In a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, the Kentucky Democratic Party is calling for an investigation into whether Mitch McConnell used official government resources to solicit contributions to his reelection campaign.
The letter reads in part:
Mitch McConnell is no stranger to unethical behavior. In 2013,CREW summed up McConnell’s ethical issues, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a five-term senator from Kentucky. His ethics issues stem from his possible use of Senate staff and resources to conduct opposition research for his campaign. He was included in CREW’s 2007, 2008, and 2009 reports on congressional corruption for unrelated matters.”
Kentucky Republicans launched their own complaint against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes with the FEC that accused her of renting her campaign bus from her father at a below market rate. If this is true, the bus would be an illegal campaign gift.
Selling access to the Senate Dining Room is felonious degree of corruption. The fact that Republicans can only answer this serious charge by talking about a bus demonstrates the severity of the potential offense. None of this will be settled before Election Day, but it is extremely doubtful that the Senate Ethic Committee will get involved before November.
The Kentucky Senate race has gotten very ugly. Mitch McConnell has been corrupt for decades, but he has become so safe in his incumbency that he confidently flaunts his crimes out in the open. Republicans call President Obama a dictator and a king. They talk about impeachment for fantasy offenses, but it is their own Senate leader who is abusing his office and public resources to stay in power.
Instead of measuring the drapes in the Majority Leader’s office, Sen. McConnell deserves to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit.
Magnay wrote the tweet shortly after she filmed a live shot from a hill near the Israel-Gaza border. During Magnay’s report, cheers could be heard off-camera as a missile descended upon the Gaza Strip.
"And it is an astonishing, macabre and awful thing really to watch this display of fire in the air," she said on-air.
Not long after, Magnay sent the tweet before deleting it a short time later. A screenshot of the tweet can be viewed at Mediaite.
"Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum," she wrote.
A spokesperson for CNN said in a statement to the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone that Magnay has been removed from covering the conflict. She has been re-assigned to Moscow.
The spokeswoman said that although the reporter regrets the language, she said Magnay felt threatened by the group that had gathered to watch the Israeli bombardment.
"After being threatened and harassed before and during a liveshot, Diana reacted angrily on Twitter,” the spokeswoman said.
The CNN spokeswoman continued: “She deeply regrets the language used, which was aimed directly at those who had been targeting our crew. She certainly meant no offense to anyone beyond that group, and she and CNN apologize for any offense that may have been taken.”
Neither Magnay nor CNN responded to TPM’s request for comment.
h/t: Tom Kludt at TPM
The Washington Times (aka Moonie Times) Is An Unofficial Sponsor Of The Anti-Gay "March For Marriage"
The right-wing Washington Times is effectively serving as an unofficial sponsor for the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) upcoming March for Marriage. The news outlet is hosting NOM’s petition to “stand for traditional marriage” and plans to livestream the march on its website.
The Washington Times is doing its part to promote the event; The Times' website is hosting a NOM-sponsored petition urging readers to sign and “stand for traditional marriage,” instructing the government not to “seek to redefine it”:
In a June 17 blog post, NOM announced that it had developed a “special partnership” with the Times to livestream the event on the news outlets website:
Thanks to a special partnership with The Washington Times, the official media sponsor of the 2014 March for Marriage, we will be live streaming the event on the world-wide web!
We are also very gratified that The Washington Times is hosting a marriage petition on their website which I encourage you to go sign right away. Click here to add your signature and show your support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This petition and the signatures we gather will be an important statement, along with the March itself, to our leaders in Washington and to the mainstream media that Americans still clearly stand for marriage.
NOM also announced that the Times would be creating a “special magazine” commemorating the march and encouraged supporters to subscribe to the Times' digital edition:
Finally, The Washington Times is creating a special magazine commemorating the March for Marriage. (You will find this online on Thursday on the same page as Thursday’s livestream — stay tuned to The Washington Times for more details!)
You can also get this special magazine by subscribing to the The Washington Times National Digital Edition. You can access this great, interactive “living digital daily newspaper” anywhere and anytime, showcasing the articles and features readers have come to enjoy from the home of fearless reporting and American values. Best of all, it is available for your desktop and laptop plus your favorite mobile device from the Apple and Google Play stores. Visit washingtontimes.com and click on the subscribe button to learn more.
Cultivating a “special partnership” with NOM and blatantly touting its march represents a clear violation of basic journalistic ethics. It’s one thing for The Washington Times to cover the March for Marriage. It’s another thing entirely to shill for the event.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA
OCE announced in a press release that it had sent a referral in March to the House Ethics Committee recommending further investigate a number of allegations, including that Stockman made false statements and “endeavored to impede” OCE’s investigation.
According to OCE, Stockman accepted campaign contributions from two congressional staff members in February 2013. The campaign’s subsequent campaign finance reports identified the donors as family members of the employees. Stockman also allegedly was paying those two staff members full-time salaries when they were only doing part-time work.
Earlier this year, Stockman lost a longshot primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). He has announced that he won’t seek reelection in the fall, and in April he disclosed that he was facing an ethics probe, though he chalked it up to an “FEC reporting error.”
"My office is aware of and is cooperating fully with the Ethics Committee’s preliminary inquiry into an FEC reporting error," Stockman said at the time. "I thus join 34 of my colleagues who have also been the subject of an [Office of Congressional Ethics] review in the 113th Congress, and am confident the Ethics Committee will ultimately dismiss the matter after it completes a careful review."
On Wednesday, the House Ethics Committee issued a statement acknowledging that it had received OCE’s referral.
h/t: Eric Lach at TPM
CBS This Morning hosted its political analyst Frank Luntz to discuss House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Republican primary loss to Dave Brat. An upset Luntz said that Cantor’s defeat was “a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country.” But at no point did CBS News or Luntz disclose a major conflict of interest: Cantor has paid Luntz’s firm thousands of dollars for consulting.
Frank Luntz is the CEO of the political consulting firm Luntz Global (Luntz sold his majority stake in the company in January, but continues to serve as an executive). According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Luntz Global has received over $15,000 in consulting fees since 2012 from Cantor for Congress: On February 27, Cantor paid Luntz Global $2,353 for “seminar expenses”; on December 12, Cantor paid Luntz Global $5,000 for “speech consulting”; on April 9, 2012, Cantor paid Luntz Global $8,000 for “speech writing.”
CBS This Morning hosts Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose did not note the CBS News political analyst’s financial connections to Cantor. Luntz hailed Cantor as a hero to the country whose loss shatters the “cooperation” between House Republicans and the White House. From the June 11 edition of CBS’ CBS This Morning:
LUNTZ: Well you had Eric Cantor, who had a very good relationship with Joe Biden. Had open lines of communication. I think for the GOP it’s going to be very dangerous now for a Republican to talk to Democrats, as it was Democrats to talk to Republicans a few years ago. That this a blow for conversation. This is a blow for some sort of cooperation and I think it’s bad for the country, not just bad for the Republicans.
LUNTZ: I think this is such a great loss not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that’s exactly what we need in Washington, and now we’re losing him.
After Rose noted Cantor “was a pipeline to Wall Street too in raising money,” Luntz replied, “He was also a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done. And we’ve lost that leadership in Washington.”
In his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Draper reported that Luntz orchestrated a 2009 meeting where prominent Republicans, including Eric Cantor, formulated a plan to win back Congress and the White House. He wrote: “Luntz had organized the dinner — telling the invitees, ‘You’ll have nothing to do that night, and right now we don’t matter anyway, so let’s all be irrelevant together.’ He had selected these men because they were among the Republican Party’s most energetic thinkers — and because they all got along with Luntz, who could be difficult.”
CBS News has repeatedly had disclosure problems with Luntz, who was hired by the network in 2012. When it first began hosting him, CBS couldn’t decide whether Luntz was an active Republican or a “former Republican” pollster and strategist (he’s active). Luntz also appeared on CBS during the 2012 campaign to discuss Republican vice presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan without disclosing Luntz Global received money from Ryan’s congressional campaign.
Luntz’s lack of disclosure may violate CBS Corporation’s standards of conduct. The CBS Corporation Business Conduct Statement on conflicts of interest informs CBS employees, “including those employed on a temporary, freelance, intern, or per diem basis,” that “in all cases” they “must disclose all potential conflicts of interest” to CBS.
Lara Logan is reportedly back at work at CBS News’ 60 Minutes after a six-month leave of absence, even as questions linger over the network’s investigation of her botched Benghazi report.
Logan and her producer Max McClellan took leaves of absence in November following an internal review into their October 27 report on the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, which the network was forced to withdraw. Logan’s report was based on the unreliable testimony of an “eyewitness” named Dylan Davies and crumbled once it became clear that he had lied about being present at the besieged diplomatic compound during the attack, telling the FBI he had never been there. That triggered a firestorm of coverage, with media observers suggesting that the debacle had permanently damaged the brands of CBS News and 60 Minutes. The CBS internal review found that Logan’s story “was deficient in several respects.”
According to the Associated Press on June 4, “CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said Wednesday that Logan is back. She had no details on when the correspondent resumed work and what stories she is working on.”
In a statement, Media Matters founder David Brock said:
The flawed 60 Minutes report on Benghazi permanently damaged the credibility of both the show and of CBS. A New York magazine report made clear that a lion’s share of the blame for massive errors in that report belongs to Lara Logan. CBS indicated that they were serious about rebuilding its brand and taking accountability. Having Logan back on 60 Minutes shows the exact opposite.
Indeed, the May 2012 article in New York detailed how the Benghazi story got on the air, ultimately finding that internal CBS office politics allowed Logan’s personal credibility to stand in for standard fact-checking and basic reporting. New York also revealed new details about the process, many of which were inconsistent with CBS’ internal review, raising questions about the validity of that review and its scope. These inconsistencies include:
- While CBS’ internal review found that the 60 Minutes team interviewed State and FBI sources related to Davies’ story, New York reported that “no calls were made to the State Department or the FBI specifically to vet Davies’ claim.”
- While CBS’ internal review stated that reporters “with better access” to the FBI could have learned that Davies had told the agency he hadn’t witnessed the attack, New York revealed that one of Logan’s own sources on the story had access to that information.
- While CBS’ internal review found that a speech Logan gave criticizing the Obama administration’s tactics toward Al Qaeda had conflicted with “CBS News standards,” New York reported that Logan’s bosses had helped arrange the speech and that the president of CBS News was in the audience.
As Media Matters has documented, the New York article raised significant new questions that were not answered by the review, including why the review did not address the role played by executive editor Bill Owens, who reportedly vetted the piece, and whether CBS News was aware that Republican Senator Lindsay Graham was a major source for Logan as she developed the story.
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
Washington, D.C.’s Fox affiliate dispatched chief investigative reporter Emily Miller to report on Maryland’s new law protecting transgender people from discrimination - allowing Miller to continue the baseless, fear-mongering attacks she waged on the law as a writer for the right-wing Washington Times.
On May 28, Fox 5 aired a segment on the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) signed into law on May 15. The law, which mirrors measures passed in 16 other states and several Maryland counties, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. Opponents have launched a petition drive aimed at overturning the law, peddling the myth that sexual predators will exploit the measure to sneak into women’s restrooms and assault women and children.
Miller’s May 28 report hyped those fears, citing a problematically-worded Rasmussen Reports poll indicating that most people oppose allowing “a man to use a woman’s restroom” and suggesting that the law posed a danger to women’s safety. The report also falsely claimed that Maryland was only the second state to adopt gender identity protections:
Maryland just became the second state after California to pass a law that prohibits discrimination based on what is called “gender identity.” The law will protect transgender people in the workplace, with housing and public accommodations.
During a debate that followed Miller’s report, Miller provided State Delegate Neil Parrott (R) - the leader of the petition drive - a platform to claim that the law would make it easier for predators to commit sex crimes.
In reality, there’s no empirical basis for that claim; state and local law enforcement officials, government employees, and victims’ advocates across the country testify that gender identity protections haven’t led to increases in sexual assault, calling the transgender bathroom myth "beyond specious."
But Miller didn’t push back against such transphobic fear-mongering - likely because she has promoted those same fears herself. In April, when she was a senior editor for The Washington Times, Miller penned a column assailing the Maryland law, asserting that it “endangers every single female.”
Yet Fox 5 failed to disclose that their purportedly straight news correspondent is on the record as vehemently opposed to the law. That’s not just unethical; given the misunderstanding and animus the transgender community all too often confronts, it’s also dangerous.
h/t: Luke Brinker at MMFA
Financial analyst and Fox Business contributor Charles Payne, who has been fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), been paid to promote now virtually worthless penny stocks, and smeared the poor as “indebted servants” to the government who are too “comfortable” living in poverty, is being rewarded with his own show, the network announced today.
Fox Business said the show, Making Money with Charles Payne, will debut on June 2 in the evening. FBN executive vice president Kevin Mageepraised Payne as having “an incredible talent for identifying growth sectors in the markets and we’re excited to launch a new show dedicated to helping viewers spot these emerging investment prospects.”
That Payne has a talent for identifying growth may be a surprise to someone who followed some of Payne’s previous stock advice. After joining Fox in 2007, Payne was compensated to push the prospects of three stocks, as Media Matters documented in July 2013. Payne used his Fox credentials in promotional materials to assure skeptical investors that his advice was trustworthy. The stock of those companies are now virtually worthless:
- Payne was paid $40,000 to promote The Brainy Brands Company. Payne claimed on PaynesEarlyEducationStock.com that Brainy Brands could “help you profit 233%, turning $10,000 into $33,300.” The stock is now worthless.
- Payne was paid ”$25,000 by a third party” to promote NXT Nutritionals Holdings. Payne claimed NXT could “turn $10,000 into $25,000.” The stock is now worthless.
- Payne was paid an undisclosed amount for a “consulting arrangement” to promote Generex Biotechnology Corporate. Payne issued a report through his Fox-promoted website recommending Generex as a "long idea" for investors at $1.58. The stock now trades at less than 3 cents.
The practice of compensated stock endorsements is currently prohibited by Fox rules, and resulted in the contract termination of contributor Tobin Smith. Payne responded to inquiries from Media Matters by ducking questions and scrubbing his corporate website of information.
Payne and his company, Wall Street Strategies, have a problematic history related to the proper disclosure of stock recommendations. In 1999, the SEC announced that while not “admitting or denying” wrongdoings, Payne “agreed to pay a civil penalty of $25,000.” The SEC alleged of Payne:
Charles V. Payne is a resident of New York, New York and is the President of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. The Complaint alleges that on at least eight occasions, Wall Street Strategies recommended that its clients purchase Members stock through recorded messages on its telephonic stock recommendation service. The Complaint also alleges that Payne failed to disclose that he received payments from Members to promote Members stock. Without admitting or denying the alleged violations, Payne consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against violations of Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933. In addition, Payne agreed to pay a civil penalty of $25,000.
Wall Street Strategies, Inc. is based in New York City. Without admitting or denying the alleged violations, Wall Street Strategies, Inc. consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against violations of Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933. In addition, the company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000.
- attacked poor Americans as “indebted servants” who believe society “owes” them.
- said men who receive Social Security disability benefits are “modern-day eunuchs.”
- criticized anti-poverty programs because “it gets a little comfortable to be in poverty.”
- defended billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins after he compared the treatment of wealthy Americans to what happened in “fascist Nazi Germany.”
- claimed progressivism “fuels high drug addiction, crime rates.”
- lamented that there isn’t enough “stigma” surrounding food stamps.
- opined that wealth disparity “really doesn’t” bother him — “in fact, it inspires me.”
- explained that after Thanksgiving people “take their welfare checks and bum rush” Wal-Mart.
Payne joins a Fox Business lineup that includes a shock jock who called women’s basketball players “nappy-headed hos,” a host who enjoys "being mean to poor people," and John Stossel. In other words, Making Money with Charles Payne will probably fit in well with the network and its mission to be a “more business friendly” channel.
h/t: Eric Hanaoki at MMFA
The defense continued to present its case in the fifth month of the trial of several News Corp. employees for allegedly compromising the privacy of crime victims, British royalty, entertainers, and politicians.
Former News International editors and executives — including Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner — are on trial in England for their accused roles in conspiring to hack phones and voicemails to find fodder for news stories.
On the stand in April, Kuttner denied paying off the investigator who did the phone hacking, while Coulson testified at length about his actions surrounding the disclosure of the hacking.
In March, Brooks admitted that her public statements about the number of phone hacking victims were inaccurate. Brooks testified that she approved possibly illegal payments to military sources, hired a “PR guru” to combat allegations of phone hacking, and that she offered a job to reporter Clive Goodman even after he had been jailed for intercepting phone messages. Goodman testified that he had been made the fall guy for phone hacking and that “lots of people” at News of the World were involved in the behavior.
Charlie Brooks, Rebekah Brooks’ husband, denied hiding evidence from the police. The jury also heard that News International wanted a former member of Tony Blair’s cabinet to coach Brooks before she appeared at a parliamentary inquiry.
Here are the notable developments from April, the fifth month of the News Corp. phone hacking trial:
Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner denied that he tried to conceal payments to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who intercepted voicemail messages and was paid over £100,000 a year by the News of the World.
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson testified that he personally called Rupert Murdoch in 2006 when News of the World editor Clive Goodman was arrested for intercepting phone messages from members of the Royal Household. Coulson said that Murdoch “was concerned” and “said the most valuable thing that a newspaper has is the trust of its readers.”
When he resigned as editor of News of the World in 2007 after Goodman was convicted of phone hacking, Coulson reportedly received a £600,000 pay day from News Corp.
Coulson said that they did not know that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by investigators working for News of the World. The phone hacking scandal exploded in the international media after the Guardian reported in 2011 that News of the World had hacked Dowler’s voicemail in search of possible exclusives after her disappearance.
Coulson testified that he did not know intercepting voicemails was illegal, but ordered reporters to stop doing it because it was an invasion of privacy. He also said he should have done more to stop the practice, but “it doesn’t mean I was party to it.”
Coulson responded to earlier testimony that he told someone to “do his phone,” claiming that it was not an order to hack someone’s telephone, but a request to inspect the phone bill of a News of the World staffer suspected of leaking news stories.
He also said that he left his job as communications director to Prime Minister David Cameron as a result of the phone hacking scandal becoming public.
Coulson said he “rubber-stamped” a payment to Goodman which was earmarked for a royal policeman in exchange for a telephone directory with the home phone numbers for members of the royal family, even though he knew such payments were possibly illegal.
Coulson denied earlier testimony from Goodman that he had instructed Goodman to say he was operating solely as a “lone wolf” involved in phone hacking.
Sara Payne, mother of murder victim Sarah Payne, testified as a character witness in favor of Rebekah Brooks and the News of the World, and praised them for pushing a campaign in favor of harsher laws against sex offenders.
A friend called as a character witness for Brooks’ husband, Charlie Brooks, testified that he was “capable of being completely daft” and once drank a pint of dishwashing liquid to cure a hangover. Brooks is accused of assisting his wife in covering up evidence of phone hacking.
Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative filmmaker and author charged this January with violating federal campaign finance laws, allegedly said that while he might eventually admit his guilt, he would initially plead innocent because it would give “him a window of opportunity to get his story out there.” Conservative media have been happy to lend him a hand in doing so.
In January, federal prosecutors announced that D’Souza was being charged with filtering excessive campaign donations through straw donors to Republican Wendy Long, a friend of his who lost her 2012 campaign to unseat Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. D’Souza pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to The New York Times, D’Souza’s lawyer is claiming that the conservative pundit is being “targeted…because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism” of President Obama. (The prosecution has called these claims “entirely without merit.”) The Times alsoreports that prosecutors claim to have a recording made by the husband of a woman D’Souza was “involved with romantically” who was “one of the alleged straw donors.” According to the woman, D’Souza said that if he were eventually charged, he might plead not guilty to help “get his story out there”:
Prosecutors also said they had obtained a copy of a recording made surreptitiously last October by the husband of a woman Mr. D’Souza was involved with romantically around the time of the donations, when Mr. D’Souza was separated from his wife. In making the recording, the husband was not acting at the government’s direction, prosecutors said. The woman, Denise Joseph, was one of the alleged straw donors.
Ms. Joseph was recorded as saying that Mr. D’Souza had told her that if he were charged he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that “gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there,” the government said. Ms. Joseph had no comment, her lawyer said.
Conservative media have been crucial in helping D’Souza “get his story out there” — his allies on Fox News, talk radio, and right-wing online outlets have loudly and repeatedly claimed that D’Souza is a victim of persecution because of his political beliefs.
The day after the indictment was announced, Matt Drudge tweeted that the charges against D’Souza and a former Republican Virginia Governor were evidence of Attorney General Eric Holder “unleashing the dogs” on “Obama critics.” Rush Limbaugh saw the case as proof the Justice Department was “trying to criminalize as many Republicans and conservatives as they can.” ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham announced on her radio show, ”we are criminalizing political dissent in the United States of America. Welcome to the Brave New World of retribution justice.”
Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones, in an alarmed video posted on Youtube with the title “Emergency: Obama Launches Purge,” called the situation “like Nazi Germany.”
Fox News, which has repeatedly hosted D’Souza since the indictment, reacted to the news by claiming ”the left are rediscovering their inner Stalin.” During an interview the week after the charges were announced, Hannity labeled D’Souza “the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House.” Fox Nation linked to Drudge’s conspiratorial tweet and a handful of other articles on conservative websites, asking their readers to “Sound Off” on whether there is a “COORDINATED, VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY.”
This conservative media narrative about the case has now become central to D’Souza’s defense. Per the Times, the trial is “about a month away.”
h/t: Ben Dimiero at MMFA
Serial Plagiarizer Mark Driscoll, A Christian Right Mega-Church Minister, Faces Mega-Mutiny for Abusive Behavior
Calvinist super-star Mark Driscoll is the iconic figure at the heart of a church empire that spans five states and fifteen locations. Founder of the Mars Hill franchise, Driscoll boasts a flock of 14,000 members plus hundreds of thousands of listeners and readers via web and print media, including, until last month, 466,000 followers on Twitter alone.
While fans and critics heatedly debate whether Mar’s Hill is a church or a cult, there can be little doubt that the brand relies heavily on a cult of personality. Every Sunday Driscoll appears on stage not only in person at his primary location but on life-sized screens at others. He opens at times with a rock band that one secular detractor confessed was “the best indie music I’ve heard all year” and that Driscoll himself has said will “melt your face off.”
Driscoll has a knack for getting attention and, in particular, for using controversy to spin up his visibility. During the second Obama inauguration, he tweeted, “Praying 4 our president who today will place his hands on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”
Though Driscoll rarely dabbles directly in politics—his followers know implicitly where he stands—his comments about queers and, in particular, women have been a source of ire for many. When Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals was caught with meth and a male prostitute, Driscoll pointed the finger at Haggard’s wife: “It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness.” Outrage on the part of feminists merely stoked Driscoll’s fire.
Another time, he set the blogosphere abuzz by recounting a self-congratulatory story in which he advised a woman in his congregation that she should apologize to her husband for the sin of not “serving” him, and then should get down on her knees and give him a blow job. By Driscoll’s account this excellent advice caused the husband to start attending church.
In Mars Hill theology, female members are viewed through the lens of complementarianism, a theological position that prescribes separate roles for women and men including male headship. A woman being advised to get down on her knees and give her husband a blow job represents just one of a spectrum of submissive behaviors touted for females, who are encouraged to find their meaning in the traditional roles of wife and mother. The virginity of women is prized, and by some reports Driscoll’s late discovery and fury that his wife had sex with another male as a teenager became bizarrely significant in their relationship and in the life of the church even though he himself was not a virgin when he married.
Sex talk fused with God talk, or titillation more broadly, is a key component of the Driscoll brand. Driscoll’s stage persona at times has included tight jeans and an extra button open on the shirt. He once greeted a crowd at the University of Washington by reporting that he had gotten his genitals caught in his zipper before the show and that he would be stopping on time because his wife was at home waiting for him with a cream pie. On a more serious note, Driscoll has been a key advocate for candid conversations about sexuality among conservative Christians—though any actual “action” is reserved for married straight couples with the man—metaphorically at least—on top.
For years, while Driscoll’s detractors have railed behind closed doors or publically—with one critic even launching a website called DriscollWatch to address his internecine rants against Catholicism—Driscoll has maintained a bold face forward, confident that he is God’s emissary on a divinely appointed mission. His loyal following has backed him, and, thanks probably to Google Alerts, any criticism online triggers a flurry of defense as soon as it goes live.
Of late, though, the armor of invulnerability may be cracking. Last November, a conservative fan of Driscoll’s theology, radio host Janet Mefferd, accused Driscoll of plagiarizing material for his book, A Call for Resurgence. Further research revealed other incidents of apparent plagiarism which Mefferd detailed carefully (here, and here), leading others to back her claims and follow up with examples of their own.
Then, in early March, another ideological ally, World Magazine, reported that church funds had been used to buy thousands of copies of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage (written with his wife, Grace) in an attempt to force it onto the bestseller list. The books were purchased by Driscoll’s publicist through a variety of channels to make it appear that the sales came from an array of booksellers and buyers. In a deal signed by Mars Hill executive pastor John Sutton Turner, over $200,000 changed hands. The contract specified that the church would “provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address [sic] for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. Please note that it is important that the make up of the 6,000 individual orders include at least 1,000 different addresses with no more than 350 per state.”
The practice is not illegal, but that it lacks integrity goes without saying.
In a rare public moment of contrition, via a letter published on Reddit, Driscoll committed never to game the bestseller list again, and further, said he would pull back from his place in the spotlight.
I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter… . To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.
But while Driscoll may be attempting to pull back his online presence, another wholly unwanted kind of attention is ramping up. For several years, disgruntled or wounded former members of the church have been making their way into internet forums. Now their presence has exploded.
On March 29, four former church pastors and elders, including Mars Hill co-founder Lief Moi, launched a platform, Repentantpastor.com, on which they posted confessions and apologies related to their leadership roles at the church. Although many specifics of the problems are obscured in part by traditional confessional language, what emerges clearly is a set of longstanding problems with Driscoll’s cut-throat and autocratic management style, anger, and personal hubris. The leaders, all of whom appear still to be devout Christians and some of whom are still in pastoral roles, apologize to church members for their failure to, among other things, rein Driscoll in.
One of the four men, Kyle Firstenberg, has also created his own blog, Sin, Repentance, Grace, Firgiveness, which unveils part of the story. Firstenberg joined the church in 2000, when the congregation numbered 70 people. In time, he left his job as a sheriff to become full-time staff, rising to the role of executive pastor. On the surface, the church was flourishing, but behind closed doors employees lived in an atmosphere of constant stress:
The reputation Driscoll got for being the cussing pastor simply because he used harsh language from the pulpit was nothing compared to the swearing and abusive language he used daily with staff. When people asked me how I liked working at Mars Hill, I would simply say, “It is a great church to attend, but I wouldn’t recommend working here.” It was well known with the staff that what was preached on Sunday was not lived out Monday morning with the staff.
Eventually, Firstenberg and his wife Kathleen seized the opportunity to establish a franchise of Mars Hill just outside of Los Angeles, in Orange County. By this time, operational management of the church was under the control of Sutton Turner, the man who later signed the ends-justify-the-means book promotion strategy. Sutton Turner, it appears, had no trouble asking Firstenberg to push the limits of ethics and legality in their effort to launch the Orange County congregation, with zoning violations as a part of the mix. Firstenberg eventually rebelled.
In a 2012 letter Firstenberg sent to church leaders and a set of allegations at his website, he accuses Driscoll of promoting a culture of fear in which success was to be attained regardless of human and moral cost.
According to Firstenberg’s letter, he was restrained from moving locations after it became apparent that their gatherings were in violation of city code. Further, church leaders insisted that he not file a required application for a business license that might call more attention to the code violation. Things escalated. After Firstenberg tendered his resignation, he was advised that if he wanted a severance package—which he desperately needed—he would have to sign a gag order (aka non-disclosure agreement) that permitted him only to say that he was leaving for “budgetary reasons.”
While Firstenberg was struggling to find his feet, another former pastor, Bent Meyer, (not one of the four) was wrestling with how best to address the circumstances of his own tenure at the church and eventual dismissal. In January of 2012, Meyer posted a public comment at The Wartburg Watch, a Christian blog focused on church conflict, spiritual abuse, and authoritarianism. Like Firstenberg, Meyer remained loyal to the theology the church espouses and to its organizational mission:
I am one of the men fired the day of Mark’s rant about two elders he felt needed broken noses… . I am happy to say, the next Sunday my wife and I attended another Church with far better expository teaching and a community that authentically and generously helps the marginalized… . I thought a lot about how I would response and just what my motives would be. I chose not to be lured into a public argument through the Seattle Times asking me for a blow by blow description of the events I have documented.
Meyer has gone on to complete a master’s degree in counseling and maintains a psychotherapy practice in the Seattle area. He describes Driscoll as “very troubled man,” using adjectives like impulsive, aggressive, and irascible. Even so, he has positive things to say about the model Driscoll created, and he expresses optimism that whatever may happen with Driscoll himself the Church, broadly speaking, will endure.
The model that earned Meyer’s admiration includes a creative embrace of pop culture, differentiated branding around a set of theological certainties, intensive “shepherding” of young members, a cell-structure that holds individuals accountable to group values while separating them from the outside world, ruthless purging of dissenters from both the congregation and staff, and of course, the charisma embodied in Driscoll himself.
All of this is propagated via highly polished print and electronic media, with the congregation members functioning (as they do in many evangelical organizations) as a lay sales force. This sales force includes trained “campus missionaries” and community leaders who reach out to the Mars Hill target audience of college students and young professionals. The whole operation is managed by a team of professional staff with business acumen to rival any comparably successful for-profit franchise. At a time when mainline Christian denominations and many Evangelicals are fretting over the loss of their young people, Mars Hill’s model on the surface looks like something to envy—or to emulate.
But given the carnage, one can’t help but wonder if the model itself is the problem.
One former member, pen name Sophia, moved to a town where Mars Hill was planting a new church. Newly arrived and without friends, she and her husband were attracted to the church’s vibrant social matrix. But over time she found herself subject to pressure for more and more intensive engagement, ultimately spending several nights weekly in church-related groups that she experienced as demanding and intellectually combative. As the relationship deepened, she was informed that membership required a series of doctrine classes, signing a “covenant” and confession of sin. The contract would include a financial pledge, and a community group leader would question those who didn’t meet their pledge.
Feeling “spiritually manipulated,” Sophia and her husband withdrew, only to find themselves pressured by leaders and shunned by people they considered friends. Sophia opened a blog, Mars Hill Refuge, where she posted her story. In it, she describes the church as having a “hyper-focus on idolatry” a “hyper-focus on accountability,” and a “sense of elitism” that manifests in disparagement of other Christians who “think they are saved but really aren’t.” The experience left her shaken.
In March, a Mars Hill blogger and elder, a naturopath by profession, was stripped of his professional license because his idiosyncratic cancer treatments, often provided to members of church family, were exposed as failing to meet minimal standards of evidence and efficacy. When the problem hit the Seattle paper, Mars Hill removed his posts from their Resurgence blog. But the incident raises broader questions about how authoritarianism, group think, suspension of disbelief, and in-group trust at Mars Hill may contribute to vulnerability on the part of members.
One particularly toxic aspect of the culture may be the practices of pressuring and shunning members who fall out of line—tactics that, at least anecdotally, have been associated in other settings with psychological harms including depression, anxiety, or even what psychologist and author Marlene Winell has called Religious Trauma Syndrome. Members who decide to leave are pushed to debrief with leaders, knowing full well that disagreements may be framed as rebellion against not only Driscoll but against God. Simultaneously, they are expected to abstain from talking with other members about the issues that have become deal-breakers. Membership materials frame audible dissent as divisiveness, creating a more subtle, psychological version of Firstenberg’s gag order. Those who leave often simply disappear.
When church leaders go, they too tend to disappear abruptly, and questions are met with a pious smokescreen. Per Firstenberg, a departure typically is described as God having called the disappeared leader elsewhere, which helps to explain why it has taken years for things to reach a boiling point. That four former pastors—including one co-founder—have now banded together to expose their concerns to the congregation and general public speaks volumes about their depth of frustration and conviction. Given the combined years they poured into the Mars Hill franchise, it may say something also about their sense of loss.
Even so, their accusations are, at least partially obscured by the language of faith, by a hesitance to label problems with the frank terms that would be used if Mars Hill were, say, just another multi-level marketer. The four men appear to be struggling—caught between trying to avert the harm they perceive being done and the risk that by confronting the problems with unflinching candor they themselves may do harm to the Body of Christ.
As Sophia put it, spiritual manipulation runs deep.
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has a history of illegal behavior and controversial comments — facts that were left out of mainstream print reporting on GOP candidates trying to win his favor last week.
The Republican Jewish Coalition met March 27-29 in Las Vegas, and the event was dubbed the “Adelson Primary" as GOP presidential hopefuls used the meeting to fawn over magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm, who reportedly spent nearly $150 million attempting to buy the 2012 election with donations to a super PAC aligned with Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove’s American Crossroads). Before switching allegiance to Romney, Adelson had donated millions to Newt Gingrich. He has also given generously in the past to super PACs associated with a variety of Republican politicians, including Scott Walker, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor.
Hoping to benefit from Adelson’s largesse, potential 2016 Republican candidates including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gathered at Adelson’s casino to “kiss the ring.”
While Republicans’ efforts to court Adelson made big news in print media over the past week, none of the articles mentioning Adelson in The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, or The Wall Street Journal mentioned that he has come under investigation for illegal business practices, including bribery, or his history of extreme remarks.
A search of the Nexis and Factiva databases from March 24 to March 31 turned up several articles in the papers mentioning the billionaire, none of which mentioned Adelson’s checkered past. The New York Times called Adelson “one of the Republican Party’s most coveted and fearsome moneymen” and detailed his current fight against online gambling, while The Washington Post's March 25 preview of the event simply reported that Adelson was “driven by what he has said he sees as Obama’s socialist agenda. He is a fierce opponent of organized labor and is currently embroiled in a fight to ban online gambling.”
In 2012, Adelson’s corporation came under three different investigations from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. Additionally, the Times reported at the time that several of the company’s subsidiaries also “came under investigation by Chinese regulators.”
Adelson allegedly attempted to bribe the Chief Executive of Macau, where a substantial portion of his casino business was located, and reportedly instructed Sands Corp. to bribe a Macau legislator with about $700,000 in “legal fees.” (ProPublica reported that “several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns” about the fee.) A former Sands Corp. executive also alleged that Adelson fired him after he refused to engage in illegal activity and protested the presence of Chinese organized crime syndicates in Sands’ Macau casinos.
Adelson initially insisted that he was being unfairly targeted, but Sands Corp.’s own audit committee ultimatelyadmitted there were “likely violations” of the anti-bribery law. And in August 2013, Sands Corp. agreed to pay the federal government more than $47 million in a settlement to resolve a separate money-laundering investigation, in which the casinos were accused of “accepting millions from high-rolling gamblers accused of drug trafficking and embezzlement.”
Adelson has been described as a “fervent Zionist” for his opposition to any Palestinian state, and his hatred of Islam goes so far that he has said ”You don’t have to worry about using the word ‘Islamo-fascism’ or ‘Islamo-terrorist,’ when that’s what they are. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists.” He has suggested that all Palestinians “teach their children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, pigs and monkeys,” and said that “all they want to do is kill” Jews.
As Rick Perlstein has noted in Rolling Stone, Adelson is also vociferously opposed to unions. In 1999, when Adelson built a new casino, he failed to pay so many of his contractors that they filed a whopping 366 liens against the property, in addition to filing complaints with stage agencies and the FBI. When the new casino eventually opened, union workers protested outside — and Adelson twice demanded that police arrest the peaceful protestors (emphasis added):
Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.
Afterwards, Adelson went so far as to allegedly attempt to pay off a hospital when it announced it would honor the head of the Vegas hotel workers union.
Adelson told The Wall Street Journal that the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would allow workers to unionize a workplace with majority sign-up, was “one of the two fundamental threats to society.” The other was radical Islam.
If print outlets are going to devote space to the fight among Republicans to win Adelson’s favor (and money), they owe it to readers to give a more accurate picture of the man holding the wallet.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee denied responsibility for shady email pitches sent to subscribers to his email list, telling Media Matters that he is “simply a conduit to send messages” and “can’t always vouch for the veracity” of the promoted products.
Huckabee is part of the conservative movement’s attempts to cash in on their followers by renting out their email lists to suspect sources. Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to disown a quack doctor after he sent a sponsored email touting the doctor’s dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures. Huckabee also sent emails promoting the doctor.
During a press conference held at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, Media Matters asked Huckabee about shady sponsored emails he’s sent with his name on it, such as the Alzheimer’s disease emails.
Huckabee shrugged off responsibility for the emails, saying “You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. We are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can’t always vouch for the veracity.”
Huckabee’s sketchy sponsored emails extend beyond questionable medical cures. He recently sent a sponsored email touting the stock recommendation of a financial analyst who was fired from Fox News for ethical violations.
Huckabee sent an email on February 14 from “Fox News alumnus” Tobin Smith and “our paid sponsor, Champlain Media” about “important information” regarding the stock of Gray Fox Petroleum (GFOX).Huckabee’s message added that the sponsorship does “not necessarily reflect my views.” A Smith-penned message implored readers to “Buy shares of GFOX now while you can still get them at around $1.00 and you could… TURN $10,000 INTO $282,000 in the next 6 months!”
Tobin Smith is so disreputable that he was fired from Fox News — no small feat — for receiving compensation to promote a company stock, a violation of network policy. Smith engages in “sponsored research,” in which companies hire analysts like Smith to act as pitchmen. MarketWatch’s Chuck Jaffee noted that people like Smith take “money to help small stocks find a market using fluff-and-shine hyperbolic chatter” and target “novice investors who fail to do due diligence.”
Small print in the Huckabee email states that the email is part of a “paid advertising” campaign “by Tobin Smith” and “Cenad Ltd. has paid $155,040.88 for the dissemination of this info to enhance public awareness for GFOX.” It also adds that Smith “has received twenty thousand dollars for this and related marketing materials.” It is not clear how much Huckabee received for the email dissemination, though a MikeHuckabee.com card states that his list has 700,000 subscribers and charges $27.50 per thousand emails, with a “300,000 NAME MINIMUM ORDER $1,000.00 MINIMUM PAYMENT.”
While it is too early to know how GFOX will perform, Huckabee fans should be cautious about taking the advice. In addition to the investing dangers of sponsored research, a Media Matters review last year found that Smith regularly pitched lofty stock price targets which weren’t met. For instance, Smith recommended in January 2013 that readers buy the stock of Boldface Group “at less than 50-cents, and you could … Turn $10,000 into $50,000 in the next 6-12 months!” It’s now trading at one cent.
Fox News helps grow Huckabee’s email list, as the former Republican governor regularly promotes MikeHuckabee.com on his weekly program. When visitors reach the page, they’re immediately asked to sign-up for his list. In other words, Huckabee is growing his email list through Fox News, and then selling access to that list so hucksters like Tobin Smith can target his Fox fans.
As Salon’s Alex Pareene noted, “the conservative movement is an elaborate moneymaking venture. For professional movement conservatives, their audiences and followers are easy marks.”
The Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" And Cancer "Cures": CNN's Gingrich Has A Bizarre Email List
Subscribers to CNN host Newt Gingrich’s email list are receiving supposed insider information about cancer “cures,” the Illuminati, “Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress,’” a “weird” Social Security “trick,” and Fort Knox being “empty.”
Gingrich Productions, the company run by the Crossfire co-host, has been sending sponsored emails from shady sources filled with dubious claims. CNN has been helping Gingrich build his list by not only employing him, but also by promoting Gingrich Productions and its website.
While Gingrich’s team has previously claimed that they work hard to “vet” the organizations they rent the email list to, they have repeatedly violated their own apparently low standards.
For example, Gingrich Productions has sent at least 15 sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates since June 2013. Stansberry is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in “deliberate fraud” and profiting from “false statements.” The firm sells financial products by pushing conspiracies about the Obama administration. Founder Porter Stansberry recently said it’s “fucking bullshit” that people get upset at him for using slurs like “nigger” and “fag” when he’s “not the least bit bigoted.”
Gingrich’s team previously claimed to distance the former speaker from Stansberry after questions surfaced about a sponsored email suggesting Obama would win a third term. ABC News reported in November 2012 that “according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, Stansberry & Associates should have been on the blacklist. ‘We do not rent to the entity in question,’ Hammond said, speaking by phone Thursday. ‘In fact, we go to lengths to vet where we rent.’”
Gingrich is part of a movement where, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted, “much of conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.” Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to distance himself from Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email for the group touting the findings of quack Dr. Russell Blaylock. The New Republic's Ben Adler wrote in a piece about Gingrich and fellow hucksters Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee that they “are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices—and a total immunity to shame.”
Gingrich’s list is primarily managed by TMA Direct. A data card on TMA’s site indicates that the list contains over 400,000 emails and costs $8,000 per order. The company is headed by Mike Murray, who is also the founder and president of Gingrich’s American Legacy PAC. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that American Legacy has advertised on Gingrich Productions’ list, and disbursed thousands of dollars to TMA.
Sign Up For Gingrich’s Email List, Learn About The Illuminati And Obama’s “Secret Mistress”
Though a Gingrich spokesperson claimed in 2012 that “we go to lengths to vet where we rent,” Gingrich’s recent mailings are full of companies touting suspect medical “cures” and dubious financial schemes.
The following are the subject line and quotes from some of the sponsored emails Gingrich Productions has sent to its list in the past six months.
"American Doctor Releases Cancer Cure Before Government Spies Find it." An August 29, 2013, email from Health Revelations claims that “cancer was cured back in 1925,” and “the annual flu shot is nothing more than a BALD-FACED SCAM.” The email takes readers to a page claiming that “Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s” have been “DEFEATED” but suggests the government is covering up such cures.
"The Illuminati [Secret Society] Puts a Deathgrip on America." A December 31, 2013, Wall Street Daily email claims that the ”Illuminati was behind every consequential wealth event of the past year” including bitcoin. The Illuminati is a frequent player in conspiracy theories.
"Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress’ Exposed." A December 12, 2013, email from Laissez Faire Club claims that “President Obama has made painstaking efforts to keep his ‘secret mistress’ hidden from the American public, and he has succeeded brilliantly… until now.”
"WhistleBlower: 7 Deadly Drugs the Government Wants You to Swallow." The Health Sciences Institute claimed in a November 19, 2013, email that an “insider near Washington D.C. has just blown the lid off the 7 Deadly Drugs the U.S. Government can’t wait for you to swallow.” The email assured Gingrich readers that it’s not a conspiracy theory since the “whistleblower has concrete evidence ‘the powers that be’ are shoving pure poison down your throat… and laughing all the way to the bank.”
"Weird Trick Adds $1,000 to Social Security Checks …" A September 12, 2013, Newsmax Media email claimed that they’ve “stumbled upon this weird trick that can add $1,000 to monthly Social Security checks.” (For more on this email claim, see here.)
"Fort Knox is Empty (the Gold’s Missing…)." An August 20, 2013, Wall Street Daily email claimed, “Whispers are swirling around Capitol Hill that Fort Knox is empty” and “the U.S. government has been shipping gold to nations like China (as collateral for a weak dollar).”
"New Scandal in the White House?" A cryptic July 11, 2013, Stansberry & Associates email claimed that there’s a “big new scandal brewing in the White House” and “when this scandal is ultimately exposed, it’s going to have major implications not only for Barack Obama, but also for our entire country.”
Wall Street Daily, Laissez Faire Club, and Stansberry & Associates are connected corporately through controversial parent holding company Agora, Inc., which frequently markets to conservative audiences.
Whenever a journalist is accused of an ethical violation, I am there for him. Or her.
Perhaps it’s because I have been accused of so many such violations myself, or maybe I just have an old-school view of this business, but the bottom line is I am unashamedly sympathetic to any journalist accused of an ethical lapse. If you are such a journalist and you lose me, you’ve lost the room.
Bad news for KSDK. They’ve lost me.
According to a story this newspaper published Friday, KSDK was preparing a story on school safety. A reporter went to Kirkwood High School on Thursday. He walked in unimpeded.
He asked directions to the office. He asked to speak with somebody from security. The secretary said the school resource officer was not in the office. She took the name and phone number of the visitor, who did not identify himself as a reporter. Administrators became alarmed when the visitor asked for the location of a restroom but headed in another direction.
Administrators called the number he had left with the secretary. He did not answer the phone, but the message identified him as a reporter with KSDK. Administrators then called KSDK, but the station refused to confirm or deny the person worked for the station. Even when the administrators said they would have to put the school on lockdown if the visitor’s identity remained unknown, the station wouldn’t budge.
So the school went on lockdown. That means police were called. Students and teachers huddled fearfully in classrooms.
What was the purpose of letting the school think a gunman might be hiding somewhere in the school? Let’s even take it one step further back. Why didn’t the reporter just check in with the office, identify himself as a reporter and announce he was doing a story on school security? The station isn’t saying. Whatever the reason, the lockdown made a big splash, which, come to think of it, might have been the reason.
If so, it worked. Even I watched KSDK at 10 p.m. Thursday.
Nobody explained the reason for forcing the school to go on lockdown. Instead, we got this sanctimonious statement: “NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children therein.”
I wanted to shout at the screen. “We don’t want you sneaking around our schools. Just give us news, weather and sports. If you want to scare the bejesus out of kids, scare your own.”
Besides, exactly what was the report going to prove? That Kirkwood High School isn’t being operated like some kind of prison?
Let me tell you what school had really good security — Sandy Hook Elementary. Doors were locked at 9:30 a.m. Visitors were admitted only after a visual review via a video monitor. Identification was required. KSDK would have approved. But guess what? Adam Lanza shot his way through a glass panel next to the door.
Columbine had a deputy sheriff assigned to the school as a full-time armed school resource officer. That didn’t stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They were students.
The notion that we can make schools — or any place — completely safe is false. Even having armed people around doesn’t guarantee anything. One of our worst mass shootings was at an Army base. And, locally, of course, we had the horrific shooting at Kirkwood City Hall. The first two victims were armed police officers.
Kirkwood. That makes this stunt from KSDK even more appalling. Did anybody at that station think about that? Or do they just not care?
These are perilous times. Bad things happen. I suppose a television station can play on our fears. It’s probably good for ratings. They can send reporters sneaking around and then point out security lapses. Next week, they’ll probably take a gun into the zoo. That could really gin up some fright. “Your children aren’t even safe at the zoo!”
That seems to be where society is headed. Certainly, the government does what it can to send us the message: “Be very afraid.” After all, if we’re afraid, we’re more willing to give the government increased authority. We must surrender a little freedom for security. Only a powerful government can protect us. Maybe there is even some truth to that.
But we need a television station to protect us? Really?
“NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children therein.”
I think the people at KSDK ought to be very grateful that it is not against the law to be sanctimonious. If it were, they’d be looking at some heavy time.