Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Birmingham News Has No Shame

Any notion that The Birmingham News is a real newspaper, making even the slightest effort to report the news in an objective fashion, can officially be pitched out the window today.

Regular readers of Scott Horton's No Comment blog at Harper's.org almost certainly decided some time ago that the News is little more than a right-wing mouthpiece. Anyone with lingering doubt needs to check out today's Brett Blackledge special in the "Riley/Rove Gazette."

The headline says "Siegelman report cited by defense in two-year college case." At the heart of the story is this: Lawyers for State Rep. Sue Schmitz, who faces fraud charges, have moved that her case be dismissed on the grounds that she, like former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, is the victim of a political prosecution. Schmitz' lawyers cite last week's report from the majority staff of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which called for further investigation into the Siegelman case and other federal prosecutions that appear to have been driven by politics.

This seems to throw our guy Brett into some sort of spasm. His story devolves into a trashing of the U.S. House report that sounds like it was authored by the Republican National Committee.

Let's examine some of the contentions Blackledge makes in his piece:

* "The Democratic report issued last week on the Siegelman case frequently cites Internet postings by partisan bloggers working with Siegelman and his allies as evidence of growing public outrage . . . "--The overwhelming majority of citations in the report are to mainstream publications--The New York Times, Time magazine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register, etc. Blackledge doesn't identify the "bloggers" he is referring to, so we are left to guess. But Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, is the only "blogger" cited for more than one article in the report. So it seems safe to assume that Blackledge is referring to Horton. Blackledge evidently doesn't want his readers to know that Horton writes for Harper's, one of America's most respected periodicals. He doesn't want us to know that Horton is a law professor at Columbia University and a native of Alabama, who knows and cares about the territory. Bottom line? Blackledge has no evidence to support his claim that the report is driven by "partisan bloggers," so he doesn't present any. We can just trust Brett.

* "In raising concerns about politics affecting prosecutions, the Democrats committee report repeats disputed claims about Washington interference in Siegelman's case."--Disputed by whom, and in what forum? Have any of the key players disputed the claims under oath? Have any of them submitted to questioning under oath? I didn't think so.

* "Former White House adviser Karl Rove's connection to the case, for example, relies on Rainsville lawyer Jill Simpson's statements, which have changed at least twice."--Blackledge just can't resist dragging out this tired old chestnut. So let's get something straight: Simpson has told her story in three different forms or venues--a sworn affidavit, sworn testimony under bipartisan questioning from Congressional staff, and media interviews. She has given her story in three different forums. That doesn't mean she has changed her story. The truth? Simpson has made sworn statements and answered questions both under oath and the glare of media floodlights. Have any of her detractors done the same? I didn't think so.

* "(Bill) Canary and others Simpson said were on the 2002 conference call have denied discussing the case with Rove and have denied her allegations that Rove was discussed on a phone call with her."--Have these out-and-out denials come under oath? Nope. Is Blackledge going to mention the carefully hedged "lawyer's" language in the affidavits filed by Rob Riley and two others? Nope.

This one is good for a laugh, so make sure you don't have a mouthful of water:

* "The Democrats' report on Siegelman's case, which serves as the basis for a demand that Rove testify before Congress on the matter, states Rove publicly has not addressed 'the main charge that he had pressed the Justice Department to prosecute Mr. Siegelman.' But last month, Rove did just that in an interview with The News, stating, 'There is absolutely no evidence for that at all. I did not pressure the Justice Department on anything.'"--Oh well, gee, that settles it. Karl Rove gives an interview to our guy Brett, and that equals sworn testimony before Congress. And we can be sure that our guy Brett really pressured Turd Blossom with some serious followup questions. If the Pulitzer committee doesn't take away Blackledge's Pulitzer Prize for writing that paragraph, then there is no reason to hold much respect for that storied outfit.

What an embarrassment for the journalism profession. But, as we said, The Birmingham News has no shame.

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