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Friday, March 25, 2016

Will an Alabama version of "Deep Throat," the world's most famous anonymous source, bring down Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason?


Mark Felt, who later was revealed as "Deep Throat,"
the anonymous source who broke open
the Watergate scandal.
(From theguardian.com)
The story of an extramarital affair between Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason received national coverage this week, portrayed mainly as a tale of sex, lust, betrayal, deception, greed, and possible criminality. It also, however, is a story of journalism--and much of the reporting on that angle has been botched. In the process, one of the nation's most fabled newspapers apparently forgot its own history--and reporting techniques--that helped uncover perhaps the most notorious political scandal in American history.

National reporters generally got it wrong about who broke the Bentley/Mason story. Credit tended to go to al.com and columnist John Archibald, who discussed the story on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow even made a comment that the story provided an example of why communities should support their local newspapers, many of which are on life support.

As much as we like Rachel Maddow--and we like her a lot--she got it wrong. Yes, al.com deserves credit for breaking comments from former ALEA chief Spencer Collier about his knowledge of the affair--and for bringing the audio recording, which revealed Bentley as a creepy phony, to public light.

But al.com did not break the story. Legal Schnauzer, this blog, broke the story on August 31, 2015. We not only broke the story about the affair, but we provided insight into how the affair had turned the Bentley administration into a dysfunctional mess, which might be the most important angle going forward. (More on all of this in upcoming posts.)

For months, al.com would not even mention the word "affair" in its coverage. And it's likely, given the substantial blow back we received, the story never would have reached the light of day if a one-man blog, which happens to have extremely knowledgeable and reliable sources, had not broken it.

Which takes us to The Washington Post. Yes, one of the most powerful entities in journalism put the Bentley/Mason story on a national stage. But it gave zero credit to the blog that actually broke the story roughly seven months ago. In fact, it gave pretty much a backhanded slap to the Web press in general--and, get this, it's all because our original story was based on anonymous sources.

Yep, here is how WaPo reporter Amber Phillips put it:

Here's the story: On Tuesday, the two-term governor fired the state's top cop. That same day, the now-fired top cop told AL.com that Bentley had been having an affair with one of his top advisers. And he said he could prove it.

The governor has denied affair rumors in the past, calling them "ridiculous. . . . "
Bentley hasn't been able to shake that over the past year, whether in unsubstantiated blogs or in the halls of Alabama's capitol, there has been a rumor swirling he was having an affair with his chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. (Mason is married, but Bentley's 50-year marriage officially ended this fall, an abrupt ending that Bentley has said shocked him.)

So you have The Washington Post taking shots at "unsubstantiated blogs" (primarily this one, we presume), and it's apparently because the story broke via anonymous sources.

According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Phillips graduated from Texas Christian University in 2008, which suggests she is roughly 30 years old. It sounds like she is a bright young woman and a promising reporter, with quite a bit of international experience. But does she know much of anything about a little political scandal called Watergate--and her newspaper's historic role in breaking it.

Amber Phillips, Washington Post
(From LinkedIn)
Watergate came to light in 1972, long before Ms. Phillips arrived on this earth--so perhaps, to her, it's just a lengthy chapter in a history book. But for those who might have forgotten, reporting on the story revolved around a D.C. insider who went by the code name "Deep Throat." He acquired that name because he wished to remain anonymous, probably because his life would have been in danger if his identity was revealed. (In 2005, "Deep Throat" was revealed as William Mark Felt Sr., who was a deputy director of the FBI at the time Watergate broke. Felt died in 2008.)

How important was "Deep Throat" to famed reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein? This is from the Wikipedia entry on the Watergate scandal:

Chief among the Post's anonymous sources was an individual whom Woodward and Bernstein had nicknamed Deep Throat; 33 years later, in 2005, the informant was identified as William Mark Felt, Sr., deputy director of the FBI during that period of the 1970s, something Woodward later confirmed. Felt met secretly with Woodward several times, telling him of Howard Hunt's involvement with the Watergate break-in, and that the White House staff regarded the stakes in Watergate extremely high. Felt warned Woodward that the FBI wanted to know where he and other reporters were getting their information, as they were uncovering a wider web of crimes than the FBI first disclosed. In one of their last meetings, all of which took place at an underground parking garage somewhere in Rosslyn from the FBI on June 22, 1973, Felt also planted leaks about Watergate to Time magazine, the Washington Daily News and other publications.

Did Post editors--and readers around the country--consider Woodward and Bernstein's work to be "unsubstantiated" because they relied on an anonymous source--one whose code named was inspired by a pornographic film? Of course not. Their work was considered groundbreaking and has been hailed in numerous books and films; they remain probably the most famous reporting team in journalism history--a team that brought down a corrupt president, Richard M. Nixon.

So why would the Post take a slap at a journalist for using anonymous sources--especially one whose reporting now has proven to be right on target? Is it ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both? It's hard to say.

But history shows that an anonymous source helped bring down a president. Perhaps such a source will bring down Robert Bentley and Alabama's "de facto governor" Rebekah Mason.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again, top-notch reporting on this story. Thanks for the history lesson, too.

xf said...

Don't get how the picture of Amber Phillips is relevant to the story.

legalschnauzer said...

She wrote the Washington Post article that is referenced in my post. The relevance seems pretty clear to me.

Anonymous said...

LS: Since I've already hit my current monthly limit of free articles on the Post website (I refuse to subscribe because the Post is considered such a joke locally nowadays), I could only read your excerpt and not the whole context nor the comments.

While I agree that Ms. Phillips' writing comes across as a little shallow, and the sensationalist headline has drawn nearly 400 comments (which is huge number these days and it would be interesting to see what folks have to say), I didn't feel that this particular section dissed you in any way.

If I were you, I would write a LTE to the Post outlining how Legal Schnauzer broke the story.

You should be aware that the Post is a shadow of its former self--riding on its Watergate rep for the last four decades--and was purchased by Jeff Bezos of Amazon after the third generation of owners couldn't handle the transition to the digital age.

FYI: Rumor has it that the original Watergate break-in was about trying to find dirt that Maureen "Mo" Dean (John Dean's former wife) was involved in some sort of a prostitution ring serving Demo politicians.

e.a.f. said...

I remember that time with a lot of clarity. it was amazing stuff as it was happening. it was like a serial book being released slowly. The books and movies came later, but it was something new in journalism. it set a new standard. It demonstrated how important the printed press really was in a democracy.

In today's society bloggers frequently are the "canary". People disclose to them. Bloggers get around a lot more than a lot of reporters can. Bloggers frequently are more trusted because so many aren't in it for the money. they are in it for the truth.

In British Columbia, Canada, considered by some to be either the most corrupt or second most corrupt province in the country, the MSM, in my opinion, just doesn't report on real corruption and scandals. First it appears on blogs. Then after a few bloggers report on it, then it may make it to T.V. and then the print media.

The reporter needs to perhaps take a course on the history of reporting, ethics, and journalism.

Good for you! You started the ball rolling. You know that as do your readers. Without bloggers a lot of important issues would simply be swept under the carpet all over the world. That includes the middle east, Russia, China, etc.

Anonymous said...

Roger one of the last men standing. From Siegelman all the way to Bentley. Incredible reporting. They took a lot from you but we're so glad you hung in there and kept reporting. Sometimes you got to lose it all and in our moments of desperation we finally find deliverance.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for an enlightening comment, @4:41. I didn't mean to say WaPo dissed me; I doubt they've heard of me. Mainly, I was just trying to point out the irony of WaPo making light of "unsubstantiated" information (and by that, I think they meant use of anonymous sources) when they used the most famous anonymous source in history.

BTW, thanks for the info about Mo Dean. Had never heard that one before. Speaking of irony, you've probably heard about the Franklin Scandal, the late 80s/early 90s story where the Reagan and Bush admins apparently were parading boys from a Nebraska orphanage through the White House and elsewhere in DC--for the sick pleasures of certain GOP big wigs. That is one story that really needs to be re-examined. For those who maybe aren't familiar with it, I will include a few URLs below:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_child_prostitution_ring_allegations


http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/Franklin/FranklinCoverup/franklin.htm


http://www.franklincase.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=11


Some believe remnants of the Franklin Scandal made their way into the George W. Bush White House:


http://www.insider-magazine.com/Gannongate.htm

Anonymous said...

Care to post a recent photo of yourself? If it is fair to post a photo of the young WaPo reporter, it is fair to post a photo of yourself. (the old photo of you wearing a hat with the dog from a distance doesn't make the grade.)

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer you rely too heavily on anonymous sources, and you trust them too much.

legalschnauzer said...

I do, @7:38? I guess Woodward and Bernstein did, too?

legalschnauzer said...

Sure be glad to, @7:29. Just contact me--at rshuler3156@gmail.com or 205-381-5673--and tell me why you are so interested in the photo issue. We'll go from there.

(BTW, there all sorts of recent pictures of me, taken in charming jail garb, on the Web. If you can't find them, you aren't looking very hard.)

e.a.f. said...

personally I like the one of you and the dog. the blog is named after him anyhow. O.K. the dog is cuter. sorry, but my dog is cuter than me.

sometimes its not good for bloggers to put their pictures up. Not all people believe in freedom of the press/blogging.

Anonymous said...

Speaking with some authority on the subject of the Post, I can attest that they do very little these days in the way of enterprising journalism. It's generally a rehash of someone else's work. If they are covering something, they might parachute in for a day, and use other's work as filler. They aren't the organization they used to be: not by a long shot.
On another subject: beka has released some numbers about compensation flowing to her company. Those numbers aren't jibing with other numbers you have previously posted. Any idea why there is such a huge difference?

Anonymous said...

Roger you have been completely vindicated. Imprisoned, debauched, defamed, derided, and ...

VICTORIOUS!

Your story is pretty incredible.

Five months in a Birmingham jail at the hands of medieval captors bent on
making you pay for exposing their drudgery.

Here you return to out the governor!!!

Only in Amerika!

Also, great job exposing Judge Pryor's penis on the pages of badpuppy.com.

Hopefully President Trump will consider these transgressions when naming
future judges to the Supreme Court and Mr. bad puppy himself is nowhere
near consideration.

Peace to you, Roger. You are a true warrior and have kicked their ass big time.
Bentley will soon have to resign.
If that is not vindication I don't know what is!

Bravo!

Redeye said...

Thank you for being the media we wish we had instead of the media we have. It's laughable to see the Alabama media falling over themselves reporting on this after the fact. Better late than never I suppose. I admire your courage.

Anonymous said...

In todays time we receive only the news big business/money wants us to know. Tv and paper has been paid off to only report what this dark money groups wants us to know. One way the pay off works is all the ad money that goes in advertising for drugs or other medical that consumers can not buy over the counter but only with a dr's script. Even then it is only for a small number of people who have medical need for it anyway, but millions are paid in advertising. There are more ads today on tv for catheters that they are for ford selling the f150. Why?, I believe it is a pay off for not reporting what the real news is. I mean, WTF when is the last time you said, hey honey there having a sale on them new catheters we saw on tv, let's go down and buy a few. Not all of us are the dumb asses they think we are. One has to work to find the truth in the good old USA.

Anonymous said...

Al.com had an article friday about George Beck asking Alabama to clarify its position on Bingo machines. My reaction was why are they just now interested in Bingo. Your blog has had some comments related to bingo lately. This post being about anonymous sources, I researced the anonymous source relating to Keith Baker leaving the court room. Ricky Stokes started the rumor and al.com repeated it. Reading your blog, I learned that court transcripts show Parkman started the rumor of an affair and
Louis Franklin threw some gas on it by affirming the siegelman trial affair.he was not asked the question, he just threw it in. Another thing. 8000 text messages were lost from Bakers phone.One that they found is of Baker texting the court recorder that he talked to Riley.Even the prosecutors are making him look bad. I shall take your anonymous sources and look at this court transcript again. Your source; Baker refused to testify. He walked out when he saw the trial would continue. THe lost emails could have contained him telling Washington D.C.,I quit. Franklin did not try very hard to keep his star witness.THe text to court recorder. Baker was at a football game IN Jordan Hare stadium on the side lines and Riley was there.Your soure said the trial was connected to events in Auburn. Two of the people who sold Campus Crest property played football for Auburn. Barry Mask was the first Aubie. I talked to Johnny,who owned the restaurant where the fund raiser was held for Mask. Johnny said they set big mack up.Told his sister not to get invoved with these people.said Barry wishes he had never got involved.
My whole point is this. what if the rumor had been that Baker refused to testify. Don Siegelman would not be in prison today.

Anonymous said...

I know anomymous comments are not the same as anonymous sources. You would not want to report unconfirmed comments. But George Beck put bingo back in the head lines. I am curious as to how you would write Your July 30 2015 article using the anonymous comment that Keith Baker refused to testify. We do not have investigative reporters anymore only anonymous comments.

Anonymous said...

I would like to propose a different name for a possible snitch in this story, not Deep Throat, but rather Spastic Colon. Deep Throat implies sexy, there is nothing sexy about this old freak's romps!!

legalschnauzer said...

Not sure I follow, @1:08. You reference an "anonymous comment" that Keith Baker refused to testify. Where is that comment? Is it in the July 30, 2015, article? Perhaps you also wrote the @11:15 comment. Both seem interesting, but you lost me at some point. I'm not sure what anonymous sources you are referring to. At one point, it sounds like you are saying Keith Baker was one of my anonymous sources, and that is not the case. Feel free to clarify because I suspect others are confused, too.

Anonymous said...

Not only would it be convincing, I would love to read the comments.

Anonymous said...

It would also make a good April Fools post just to get some reactions.

Anonymous said...

Legal Schnauzer check out the Ida Maxwell Wells lawsuit against G Gordon Liddy re the Mo Dean allegation submitted above.


http://openjurist.org/186/f3d/505/ida-maxwell-wells-v-g-gordon-liddy-phillip-mackin-bailley

The basic allegation has circulated for a while.

www.nytimes.com/1984/11/11/books/a-new-explanation-of-watergate.html

Anonymous said...

All of this means one thing:

PUSSY is still undefeated in Alabama.

Carry on.

MrsW said...

Roger, When you were a college professor,you lived in a world of black letter law. I am a poor white,therefore I live in a world of poor whites and blacks letter law.I have been trying to show your readers how to recognize that kind of law. You got a good dose of poor white law. ToTo, you aint in kansas anymore.In one of my comments,I listed how the land thieves work. Buy one half acre from a poor person at a very good price-use a metes and bounds survey- show the poor person the survey platt but do not record it.In Alabama you can buy land, with a metes and bounds survey,describing two sides. Have the deed read described and conveyed instead of to be discribed and conveyed. The Judge will rule on what the recorded deed says,not the unrecorded platt.
My father-in-law was a high level executive for Ford in Michigan.He dealt with black letter law lawyers. He hired a lawyer in Auburn to handle his mother-in -laws estate. The deed was recorded different from the will.A very small detail created a defective title. The land thieves came close to blighting the property.
People underestimate Baxley. In his era, a lawyer needed a fast mind. Today they need a fast laptop. In Baxley's era lawsuits were decided in court but won outside of court. Today they are decided outside of court and won in court.
The press can be lead by the nose, if you give them a little raw meat.Look at Charles Dean and Bently/Mason. Look at Bill Britt and Matt Hart. The Bingo Trial episode about Keith Baker was Baxley era lawyering.
The beautiful heifer, in the anonymous comment about the San Diego bus station, was a man. The point being made was; If you are going to trust what your eyes tell you,you better verify what you see,or else you will recieve a crude awakening.
The comment in the march 10 article (march 12,9;21 pm, I took comments other people made and a little bit of fact,and made it appear that the mayor in Jasper hired some one to discredit Roger, and they needed medication. My point being;After Keith Baker refused to testify, The prosecutors and some defence attorneys took a little bit of fact and used the press to pull one of the greatest stunts I have ever seen. Read the comments at the end of the July 30 2015 article.They will help you understand why Keith Baker makes the decisions that he makes.
John Caylor gave some good advice and an excellent compliment.He and I can not make the thoughts connect like you.You are one of the best.But Roger, you always write of black letter law.Some utopia. We live in Alabama. John Caylor described Alabama as it was; as it is ;and as it will always be.
MY problem is the land thieves in Auburn. The Bingo Trials allowed them a means to escape. I know the crooks,using goverment as their tool,will win in the end.I can not move off land,where I have lived my life, in 30 days. This is where I will make my stand. Besides,they have destroyed my lungs with their poison,and I don't foresee living to a healthy old age.

Anonymous said...

David Bynes and Neal Morrison have to be involved in this cover up, given both of thief history.

Anonymous said...

I would check into the details surrounding Seth Hammett's resignation as Bentley's Chief of Staff becsuse the timing of his resignation coincided with the divorce. What did Hammett know and when did he know it?

MrsW said...

A broad brush for black letter law, paints some honest judges as corrupt. For example, assume I sold the one half acre to a local citizen and the judge is a friend of mine.
The local citizen takes me to court for possession of all my land. The judge knows what happened and rules against black letter law. Now assume the local citizen had sold the land to a New York bank. The bank will appeal and they will win based on black letter law. The people who police the legal system is where the corruption is.
The average citizen in Alabama does not have enough money to prove a fraud case against an attorney.

legalschnauzer said...

Mrs. W:

To clarify, I was never a college professor. I worked at UAB for roughly 20 years, in 2-3 editorial positions. My background is in journalism (reporter/editor), not as a professor.

MrsW said...

I took a Business Law course in college taught by State Senator Ted Little. I always thought of him as lawyer-State Senator -college professor. Since you worked at a college,I assumed you taught a journalism course also.
When you practice journalism,you are among the best. Example;July 30 2015 article. Ricky Stokes had reported that Keith Baker had an affair.I am sure he had a source.
In the july 30 article,you report what you want your readers to look at.But you supply your readers with the data they need to verify what they see. You supplied the transcripts that Josh Moon used to conclude Baker had an affair. I see Parkman getting this rumor started and Franklin slyly giving the rumor a little push forward. I do not see an affair. But I do see Franklin volunteer informtion that he was not asked.I now need data to verify what I see.

Brickenson said...

Roger, I have a scenario for you to react to. Very interested in how you handle this stuff.

Let's say it is AL state election season. You are contacted by an operative for the sitting governor who tells you that he has video recordings of the other party's gubernatorial candidate entering a motel with a pretty young female aide, and then exiting the same motel a couple of hours later. He shows you the recordings and they seem legit. The operative claims the candidate is having an affair with the aide. However, your operative source will not go on the record. Neither the aide, who you can identify, nor the candidate return your calls.

What do you do with this story?

legalschnauzer said...

Based on your description, I don't do anything with the story. I might file the info away for future investigation, but not sure I do anything more than that. A lot would depend on exactly what the video shows.

The fact a candidate enters a motel and exits a couple of hours later with a pretty young female aide doesn't tell me much. If they are pawing all over each other in the throes of passion, and it's past the twilight hour, that might suggest something. But if it's a candidate and one of his employees walking professionally into a motel (you actually seem to be describing a hotel, but perhaps that doesn't matter), I don't see much to it. Maybe they are there for a function at the hotel, which could be checked against the hotel's schedule of events. Plus, the fact an operative for the other side is pitching the affair story, doesn't give him/her much credibility on this issue. I see no story, as you describe it now.

A lot depends on whether this is a low-rent motel or a fairly nice hotel, what the video actually shows etc.

Brickenson said...

How about this:

It is a nice hotel, and they visit it every Thursday at the same time, 2 pm, and always emerge by 4 pm. You can't find any official functions at the hotel that they would be attending. The candidate is married, as is the aide. Some days they enter and leave together, but other days they do not.

Just curious when this becomes a story for you.

MrsW said...

Your article on July 27,2015 is an excellant work of journalism. As a reporter you wanted your readers to look at the following paragraph.
The "Advertiser" obtained records that show more than 8000 text messages sent and recieved by Baker during the bingo investigation are missing from his phone and from backup computer servers at FBI headquarters in Virgina. Defendents were able to retrieve a few messages from Baker's phone and one of them suggested the FBI had communicated with Governor Riley in late 2010._ To help us verify what we see, you included Moon's quotes of the transcripts.
My verifiction tells me; Baker was at an Auburn football game on Nov 6,2010 and met Bob Riley on the sideline. He texted the court recorder once and she returned two texts. I do not see him communicating with Bob Riley. But I do see this; No way on this earth did Keith Baker erase his text messages from the backup computer servers at FBI headquarters in Virginia. All of the retrieved text messages came from the court recorders phone records. I see the Goverment doing their best to make Baker Look guilty. I will need more data to verify what I see.
I want to draw your attention to the last list of questions , Moon's report raised.What if the FBI retrieves all of the messages from Baker's phone and they reveal that the bingo prosecution was a sham from the outset? Should the U.S. Justice Dept. conduct an investigation of phones and computers used by all government investigators and prosecutors during the case. What if Keith Baker represents the tip of a massive iceberg of corruption.
Roger! You are one of the best. Do you still wonder why people in Washington read your blog.

MrsW said...

What truly amazes me is that the Prosecuters, Keith Baker and some of the defence attorneys create an affair to get rid of Bakers notes and not a single reporter has discovered their modus operandi. A young lady has had her reputation destroyed by all the people involved. All the information you needed was right under your nose. Don Siegelman could have been out of prison long ago. Not a single person took that pretty heifers hand and looked at the length of the index and ring fingers.

Anonymous said...

"What if Keith Baker represents the tip of a massive iceberg of corruption."

No doubt he does. It's called business-as-usual here in DC.

MrsW said...

Roger! The crooks, thieves,liars and cheats fear you.They have stolen all your earthly goods;thrown you in jail and beaten you and your wife, and yet every morning between 10am and 12 noon, another article from your blog appears on my computer screen.
The prosecutors from the bingo trials fear your blog. Last year,I could find only the picture of the court recorder that you used. The people who read your article saw a young white woman with a black child. They saw what they wanted to see in the article.
The bingo trial prosecutors never intended for Baker to testify. They did not want his phone records available to the defense.
What do you think the outcome of the Siegelman trial would have been, if Baker's phone records were made public. The prosecutors came up with a clever plan to "lose" Baker's records in case he was subpoenaed by the defense.
You have had some articles of woman abused by the Alabama legal system.
Write another article using the transcripts and excellent journalism and show your readers, that it is possible, that a young naive woman got used in a conspiracy to convict innocent people.
The Bingo Trials show Alabama as it was;as it is and as it will always be.

legalschnauzer said...

Brickenson:

I appreciate your scenarios, but I can't answer hypotheticals that keep changing. I can only make a couple of points:

1. Each circumstance, each story, each story possibility, is different. No two are exactly alike, at least in my experience. Assessing the credibility of your sources and any "hard copy" evidence is key.

2. While this blog has reported on a number of "sex scandal" stories in the past three years, we hardly ever touched on that subject in the first six years of this blog. That's because I didn't set out to write about that stuff. The sex-scandal stories have all started when some nugget of information fell into my lap, and I started asking questions of people I felt would have knowledge about the situation.

Perhaps this gives you an idea of how the process tends to work for me. I'm focusing on the AM story now because it involves so many people in high-level professional positions that affect the public. But once that story has passed--and it could take a few years--I might never report on another sex-related story. It's hard to say.

Anonymous said...

If you keep reporting on the misdeeds of the powerful then you'll probably continue to stumble upon these sex related stories.

Anonymous said...

It could take a few years to cover AM? Jesus, what are you planning? To unmask every lawyer in America who paid for the site?

I've been fascinated by your recent AM coverage, but even I'm starting to lose interest.

legalschnauzer said...

Why are you surprised, @8:59. There are some 8,000 paying members in Alabama, and roughly 220,000 total Alabama customers. It's a vast story, and you should know that if you've been following it on a national level. Plus, all the lawsuits easily could take two or more years to reach a conclusion. I'm not just talking about my reporting on AM; the subject is going to be out there for a long time.

If you are losing interest, you might want to get checked for ADD. You also might want to look for another blog to read.