Sunday, July 8, 2007

Curious Reporting in Birmingham

I promise we will return to the issue of selective prosecution by the Bush Justice Department soon, but just had to weigh in on the strange story about the Don Siegelman saga in today's Birmingham News.

Reporter Brett Blackledge, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the two-year colleges scandal in Alabama (which involves mostly Democrats), endeavors to inform us that Dana Jill Simpson's affidavit could have two meanings regarding Karl Rove.

The affidavit, Blackledge reports, could mean that Bill Canary said Rove instigated the Siegelman prosecution from the outset. Or it could mean that Canary merely was acknowledging that Rove knew about a prosecution of Siegelman that already was under way.

Early in the story, Blackledge reports that Simpson herself agrees that the affidavit could be interpreted two ways; she emphasizes that she simply was trying to report the conversation as factually as possible. (Simpson goes on to state that she believes, based on the conversation she heard, that Rove was involved in the prosecution. This is buried deep in a story that must run 30 to 40 column inches.)

The News states that numerous national publications, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, have reported the story as if Rove had been involved on the front end. But the News claims that Simpson's affidavit does not specifically say that.

Call me dense, but I fail to see what is open to debate in the Simpson affidavit regarding Rove. In item 16 in the affidavit, Simpson quotes Canary telling Rob Riley (son of Alabama Governor Bob Riley) "not to worry that he had already GOTTEN IT WORKED OUT WITH KARL and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department was already pursuing Don Siegelman."

Gotten it worked out with Karl? Where I come from, that's plain English for "Karl was involved on the front end."

While Rove's involvement has drawn much attention from the mainstream press and many bloggers (including yours truly), any alleged actions on his part are not the central story in Simpson's affidavit. In Simpson's own words, her main point was that Siegelman attorney Terry Butts had a conflict of interest, causing Siegelman to be denied his sixth amendment right to have an attorney who is free of conflict. And in exposing Butts' conflict, Simpson revealed the political motivations behind the Siegelman prosecution--regardless of what Rove knew and when he knew it.

By the way, Scott Horton of Harper's, saw this coming. He reported last night that the News was about to pull out one of its heavy hitters (Blackledge) to write a story that would spin the Simpson affidavit in a light most favorable to Republicans. Until now, Republicans have been saying the conversation outlined in Simpson's affidavit never took place. Horton notes that since it can be proven that the conversation took place, Canary & Co. are now taking a different approach--claiming that Simpson misunderstood what was said.

Remember, Horton reported this Saturday night, and the story appeared, just as he stated it would, in today's Birmingham News. More great reporting by Harper's on the Siegelman case.

My experience with corrupt Republican judges in Alabama has given me some insight into how The Birmingham News operates. I will be sharing those insights with you shortly.


Anonymous said...

You can't even read the affadavit correctly. It doesn't say Canary told Bob Riley anything.

Anonymous said...

And Horton's story said that one of the participants in the allegend conference call was going to re-spin the story--leading one to believe that it was Canary or Riley--but it was Simpson herself, backing off from the claims that Rove was involved in orchestrating the prosection of Siegelman

Anonymous said...

Anon --

No one is claiming that Billy Canary told Bob Riley a damn thing. Rob Riley, Bob's son, was on the call. That's the Riley of concern. Along with Terry Butts and Simpson. And as for Horton's reporting, the fact that the News doesn't mention who PLANTED this little seed in Brett's head doesn't mean that it was Simpson (i.e., the only person named in the story). Canary, Toby Roth, Terry Butts, or anyone else could have been behind the article. The real key is figuring out why Canary, the husband of the US Attorney, is on a strategy call with the Rileys AND talking to "Karl" on the phone.

legalschnauzer said...

You are correct, sir. It should be Rob Riley, not Bob Riley. I have made that change.