistic integrity from this guy? It's apparent he knows no more about journalistic integrity than he knows about marital integrity.

At least there is an element of truth to the headline on Chuck Dean's story. You absolutely should not believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean is writing it.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad to see this very well crafted response to Chuck Dean's article!

Anonymous said...

Have to agree that Chuck Dean's article is horribly written. Does anybody review this stuff before it goes up on the Web?

Anonymous said...

What a great rip job on Chuck Dean. And it is much deserved. An A-class slime ball.

Anonymous said...

When you click on the link to your original post about Chuck Dean being on the Ashley Madison list, you now get a message that the page no longer exists. What's going on?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for alerting me to this, @11:40. Will check on it pronto. My first guess is that Chuck Dean, or someone on his behalf, has hacked my account.

Anonymous said...

So someone has hacked your blog to remove the post about Chuck Dean and Ashley Madison? I would say that removes any doubt that your report is true.

legalschnauzer said...

I don't know for sure, at this point, that it was a hack. But the post is gone, for now. Will keep folks updated.

A question for readers to ponder: Chuck Dean set himself up in an article earlier this week as a paragon of journalistic virtue. Is he now involved in hacking a blog that reported accurately on his involvement with Ashley Madison?

Anonymous said...

For the record, Charles Dean is referring to the work of Donald V. Watkins and his Facebook reporting team. If you look up Watkins' great work on FB, you'll see that's the reference.

Anonymous said...

Where can we find the complete list of Ashley Madison? I had a family member on there and I failed to keep a copy.

legalschnauzer said...

I don't know where the full Ashley Madison list can be found, unless you (or someone you know) has the ability to retrieve it from the dark Web. All I've seen so far are lists for various states--Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This is an enormous amount of data--Florida, I'm told, has 50,000 paid users--so dealing with this information is a major undertaking.

Anonymous said...

Let's examine the three passages highlighted above, in order:

* This is the classic lament of the reporter who has been beaten on a story--especially when said reporter has reason to know the story is true. "Well, I heard this way back in ________ (fill in the month or year), way before ____________ (fill in the name of reporter who broke the story) ever heard about it," the reporter is saying. "I'm much more careful than the reckless guy (or gal) who broke the story, and that's the only reason I didn't get it first. I knew about it, but I just chose not to let my readers (or listeners) know about it." Somehow, this always makes the beaten reporter feel better.

* Dean could only find unnamed people to discuss this subject? I had to almost fight off people, with names, who provided all sorts of details about the Bentley-Mason affair. My primary sources are all long-time, knowledgeable insiders in the world of Alabama politics and journalism. They gave me their names, and I have no reason to believe they are rumormongers or enemies of Bentley. In fact, one has been a long-time Bentley supporter.

* Why did Dean conclude that the reports of an affair aren't true? That's hard to say, but his story hints at a chummy relationship with Mason, and in fact, she shows up as a friend on his Facebook page. Does Dean disclose that to his readers? Nope.

That takes us to something else Chuck Dean does not disclose to his readers--his presence on the Ashley Madison list of marital cheaters (or attempted marital cheaters). Does Dean's own experience in the world of extramarital affairs (or attempted affairs) color his reporting on the Bentley-Mason story? It's hard to see any way that it wouldn't.

Dean's own employer doesn't seem to put much stock in his reporting. In a Sunday editorial, al.com called on Bentley to talk publicly about the affair and related issues. It also called on Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner, a Bentley appointee, to reconsider her decision to seal the divorce file.

All of which leads to this conclusion: If Chuck Dean wants to question someone's credibility, maybe he should look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd say ol' Chuck's fanny must be pretty sore from that spanking. Ouch!
September 8, 2015 at 7:52 AM
Anonymous said...

I'm sure Chuck was just on Ashley Madison to conduct research. He's a big-time researcher, you know.
September 8, 2015 at 8:06 AM
Anonymous said...

Funny that Chuck Dean seems to blow off the Bentley-Mason story, and his own editorial board takes it seriously. Do the left hand and right hand know what the other is doing at al.com?
September 8, 2015 at 8:16 AM
Chuckles said...

Chuck Dean, John Archibald, and Kyle Whitmire--the "Three Amigos" of Alabama journalism. How does anyone take them seriously?
September 8, 2015 at 8:21 AM
Anonymous said...

Didn't Donald Watkins report that Bentley gave a bunch of money to the Alabama Press Association?
September 8, 2015 at 8:23 AM
legalschnauzer said...

Yes, he did. This is from Watkins' Facebook entry of Sept. 3:

"How Free Are Alabama's Press Organizations?
Has Governor Robert Bentley's October 27, 2014, payment of $62,964.75 to the Alabama Press Association in Birmingham, Alabama been a factor in how various mainstream media organizations have covered his growing cheating scandal? Is there a real or apparent conflict of interest here? How free are Alabama's press organizations? We will know for sure over the next four weeks."
September 8, 2015 at 8:41 AM
Anonymous said...

Chuck Dean has a house in Homewood worth $284,000? It must have 1 bedroom, a carport, and an outhouse.
September 8, 2015 at 9:11 AM
Anonymous said...

Chuck Dean didn't find a story in the Bentley-Mason affair because he didn't want to find a story there.
September 8, 2015 at 9:13 AM
Anonymous said...

Let's not forget this bit of brilliant journalism from Chuck Dean's most recent article on the Don Siegelman case. Note the difference in tone between this and Chuck's opus on the Bentley-Mason story, which almost certainly involves actual criminal acts:

"Former Gov. Don Siegelman will be staying in prison on public corruption charges. And he won't be seeing his sentence reduced either.

"That is what a federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled Wednesday sinking Siegelman's hopes for a new trial or at least some time shaved off the remaining two years of his original six and a half year sentence.

"When I heard the news my first reaction was a yawn. I think I'm like a lot of you. I was done with the Siegelman thing a long time ago. It's still hard for me to get my head around the fact that this case is now into its second decade."
September 8, 2015 at 9:17 AM
Anonymous said...

Maybe Chuck was bored with the Siegelman story because it took time away from his adventures on Ashley Madison.
September 8, 2015 at 9:27 AM
Redeye said...

"All of which leads to this conclusion: If Chuck Dean wants to question someone's credibility, maybe he should look in the mirror." BAM!
September 8, 2015 at 9:44 AM
Anonymous said...

Who's the bigger fool, Chuck Dean or Robert Bentley?
September 8, 2015 at 10:33 AM
Anonymous said...

Legal Schnauzer has kicked everyone's ass on this story. No wonder Chuck Dean and Kyle Whitmire have taken shots at you.
September 8, 2015 at 11:15 AM
Anonymous said...

Al.com no longer is a news organization. It's a Republican mouthpiece that is on the verge of going completely under because it abandoned journalism long ago.
September 8, 2015 at 11:16 AM
Anonymous said...

Have to give Leada Gore some credit. She's actually done some legit reporting on the Bentley/Mason story. If her editors would turn her loose, she might be able to help get to the bottom of it.
September 8, 2015 at 11:20 AM

Anonymous said...

legalschnauzer said...

Agreed, @11:20. Ms. Gore has broken some important angles on the story, and I'm sure that has been difficult in the al.com environment. Kudos to her. Must be tough to be a real journalist, working in that clown car of a news operation.
September 8, 2015 at 11:21 AM
Anonymous said...

When I read the Chuck Dean story a few days ago, my first thought was, dang, Rebekah sure has her PR machine working full-time. Sure, it is an issue women face in positions of prominence, that people will always be looking for an affair in the closet. But, this case is so much more involved than that. We are talking substantial amounts of money being funneled her way, or own past history, and the Governor being such a devious man towards the State of Alabama.
September 8, 2015 at 12:13 PM
Anonymous said...

In case you missed it another exercise in media navel gazing article. Josh Moon: Some Bentley divorce story reporting questionable jmoon@gannett.com 5:48 p.m. CDT September 5, 2015

Also an interesting response by Leada Gore in the comments.

"Leada DeVaney Gore ·
Madison, Alabama
Since my name is mentioned here I must comment. First, why would you leave Rebekah Masons name out of the headline? There is no question Mrs. Mason is the governors advisor or that she was paid that amount. You can check the multiple public sources linked in the story.
Also, a current rep. has called for an investigation of Gov. Bentley. A current PSC candidate has called for his resignation. A state rep said last week the entire situation could lead to recall laws being put in place.
Not sure what part of that is thinly sourced.
Would we go with just a FB post? No, Are you sticking your head in the sand if you don't read those things and consider the source and validity? Yep. Leada Gore

September 8, 2015 at 12:44 PM
R Hammond said...

I would argue that Al.com is a Republican mouth-piece. No one has ever laid out who pays the bills there, and the majority of stories are a slanted piece against Republicans.
September 8, 2015 at 12:55 PM
Anonymous said...

I apologize for lacking depth of player's different positions "Team Riley"; will you please expand on team's positions, player's names, should ever be the case to report, for you to decide, and not be a "Team Riley" player.
September 8, 2015 at 3:45 PM
Anonymous said...

Maybe Chuck Dean and Rob Campbell can get together over lunch and commiserate about how incredibly stupid they were to fall for the Ashley Madison con game.
September 8, 2015 at 5:02 PM
Anonymous said...


And Campbell Robertson from The New York Times can interview them both for more their knowledge and experiences with Alabama government, maybe while Campbell here getting an update, phoning his editor, calling that he "stop the line", hold the press for his breaking headlines story, Badpuppy bites federal judge in ass while screwing senate.

Say goodnight Gracie!
September 8, 2015 at 6:43 PM
Robby Scott Hill said...

True dat! Roger has bitch slapped them so hard it left a red hand print on their mommas.
September 8, 2015 at 11:54 PM
Robby Scott Hill said...

I drove halfway across this state on Labor Day & I met only one State Trooper. I drove a few miles into Georgia & saw about a dozen State Patrol vehicles. Alabama State Government is broke & dysfunctional like a motherfucker!
September 9, 2015 at 12:02 AM
Robby Scott Hill said...

Anonymous said...

From the google cache the article is retrieved, sorry about links not working.

Just as soon as you publish the comment then be sure to Internet archive the Legal Schnauzer post the comments are at.

If someone reads this maybe they have time to retrieve fro the google cache all the liks.

Robby Scott Hill said...

What if it were true? What if Ashley Madison & other cheating sites were bankrolled by divorce lawyers?

legalschnauzer said...

That would be right up the ethical alley of most divorce lawyers I've come across.