Amber Phillips, of The Washington Post, went even further in an article that included behind-the-scenes tidbits from al.com reporter Leada Gore. Wrote Phillips:
Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group's reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor's alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.
Does accuracy matter these days at MSNBC and WaPo? John Archibald did not break the Bentley story, and al.com did not crack it open. This blog, Legal Schnauzer, broke the story (and cracked it open) last August, while al.com mostly dithered, wrote a few articles that touched on the edges of the story, and seemingly hoped it would go away so one of its beloved Republicans would not be tarnished.
In fact, al.com spent much of its time attacking the reporter who actually broke the story--me.
It's all out there on the Web, so you would think Maddow's team and the WaPo staff could manage to find it. But they apparently did not bother to look. So we will show you the proof ourselves, with a few pithy comments of our own.
(1) Our first example comes from an article by the venerated John Archibald, published at 12:30 p.m. on August 31, 2015. I had broken the story that morning:
Several media outlets--bloggers and radio talkers--this morning cited "sources" as they reported that Gov. Robert Bentley has without question had an affair with a female staff member, a torrid love cuddle that caused the governor's wife of a half century, Dianne Bentley, to file for divorce and ask for everything the guy ever made.
All they offered was "sources." Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke.
Comment: The venerable Archibald and al.com seem to have major problems with journalists who use anonymous sources. Archibald gets downright huffy about it, asserting that any article based on anonymous sources has no "proof" or "fact" and amounts to nothing "more than smoke." Hmmm . . . hold that thought.
(2) Our second item comes from an article by Leada Gore, WaPo's inside source on all things brilliant and honorable about al.com, published on September 3, 2015. Gore notes, with dripping contempt, that Rebekah Caldwell Mason has been named, by me, as Bentley's mistress and the driving force behind the governor's divorce :
Bentley's tenure as governor has been virtually scandal free until last week when his wife of 50 years, Dianne Bentley, filed for divorce, citing "complete incompatibility of temperament." Since then, Mason's name has been dragged into the controversy, thanks in part to blog posts and radio commenters.
Comment: Gore seems almost put out that Mason's name got "dragged" into the scandal--and Gore blames mean old bloggers and radio commenters. Since radio commenters generally do little or no original journalism, it's likely they were borrowing from my blog posts. That means Gore's ire likely is directed at me. Is it possible that Mason dragged her own name into the quagmire, perhaps by allowing Bentley to get his jollies by cupping her breasts and exploring her nether regions? We now know that's the case, but Gore was having none of it last September.
(3) Example No. 3 comes from an article by Chuck Dean, published on September 4, 2015. Dean notes a couple of key events Bentley and advisor/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason had shared, and then writes:
And now they are sharing something else, something totally unwanted. A rumor about the two has been circulating in mostly political circles for many months. It exploded across the Internet and blogger world Friday when Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce from her 72-year-old husband. Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.
Comment: What is an "unsubstantial rumor"? I'm not sure, but Dean seems to have a problem getting his words straight here (which makes you wonder, after years of layoffs, if al.com even employs copy editors anymore). This much seems clear: Dean was including Legal Schnauzer among his "blogs of dubious credibility." Now, roughly seven months later, we know our credibility, and our sources, could not be much better. What about Chuck Dean's credibility? Well, it's not in such great shape. (On a side note, Dean claims to have been a journalist for some 30-plus years, but he is not aware that many divorce complaints use boilerplate language that does not include specific allegations of infidelity, abuse, etc.? That Dianne Bentley's brief complaint did not mention infidelity says nothing about whether she is alleging infidelity in the divorce. A reporter familiar with the strange workings of domestic-relations courts should know that.)
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. . . .
We can all do better who love the craft of journalism. And all of you who consume information every day from more sources than have ever existed must work to become better discerners of what you consume and maybe remember an old adage passed down from generation to generation:
Don't believe everything you read.
Comment: Wow, what has The Chuckster so exorcised here? For one, I had outed Dean as a paying customer of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, and that had come roughly two weeks earlier--so he probably still was butt-hurt about that. The blogger Dean disses here, of course, is me. The first reference is to a lawsuit brought by GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. Dean, of course, doesn't bother to tell his audience that the case did not go to trial (or a jury trial, as required under First Amendment law), so Riley and Duke did not prove their case, and as a matter of law, my reporting was not false or defamatory. Dean also fails to state that First Amendment law dating to the Revolutionary War holds that a preliminary injunction is unlawful in a defamation case (it's called a "prior restraint," which you would expect a journalist to know about--but not our boy, Chuck). That means the contempt order against me, and the resulting incarceration, were profoundly unlawful, unconstitutional, and (as one Birmingham lawyer called it) "insane." Yet, neither Dean, nor anyone else from al.com, has bothered to explain that--even though the case received national and international news coverage. I would be glad to explain it to Dean, or any other al.com reporter, but they have not bothered to contact me on this issue. I guess it's easier to take cheap shots at me instead.
Dean's second reference is to the notorious Jessica Medeiros Garrison lawsuit. Like Riley and Duke, Garrison engaged in machinations that ensured she never would sit for questioning in any adversarial proceeding, much less a trial. Curiously, I could not defend myself because my wife and I were forced to flee Alabama after our home in Birmingham went into a foreclosure that would have to improve to be called "dubious." Was Jessica Garrison involved in a scheme to cheat us out of our home, so that she wouldn't have to answer questions, under oath, about her relationship with Attorney General Luther Strange? We will explore that question in upcoming posts, but for now we can say this with certainty: If you made a list of people who benefited from the likely wrongful foreclosure of our home, Jessica Garrison's name would be at, or near, the top.
(5) Finally, we have another Chuck Dean article, published on December 27, 2015, where our guy still is foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Dean focuses, in part, on the governor's divorce from Dianne Bentley, ending a 50-year marriage:
In her filing Dianne Bentley never alleged infidelity on the part of her husband. But once the filing became public on August 28, online blogs - some discredited in courts of law and others with dubious histories - were almost instantly filled with unsubstantiated rumors of an extramarital affair between Bentley and a senior advisor. . . .
If Bentley, most Alabamians and even Montgomery insiders were shocked by the news, a handful of bloggers didn't seem to be surprised. Within hours of the painful news, blogs rolled out posts featuring far-fetched stories with highly implausible details about the alleged affair.
What they did not roll out was any proof.
Comment: Dean's reference to a blog that has been "discredited in courts of law" obviously is a reference to Legal Schnauzer. Does Dean provide evidence that a court of law has issued any ruling that is correct under the facts and the law and "discredits" this blog? No, he does not. In other words, he doesn't "roll out any proof"--to borrow a phrase from Dean himself--and that's because no such proof exists. On the subject of proof, my post that broke the story was based on information from anonymous sources, the same kind al.com itself uses. As for Dean's tired "unsubstantiated rumors" line, which he has used at least three times (by my unofficial count) . . . well, that now just sounds like so much horse feces, doesn't it?
What about al.com's supposed aversion to the use of anonymous sources? Well, their own recent work shows the aversion only applies when another journalist uses such sources--especially when that journalist has kicked the mainstream media's ass on a story. When al.com relies on anonymous sources, it is A-OK.
As for Chuck Dean, he inspired us to come up with a new adage: "If you read something at Legal Schnauzer, you can take it to the bank because that blog's credibility has been proven to be top notch. Otherwise, don't believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean, or anyone else at al.com, has written it.