Thursday, April 13, 2017

Even progressive journalists, like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC, can't get it right about how the "Luv Guv" Bentley story was broken

Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell
The sex and money scandal that brought down Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley this week was a train wreck of deceit. But the dishonesty and misinformation were not limited to political figures, both in and outside the Bentley Administration. It also includes the mainstream media (MSM), the kind of news outlets that involve newspaper chains and major television networks.

Andrew Kreig, a D.C.-based lawyer and journalist, takes the MSM to task for its coverage of the Bentley scandal, in a new column at the Justice-Integrity Project. The piece is titled "Alabama blogger, not mainstream media, exposed state house scandal."

We appreciate Kreig's recognition that the Bentley scandal broke here at Legal Schnauzer, not or any other mainstream outlet. In fact, we broke the story almost seven months before the MSM hopped on the train, and during those intervening months, reporters John Archibald, Chuck Dean (yes, he of Ashley Madison fame), and Leada Gore mostly tried to debunk the story and attack my reporting.

I'm never surprised when -- a consortium of Alabama right-wing rags -- sinks to lazy, dishonest, or underhanded reporting. But it is disappointing when even progressive journalists, like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC, can't get it right about the origins of the Bentley scandal.

I'm a fan of both Maddow and O'Donnell, and I appreciate that Maddow has been, by far, the most prominent journalist to cover the story; she has devoted segments to it on at least a half dozen occasions, giving it the kind of probing, insightful treatment her viewers have come to expect.

But she repeatedly has gotten it wrong about who broke the story. (Rachel, it was me, dammit!!!) On multiple occasions, she has credited and John Archibald with breaking the story. That's not even close to being accurate; they tried to squelch the story and trash the reporter who did break it.

MSNBC took it a step further after her report Monday night, after Bentley had resigned. During the talky transition from one show to another, O'Donnell gave Maddow credit for being out front on the story, before everyone. (Cough . . . hack . . . snort!) Maddow did not say anything that indicated she disagreed with that assessment.

Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig, however, knows O'Donnell's statement is bogus, and he laid the truth on the line:

Two cable news stars broadcast a repulsive but revealing display of self-promotion Aug. 10 when MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell credited fellow anchor Rachel Maddow for coverage prompting the resignation of Alabama's scandal-ridden governor earlier in the day. "You alone," he told her, covered the scandal.

But credit belongs not to the heavily promoted Maddow . . . but to the courageous Alabama blogger Roger Shuler. He has been financially ruined, beaten and jailed for his relentless investigations of top state officials, including the just-departed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Shuler broke the story of the scandals arising from Bentley's affair with a highly paid state aide, Rebekah Mason Caldwell. . . . Shuler began with a column Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley engaged in extramarital affair that prompted First Lady's divorce complaint on Aug. 31, 2015. He followed with two more such columns over the next two days.

Kreig goes on describe the heavy price my wife, Carol, and I have paid for my progressive journalism in a Deep Red state -- and he shows that real journalism can start at the grassroots level, not necessarily in a New York-based newsroom or studio:

The story of his scoop is particularly apt now because of the awful price that Shuler and his wife Carol have paid for such work. Also, the mainstream media are waging a heavy-handed public relations campaign against bloggers, alternative media and those falling under the smear of "fake news" and "conspiracy theory."

This is the first of several columns we plan about those developments, which are prominent this week in part because of the annual annual announcement of Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzers were dominated as usual by winners from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal in major categories. . . .
But there's much more to journalism than the big outlets. Grassroots practitioners like Shuler across the country do not and cannot spend their scarce income much on application fees to compete in such contests, even in the unlikely event their work would receive serious consideration from the corporate-controlled media that control such recognition.

So, we focus for now on the brave and largely unreported tale of how Shuler, an impoverished blogger in flight with his wife from autocratic Alabama judges managed to bring down his state's governor in the kind of mind-boggling sex, legal and financial scandal whose revelation has become commonplace recently in that state.

Kreig provides extensive details on how the story was broken -- and the environment in which it was broken: (Hint: It did not involve Rachel Maddow or John Archibald.)

Bentley's resignation means the leadership of all three branches of Alabama's state government has been ousted in less than a year because of scandal, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (permanently suspended for refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on gay rights that conflict with his understanding of The Bible) and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, arguably the most powerful state official and convicted last June of 12 felonies involving massive graft. . . .

The irony is that Shuler gets virtually nothing for it — hardly any money and very little recognition, and probably many more legal hassles to come — whereas the MSNBC anchors are reported to receive multi-million-dollar annual salaries.

John Archibald discusses Bentley scandal on MSNBC
Neither Maddow nor O'Donnell did original reporting that broke this case as Shuler did. Nor do they risk anything by their commentary to a largely liberal audience, except the possibility of one day being phased out for new faces. The Shulers, by contrast, have long lived in Red State country, where threats of violence against liberals are a frequent occurrence, especially for them.

What's most important about this, however, is not who gets the credit for this particular story. The vital point instead should be greater public awareness that a healthy society depends on the different strengths that independent blogging and mainstream news bring to civic awareness.

Are Maddow and O'Donnell intentionally trying to deceive their viewers about the origins of the Bentley scandal? I don't think so. They are based in New York -- a long way from the heart of the story -- and they probably assume that any major story in Alabama must have been broken by one of the state's major news outlets. They probably have no idea that -- known mainly for decades as The Birmingham News -- has long been little more than a GOP house organ, supporting the likes of knuckle-draggers like U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and former U.S. Sen. (now Trump attorney general) Jeff Sessions.

Maddow certainly deserves credit for her coverage of the Bentley scandal, and I suspect both she and O'Donnell have their hearts in the right place. Any of their journalistic sins likely have been of omission, not commission.

As for genuine deceit, it has been present in other MSM quarters, and I discussed that -- and other Bentley-related issues -- earlier this week with one of the nation's most knowledgeable progressive radio hosts.

A post on that is coming right up.


Anonymous said...

Reading Kreig's article makes me concerned that I live in Alabama. What's around the next corner?

Anonymous said...

You'd think John Archibald would have the integrity to go on RMS and say, "Rachel, I appreciate the accolades, but I didn't break the Bentley story. It was the blog "Legal Schnauzer" that broke it. For about seven months, I mostly tried to debunk the story."

legalschnauzer said...

@8:51 --

Not gonna happen. I have a knowledgeable friend and source who is convinced only jumped on the story because they saw a possible Pulitzer in it. You will notice that Andrew Kreig mentions the Pulitzers.

Anonymous said...

Does it really matter who broke a story?

legalschnauzer said...

You might try asking a few journalists. I think the universal answer you get will be "yes." If it didn't matter, would Rachel Maddow and John Archibald be taking credit?

Anonymous said...

@8:51 -- Hah! You mentioned "John Archibald" and "integrity" in the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same John Archibald who claimed he couldn't remember his own bankruptcy?

legalschnauzer said...

@9:47 --

Yep, same guy.

Anonymous said...

How can you forget your own bankruptcy?

Anonymous said...

Journalism is supposed to be about the truth, right? So why do these journalists have so much trouble dealing with the truth?

Anonymous said...

Aboard the Eliza Battle the crew was busy constructing a dummy warship to resemble the Eliza Battle. With the General bunking in the brig, there was an abundance of whiskey crates to use for wood. The crew was instructed to tell the General that the crew was building a "Doll House" for Beka and Patti. John and Thomas Yancey were instructed to sculpture full size figurines of Beka and Patti in secret, away from the General. Admiral Tyron was in the galley constructing a battle plan. Sheldon inquired as to the reason Shuler did not receive credit for breaking the Bentley affair. The Stranger in The Shadows injected himself into the conversation by saying "" wants to control the fall out by claiming that it is "their story". They are trying to sabotage Mike's war plan.Mike's war plan called for Obama's tube sock puppet Big Luther's corruption being exposed at the impeachment inquiry. "U.S.News and World Report" ran an article with State Rep Henry saying Big Luther would be exposed during the impeachment inquiry. US News contacted 2 of 3 people Henry said would verify his story. " hijacked the article and did not contact any of the 3 to verify, but did contact some one to dispute.
Britt had a story that said Mike was planning to join forces with the Riley Machine and run a shadow govt from prison. Mike will not desert the Eliza Battle's Mission. Mike wants the Victoria to believe he will join them therefore the crew has constructed a dummy warship that will be clandestinely connected by a cable to the Victoria. Sheldon inquired as to who would crew the dummy warship. The Stranger replied that John and Thomas's' sculptures of Beka and Patti will be placed on the dummy warship along with the General before daylight.We will add the Nannie Dee figurehead for good measure. Admiral Tyron replied that the idea reminded him of the ironclad "Black Terror" during the Civil War. Have the crew inscribe " Deluded People, Cave in." on the dummy ship.
The Stranger added that Mike's plan "C" was proceeding as planned.

Anonymous said...

MSNBC can't afford to have researchers who can look this stuff up? In the digital world, a 5 to 10 minute Google search should tell you who broke this story.

Anonymous said...

@9:15 -- Ask Native Americans if it matters who was here first -- or who did something first.

Anonymous said...

It's bad enough that is taking credit for this story. But the really bad thing, to me, is that they tried to sweep it under the rug and attack the journalist who did break it.

Hell, Archibald's partner in crime, Kyle Whitmire, got caught sticking the John Merrill affair story in his desk drawer. These people try to protect right-wing politicos, and they've been doing it for years.

Steve said...

It matters a great deal. Journalists need more than just air and water to live. They need an income to buy housing and food. A journalist who is credited with breaking a significant story has a much better chance to get paying work! Roger deserves the credit and any financial reward due.

e.a.f. said...

It is important that credit goes where credit is due and in this case the credit ought to go to Roger and L.S. and his supportive spouse, Carol

Its not just that work done ought to be credited to those who did the work, but in the all over scheme of things, people usually get paid for their work. It helps them to keep on working and living. If Roger and L.S. were credited on a national basis for the work he did on the subject, he might have a whole raft of advertiser for his blog which in turn would permit he and Carol to live the life they once did. When journalists are forced into poverty because of the work they do, people may well think twice before going down the road of exposing scandals in politics. Roger and Carol had one thing going for them in all of this. They did not have to consider children being impacted. It was just the two of them. what they did was incredibly brave. That needs to be acknowledged.

Writing is a work product and that is why song writers frequently take other song writers to court. they want to be able to enjoy the "fruits of their labours", so to speak.

Roger/L.S several years ago were named as one of the 10 best bloggers in the U.S.A in the legal category. that is something considering Roger and Carol are not lawyers. Now Roger has broken a huge story and the credit goes to some one else. Well it would be nice if he could be paid one way or another for all the work he has done. It would be nice if he was paid for all the suffering he and Carol have gone through. They lost their house, Roger was tossed in jail and beaten along the way, Carol had her arm broken. All to get a story out. That ought to be rewarded and now by giving credit to some one who didn't do all the leg work, that sucks. O.K. I'm through with my rant.

Lets hope some one does acknowledge the work Roger has done. Lets hope he receives some financial rewards regarding this. If he were credited with this work, he might have gotten a contract to write a book on the subject. those types of things get advances, some times very large ones. Now that might well go to some one else, not nice and not good. O.K. I wasn't quite through with my thoughts/rant. Hey, we rant in Canada, its good for the soul.

Anonymous said...

Butthurt. You have taken your victory lap here numerous times. Just get over it already.

legalschnauzer said...

@6:37 --

Thanks for your comment. It made my day. You seem to admit that I was first on the story, by far, and was due a victory lap. On the flip side, it appears you acknowledge that Archibald, Maddow and others are taking credit for work they didn't do.

Great! Thanks for jumping on the train.

Anonymous said...

Part two

The UA System, which already stepped in and ground its toe into the faculty, students, and supporters of UAB, has hired the lawyer who UAB agreed to pay $295 an hour to help UAB President Ray Watts muddle through the storm of controversy he created.

You know what to say, UAB.

Thank you Mr. Witt. May we have another.

Ryan will also serve as special deputy counsel for the UA System and Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the UAB Health System. System spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart said she did not yet know what Ryan will be paid.


Ryan has worked at Maynard, Cooper & Gale, where he chairs the Governmental and Regulatory Affairs practice group, according to the release.

He has also come to represent a part of the University System that UAB supporters loathe. He has been blamed by UAB supporters for everything from covering up Watts' mistakes, to blocking pro-UAB legislation and impeding the ability of Coach Bill Clark to get a new contract.

"The Bentleys' Divorce Proceedings Are Now Cloaked In Secrecy

The Public will have to get the details of Governor Robert Bentley's secret love affair from our Facebook news team. This morning, a Tuscaloosa court judge entered an order sealing the divorce records from public view. The Governor and First Lady filed a joint motion a half-hour earlier stating that Governor Bentley “holds a prominent office in the state of Alabama, and it would be in the parties’ best interest that the public not be able to access the record in this divorce action.”

The judge, Ms. Elizabeth Hamner, was appointed to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court bench by Governor Bentley in 2011 to fill the unexpired term of a retiring judge. She ran unopposed for the position in 2012 and won. Her husband Patrick is a senior management executive at Bryant Bank, along with John Mark Bentley, one of the Governor's sons. Bentley and Paul Bryant, Jr., serve together on the University of Alabama board of trustees.

Legal observers are surprised that Judge Hamner did not recuse herself from hearing this case due to her political relationship with Governor Bentley and her husband's ongoing working relationship with Paul Bryant, Jr., and John Mark Bentley."

Anonymous said...

Check out the comments section on this entry, LS. They did a great story on you back in 2013!

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for letting me know about the story. Certainly appreciate the comments.