Followers of the No Comment blog at Harper's.org know that author Scott Horton frequently refers to The Birmingham News as "Pravda of the South."
It's hard to top that as a nickname for Alabama's largest newspaper, but I might suggest a supplemental nickname: The Rob Riley Gazette.
The News certainly seems to be Riley's mouthpiece of choice leading up to today's U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Don Siegelman prosecution. The News last week devoted copious amounts of space to stories seeking to discredit Rainsville lawyer Jill Simpson, who testified under oath that the Siegelman prosecution was politically motivated and driven by the Bush White House.
The latest entry in the Trash-Jill-Simpson-Sweepstakes might be the strangest tale of all.
News' reporter Brett Blackledge informs us that a 2002 affidavit accused Siegelman supporters of vote fraud. The one-page affidavit was filed by Eddie Spivey, who had worked with a consulting group on the Siegelman campaign. Spivey claimed that Siegelman supporters had manipulated votes at ballot boxes.
Rob Riley, son of Alabama governor Bob Riley, was so concerned about the affidavit that he took it to the state attorney general's office and showed it to Troy King. Blackledge says Rob Riley also showed it to a female reporter for The Birmingham News, who evidently wrote nothing about it at the time. Curiously, Blackledge does not mention the reporter's name.
Even more curiously, Spivey could not be reached for comment, even though he wound up getting a state job handling security at the governor's mansion.
For good measure, Rob Riley could not give the News a copy of the affidavit, saying it was in storage.
As for Troy King, now Alabama's attorney general, he turned the affidavit over to state investigators, who closed the case after conducting initial interviews.
This story has more holes than the Oakland Raiders' offensive line. But the News goes with it anyway, following its usual strategy: Start it on the front page, with an ominous sounding headline and lead paragraph, and then reveal on the jump that there is little, if anything, to it.
But, hey, at least Blackledge got to tell us that Simpson, in her affidavit, made no mention of the voter-fraud affidavit that captured the attention of the Riley campaign team. I guess that's supposed to call her credibility into question.
She also failed to mention that the Eagles are about to release Long Road out of Eden, their first studio album in almost 30 years. And she failed to provide a review of Alice Cooper's show Saturday night at the Alabama Theater. Gee, there must be a story there somewhere.
Blackledge did provide this nugget: Rob Riley and others mentioned in Simpson's affidavit are preparing affidavits to submit to the committee for Tuesday's hearing. Can't wait to read those.
Speaking of today's hearings, U.S. Representative Artur Davis (D-AL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, weighs in with an article today in the Montgomery Advertiser.