February 21, 2008

The Times Already Into Stonewall Mode? (Update: A Few Points Left Out)

When a newspaper breaks a major story, the editors and the reporters usually make a media blitz to promote it. The New York Times has apparently decided to go into the bunker instead. Patrick Hynes hosts a weekly radio show called Meet the New Press (and also works for the McCain campaign), and he invited Jim Rutenberg to appear to debate their slimy attack on John McCain. Rutenberg said no, and don't bother to ask anyone else either:

At 6:51 AM this morning, I e-mailed Jim Rutenberg– whom I know and have interacted with in the past–to invite him onto my radio program “Meet the New Press” on Saturday morning to discuss the sourcing of his New York Times hit piece on my client John McCain.

At 7:24 AM Rutenberg declined my invitation in an e-mail and indicated—without my even asking—that no one else at the Times was likely to come on, either.

It seems very odd to me that after having “broken” (broken, indeed) a big story about a major national figure, a story that is capable of impacting the 2008 presidential election, no one at the Times has any interest in discussing the story any further, especially considering so many have expressed such deep skepticism about its sourcing and the value of its content.

Patrick keeps the invitation open for them at his blog. I'll go Patrick one better. I am on the air today three times -- at 10 am ET with Rockin' Politics (call in number: 646-478-4556), 1 pm ET at the AOL Hot Seat show (call-in number: 347-205-9555), and on Heading Right Radio (call-in number: 646-652-4889). I'll also be on the air tomorrow with Heading Right Radio at the same time, and at 1 pm CT on Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities at AM1280 The Patriot (call-in number: 651-289-4488). I'll be happy to talk to any of the named "journalists" on the McCain article on any of those shows.

Will they appear? Absolutely not. Smear artists go to ground once their masterpieces get published. I don't expect these to be any different.

UPDATE: The McCain campaign released a statement that outlines the facts that they gave the New York Times, but somehow failed to appear in their story:

No representative of Glencairn or Alcalde and Fay, met with Senator McCain in 1998 to discuss the issue of local marketing agreements (LMAs). On July 20, 1999, Senator McCain met with Eddie Edwards, the head of Glencairn, regarding LMAs and minority media ownership issues. This meeting was several months after Senator McCain had weighed in at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its expected December 1998 decision on media ownership rules. There were no other meetings in 1999 between any representative of Alcalde and Fay and Senator McCain regarding the issue of LMAs.

Senator McCain’s Commerce Committee staff recalls meeting at least once with representatives of Alcalde and Fay concerning the issue of LMAs. The staff also recalls meeting with many other representatives of media companies, as well as groups advocating for consumer and public interests, regarding the issue of LMAs during the time the FCC was considering the issue.

As to the December 1998 letters and the February 1999 letter, those letters were not written in support of any one party or in favor of a particular interest. Those letters were simply written by Senator McCain as the Chairman of the committee that oversees the FCC to express his opinion that the agency should not act in a manner contradictory to Congressional intent. In both his December 1, 1998 letter and his December 7, 1998 letter, Senator McCain makes clear that Section 202(h) of the 1996 Telecommunications Act unambiguously directs the FCC to review its media ownership rules every two years with an “eye to lessening them, not increasing them.” Additionally, the letters quote from the 1996 Telecommunications Act and its report language, as well as language from the 1997 Budget Reconciliation Act. The letters do not express an opinion on the merits of LMAs, but strongly encourages the FCC to recognize the “clear language” in the statute.

There's lots more at Politico. One might have supposed that they would check dates on meetings and letters before implying some kind of malfeasance, but that of course would constitute real journalism.

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