Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Snopes.com, the famed Web fact-checking site, weighs in on the story of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor and his connections to 1990s gay porn via badpuppy.com

Bill Pryor, from badpuppy.com
The Web's best-known fact-checking site has weighed in on the story of U.S. District Judge Bill Pryor and a nude photo of him that appeared at several gay-pornography media outlets in the 1980s and '90s. We broke the Pryor-porn story in September 2013, and interest in it skyrocketed recently in the wake of Donald Trump's election, with the possibility that Pryor will be nominated to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Snopes.com reportedly attracted 7 to 8 million unique visits in one month during 2010, making it almost certainly the most widely read fact-checking site on the Web. With a recent post titled "Derobed: A photograph of a nude young man has been claimed to picture Judge William Pryor, a potential Supreme Court nominee," Snopes has applied its research capabilities to a story that has been big in Alabama and the Southeast for some time -- and might soon become a story of national importance.

What is Snopes conclusion about the Pryor story? It labels the story as "unproven." Does that bother me? Absolutely not. For one, I welcome the analysis of  a widely read, and generally respected, site such as Snopes. Two, despite its solid reputation, Snopes' analysis of this story has problems; the site gets key facts wrong, and it's analysis is flawed. I, however, am happy to have the attention for a story that could soon be vitally important to America's future.

From the Snopes article, by Dan Evon:

CLAIM: A photograph of a nude young man pictures Judge William Pryor, a potential Supreme Court nominee.

ORIGIN:Judge William H. Pryor of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has been in the news lately, both because his name reportedly appeared on President-Elect Donald Trump's definitive list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and because while serving as Alabama's attorney general Pryor filed an amicus brief in support of a Texas anti-sodomy law.

It was with some sense of irony, then, that in November 2016, an old image purportedly showing William Pryor posing nude for a gay porn magazine as a young man was recirculated online in November 2016:

Snopes gave us credit for breaking the story, and we appreciate that, although we object to the characterization that the "rumor" originated with our Web site. We didn't engage in rumor dissemination; we engaged in journalism:

The rumor that Pryor once posed nude for a gay porn magazine originated with a web site called "Legal Schnauzer" back in 2013. That web site claimed that the photograph "likely appeared in at least one print publication in the 1980s" and was later published by the web site Badpuppy.com in 1997. However, the former reference is too vague to verify, and we were unable to find the image on Badpuppy. (Legal Schnauzer claims the image was removed from Badpuppy, but not before the Alabama Bureau of Investigations managed to capture a screenshot of it.)

Where does Snopes go off the tracks? It starts here, with a paragraph that is below a redacted version of the nude Pryor photo we first published:

The assertion that the above-displayed photograph is a picture of Judge William Pryor is based on three factors: a supposed headshot of the model appears next to the name "Bill Pryor," colleagues of the judge reportedly saw the photograph and exclaimed that it looked like him, and that the model and Pryor both allegedly have "strabismus" (i.e., crossed-eyes). 
Whatever the evidence provided by Legal Schnauzer, the alleged opinion of two unidentified officials isn't proof of anything. Furthermore, while whoever posed for the photograph may resemble Pryor at first glance, a side-by-side comparison shows that certain features (such as the nose) seemingly don't match.

What problems are present here?

(1) Snopes ignores the fact that we interviewed two former state law-enforcement officials who were directly involving in investigating the photos out of concern that Pryor, then Alabama's freshly named attorney general, might be vulnerable to blackmail. Snopes apparently glossed over this paragraph from our original report on the Pryor photos:

Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

Bottom line? Our reporting was not based on just the three factors Snopes lists above. It also was based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who were directly involved in the matter and said their investigation showed the nude individual was "the" Bill Pryor.

(2) Snopes claims the noses in the two photos do not match, but it does not say how. The older Pryor weighs more than the younger Pryor, and his face is more full, but I see no other difference in the noses. Snopes fails to mention that both images clearly do involve strabismus and attached earlobes.

Finally, we have this from Snopes:

But perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this claim is simply that this photograph, which the Alabama Bureau of Investigations (ABI) and public officials have allegedly known about since the 1990s, has never been directly linked to Pryor. The judge, who was nominated to the Eleventh Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2003, told the Justice Integrity Project in 2013 that:

"I have been smeared by a widely discredited blogger with a political agenda. His allegations have now been picked up by other bloggers. The person in the unsourced, undated photographs is not me, and I deny these allegations. I have been twice vetted by the FBI, including as recently as this past year; I have won two contested statewide elections; and I have been in the public eye for almost twenty years. I will not dignify these disgraceful accusations with any further comment."

The first highlighted section simply is not true. Multiple law-enforcement officials have directly linked the photo to Pryor, based on their investigation, which took them to Monroe, Louisiana, where Pryor went to college.

The second highlighted section does not tell the whole story. Pryor did not tell the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) anything in 2013. In fact, he apparently did not speak to JIP publisher Andrew Kreig at all, and definitely did not take any questions. Instead, Pryor had a former law clerk named Jennifer Bandy issue the "official statement" Snopes cites above.

Does Snopes reveal Andrew Kreig's assessment, based on research that included an attempt to interview Pryor, which Snopes apparently made no effort to do? No, it doesn't, but here is the conclusion that Kreig reached:

My opinion is that the photo is Pryor more likely than not, despite his denial.

Perhaps Snopes and Dan Evon would be wise to provide their audience with more context to this story. They could inform their readers that I broke the Pryor story on September 17, 2013, and one week later, Alabama deputies (in groups of two and three, always with multiple vehicles) started regularly appearing at our house, with no lawful grounds for trampling all over our property. Less than one month after the show of law-enforcement thuggery began, a deputy walked into our garage (without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating his reasons for being present), beat me up, doused me with pepper spray and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay -- all with no legal grounds for doing so.

I became the only American journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated -- and apparently the only one in American history to be arrested over a preliminary injunction that is unlawful in a defamation case under 230 years of First Amendment law. Is it a coincidence that this happened just weeks after I broke the story of Bill Pryor's youthful foray into gay porn?

I don't think so, and I would invite an inquiry from Snopes into the really important, and disturbing, aspects of this story. Dan Evon likely has no idea how deep the ugliness goes -- and it even includes an effort to have a bogus "content warning" placed on my blog.

An in-depth inquiry would show that the individual in the nude photo is, in fact, "the" Bill Pryor -- and the judge and his allies, in a show of Stalinesque force, had a journalist kidnapped and thrown in jail for reporting accurately on the story.

Life in America likely will get ugly under Donald Trump, and the Pryor story provides a glimpse of how far entitled, white right-wingers will go when they feel threatened by the truth.


Anonymous said...

Snopes is very widely read and having them address the Pryor story is a sign that it's hitting the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

Snopes leaves this bad puppy dangling like a limp eggplant.

Anonymous said...

Snopes is in the business of debunking things, so I would say an unproven finding is a victory for you. Tells me they couldn't find anything to show your reporting is untrue.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should try to FIOA the investigation records?

Dear [custodian of records]:

Under the Alabama Open Records Law § 36-12-40 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of pubic records that [Describe the records or information sought with enough detail for the public agency to respond. Be as specific as your knowledge of the available records will allow. But it is more important to describe the information you are seeking.]

legalschnauzer said...

@12:10 -- Anyone is welcome to try a FOIA request, but I don't think it will be successful. I'm pretty sure law-enforcement investigative records are not public. Would welcome insight from others, but that's my understanding.

Anonymous said...

A reporter’s state-by-state access guide to law enforcement records

Anonymous said...

I'm reading comments on yesterday's post where someone is claiming to have reported you to "authorities" regarding "child protection." I suspect these people are con artists. If they are afraid to give their names to you, they almost certainly are not going to give their names to law enforcement. I think they are just trying to shake you up a little, and it doesn't look like it's working. Good! It's clear to most sane people that the picture is, in fact, of a college-aged Bill Pryor.

Anonymous said...

This "Peter M" character over on yesterday's post is a complete amateur. Glad to see you were able to swat him away like the insect he is.

Sarah said...

I've engaged Mr. Shuler twice now through email about important issues, and each time he has ended up demanding to know "who I am working for" and my home address. Well, he has my real name (twice now!) but not my address, because we all know what he will do with that information: try and connect me with his other "enemies" in his vast, impossible conspiracy, and then sexually smear me (I'm a woman). Mr. Shuler knows I'm not even a US resident and don't give two hoots about the "trumpelstiltskins" now coming to power and the racist Republicans that dominate politics in the South. But he'll claim I'm "one of Pryor's people" anyway.

legalschnauzer said...


What is your full name and when did you send these e-mails to me? I have no memory of them. I'll be blunt: I think you are lying.

If you aren't a U.S. resident, why would I ask for your address and why would you care if I had it?

I think you are full of feces, although you are welcome to prove me wrong.

legalschnauzer said...

As a followup to Sarah:

I don't recall asking for any reader's address in the time I've been doing this blog. Perhaps someone asked me to send them something, in which case I would need an address. But I don't recall that happening.

Sarah seems to be borrowing from the Jessica Garrison playbook, when she claimed I took pictures of her house and stalked her. The picture in question was a real-estate photo that was taken by an agent before Garrison ever lived there. And I've never stalked Jessica Garrison or anyone else.

This is the kind of false narrative that Jessica Garrison has been trying to pull out of thin air for some time now. I wouldn't be surprised if "Sarah" is Jessica Garrison.

This makes at least two of these wise-ass, threatening commenters who have claimed they are not U.S. residents. Perhaps that is another Garrison ploy. They also tend to claim they care nothing about Bill Pryor; that is a sure sign that they do care about Bill Pryor.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to Sarah:

If you think you know so much, I would suggest you start your own blog on this subject. You aren't going to be spewing your uninformed BS here anymore.

legalschnauzer said...

Sarah --

I also noticed you sent no evidence that you and I had ever communicated via e-mail. I take that to mean you are a liar, as I suspected all along.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to 1:30 --

That's the best you can do? It is absolute truth that I interviewed investigators on the case and have it on tape. So blow it out your pipe. You must be a fraud, like your pal Sarah.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to Sarah --

I asked you to send any proof of e-mail communications between us, and you didn't send any. That tells me all I need to know. I also see no signs that you know a thing about child welfare, privacy, or journalism ethics. You are just a fraud, best I can tell.

legalschnauzer said...

Memo to Sarah, 10:52, etc. --

I've asked you to take your circus act elsewhere and leave me alone, but I keep getting BS comments from you. If you don't leave me alone, as I've asked multiple times, I'm going to report you as a cyber-stalker for harassing communications. Now, jump up my ass and scram. You are a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Pryor's most progressive idea is to feed us ever-larger doses of his lies. If that sounds progressive to you, you must be facing the wrong way. Pryor is the type of person that turns up his nose at people like you and me. I guess that's because we haven't the faintest notion about the things that really matter such as why it would be good for him to attack everyone else's beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Pryor I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for black people or the black culture.... I'm not saying he doesn't like black people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.

Anonymous said...

Do you intend to post the audio of the interview with the investigators?

legalschnauzer said...

To borrow a phrase from Donald Trump, "I'm going to leave you in suspense on that."