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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Comparative fault

Which of these two is worse:

A politician who tried to force himself on a girlfriend while in college 28 years ago?

Or...

A newspaper that spends months on the story, only to publish it just days before the ballots are mailed out in that politician's re-election bid?

Comments (27)

Jack, it is a good question. What's your point? Do you have a problem that the incident occured 28 years ago? Should we have an indifference to priests who are accused of sexual predation over 35 years ago? Are you accusing the newspaper of bias? Would you prefer that this came out after the election? Are you upset that the Oregonian that came out for Kerry is showing its balance by digging up dirt on a Democrat?
Mover Mike

I find the timing interesting from the standpoint of the alleged wall of separation between the editorial side and the news side of the paper, given that they recently endorsed Ameri.

Mike, honestly, I'm just asking the question. I don't have a firm answer.

Many years ago I worked playing in a band and being a bartender for folks who partied at the University of Arizona. Unlike many of them I had to work in order to pay for my college courses.

For many of those "beautiful people" going to college was party time away from their folks. To base an opinion on something stupid college kids did is ridiculous. Being in a band I not only got to see how sleazy the male college students could be, but I also had a very good view of how sleazy all the female students could be.

Very few of them were angels or Satanists, but many of them did make silly, stupid mistakes. I'm going to vote for David Wu despite his stupidity as a college student.

I wrote this earlier today on a national political blog:

Yes, the Oregonian broke a story on David Wu today that is disturbing. At this point, I'm not sure what I am going to do with my vote.

However, I am outraged on the timing of the story. The Oregonian has been "working" on this story since May, with the last stated effort being an August 1st letter. Why did they sit on this story for 3-6 months until after they endorse Ameri and within one week from the date ballots are mailed?

If they had broke this story three months ago, Wu could have been "encouraged" to drop out and an alternative candidate could have been found. Instead we are left with the choice of a near-felon and a fanatic. I will probably vote for Wu and hope that he wins and can then be forced to resign so that we can have a special election early in 2005.

Jack, if you don't have a firm answer to this question, I fear for your soul. Why don't you ask N**** if sexual assault is worse than publishing the truth about the assault in the weeks before the perp's election day. What do you think she'd say?

This is yellow journalism - it may be true, it may be important, but the choice to publish it NOW rather than 3-6 months ago appears to be overt attempt to affect the outcome of an election. So which is worse - a 26 year old sexual assault allegation or yellow journalism? I'm glad the answer is simple for you, Al.

Fear for somebody's soul? On this of all questions? Sir, head for the picket lines at Planned Parenthood. Your righteousness will fit right in.

The story is so vague, do we even know what, exactly, happened? Were there charges filed? Do I really need to know about this?

I'm cancelling my subscription to the Oregonian.

I think it's important to keep in mind that the Oregonian was trying to build a case for sexual assault where the woman never filed a formal complaint or pressed charges and is still unwilling to talk about what happened. Meanwhile, the perpetrator stonewalled and refused to talk about it at all. That meant they had to take particular care to get the story right.

If that sounds familiar, that's exactly what happened in the Goldschmidt case. The Oregonian held off too long on that one and got scooped. They weren't going to let that happen again.

Put Wu down as Goldschmidt's latest victim.

And Packwood's.

Good point.

Timc wrote the following. My comments are between the blockquotes.

I wrote this earlier today on a national political blog:
I thought all politics were local, but since you wrote stuff on a "national political blog" obviously you're some sort of really important guy...without a web address.
Yes, the Oregonian broke a story on David Wu today that is disturbing. At this point, I'm not sure what I am going to do with my vote.

Everytime the Oregonian "brokes" a story on anything it is disturbing. By the way, since you don't know what you're going to do with your vote could you give it to me?

However, I am outraged on the timing of the story. The Oregonian has been "working" on this story since May, with the last stated effort being an August 1st letter. Why did they sit on this story for 3-6 months until after they endorse Ameri and within one week from the date ballots are mailed?

Become a media critic. Maybe it will take your mind off the silly things you are outraged about.

If they had broke this story three months ago, Wu could have been "encouraged" to drop out and an alternative candidate could have been found. Instead we are left with the choice of a near-felon and a fanatic. I will probably vote for Wu and hope that he wins and can then be forced to resign so that we can have a special election early in 2005.

"A near felon and a fanatic"??? Man, that sounds like political hyperbole. Then you say you're going to vote for a guy so he'll have a chance to resign. Are you auditioning as a comic for the "Tonight show"?

I wonder what convoluted logic means.

I'm sorry, but you don't keep trying to build a case and finally decide to write about it four days before ballots are mailed. I realize the heat the O took for sitting on the O-endorsed Packwood and this probably is a direct reaction to that. But the Packwood story developed in the final month, while a read of the article indicates that most of the Oregonian work on this occurred in the spring and early summer.

Why October 12th? There can only be one conclusion - and that is to impact the outcome of the election.

To TimC. I agree with you about some of what you point out. Right before California's recent election when Arnold was elected, the LA Times ran a story that was clealy intended to influence the electorate not to vote for Arnold. Patterico's Pontifications (a blog who fact checks the LA Times constantly) was able to show that the editors had run that anti-Arnold story in order to influence voters. The New York Times has also pulled the same kind of stunts and the Oregonian has done it for years. It's just that the Wu story was done so egregiously and incompetently that it draws more attention than I think it deserves. The story about "the story" was on all the local news shows, for goodness sake, and I just think the whole thing was just one more of the Oregonian's despicable attempts at voter manipulation.

But that is what newpapers have been doing for over a hundred years.

John Hays,

Are you the same John Hays who thinks date rape is just a "silly, stupid mistake"?

Sorry, those aren't my values.

As I see it, my choice is between someone who shouldn't be eligible for federal office and someone that I disagree with on almost every issue. And it is the Oregonian that put me in that position. I believe that if the Oregonian had BROKE this story when they should have, I would have a choice between a Democratic candidate that I could support without reservation and someone that I disagree with on almost every issue.

So yes, I am OUTRAGED about the Oregonian's duplicity in the timing of the story. If you think my outrage is silly, there's nothing I can do about that.

One significant difference between Arnold's election and this story is that there were a number of people coming forward trying to tell their story about Arnold's behavior. The LA Times did not sit on this story for 3-6 months. Everything happened very quickly.

In this case, no one was trying to get their story to the public, instead the Oregonian heard some rumors and decided to pursue them. Then they waited and waited to publish the story.

Someone should send this URL to Michael Arietta-Walden, the paper's ombudsman, and see if he'll examine the timing honestly or merely be the apologist for the paper that the previous ombudsman was.

I don't believe I ever said that 'date rape is just a "silly, stupid mistake". Then again, as a person who at one time in my life had to actually collect verfiable evidence that would hold up in a court of military law, I believe that if an accusation is made then there ought to be some physical and forensic evidence that a crime actually occurred and that that evidence points to at least somebody who had the ability to commit the crime.

In this case all I see is somebody saying they are sorry and another person saying they won't talk or produce evidence and others who immediately made this or that decision without knowing all the facts.

"Show me the evidence".

I'm sure the public editor has his response already first-drafted. There was a box in the middle of the "jump" (continuation) of the story in which the editors noted that they knew they were going to p*ss a lot of people off. They're ready for the pile of mail they're going to get.

I hope some of you can pause your Oregonian-bashing long enough to remember that during the 3- to 6-month period that the Oregonian was working on this story, David Wu's office was denying the allegations. In fact, Wu's attorney apparently hired an investigator to refute them even though we now know that his client knew they were true all along.

This incident occurred 28 years ago and may not be relevant to his qualifications for office. Wu's conduct this year in trying to cover it up--including his still refusing to the talk to the Oregonian reporters who are the most knowledgeable about the allegations and events surrounding it--is very relevant.

Comparisons to Goldschmidt and Packwood are inappropriate. Their sex crimes involved the misuse and betrayal of the power of office.

I do not excuse the conduct alleged of Wu. But the higher standard to which we should hold politicians should apply while they hold office. I know I did a number of things in college which I don't particularly regret, but which I would be appalled by in, say, Jack Roberts.

The references to Goldschmidt and Packwood relate to the Oregonian's embarrassment at being scooped on those stories as a probable explanation for why they went with this one, even though neither of the two parties who had direct knowledge of what occurred were willing to confirm what happened.

I agree that how David Wu behaved as a 21-year-old college student should be judged by a very different standard than how Goldschmidt behaved as mayor or Packwood behaved as a U.S. Senator, and is of questionable relevance in this election.

How he responded to inquiries about this subject over the past six months while he was a congressman, however, is very relevant.

Why should Wu respond to 28 year old rumors, which is all they were when the Oregonian was researching them? Does he have a responsibility to HELP the Oregonian destroy his career? His denial is not nearly as relevant as the Oregonian's timing in reporting the story. Why couldn't they have run a story in July, indicating that Wu denied the allegations? Why wait? Sorry, but the answer is simple - to influence the outcome of the election.

If you are comfortable with an elected official who has his lawyer hire an investigator to look into charges that official already knows to be true, then allows the lawyer acting on his behalf to tell a newspaper that the allegations have been investigated and there is nothing to them, then by all means vote for Wu.

The very fact that Wu was denying the charges while the woman in question refused to talk required the Oregonian to keep checking on the story until it was satisfied it had enough to publish. Wu could have gotten this story out months ago if he had gone public when he was first asked about it. He chose to stonewall, gambling that the Oregonian either would never get enough to publish or that it wouldn't come out until after the election. He lost.

Now it is up to the voters in his district to judge Congressman Wu both on his conduct 28 years ago (which I personally don't find particularly relevant) and his conduct in response to the inquiries by the Oregonian (which I personally find troubling).

But since I don't live in the First District, I don't have to make that call.

The Oregonian's knowledge of the Packwood story most certainly did not develop in the last month before the 1992 election -- The Oregonian had assigned a reporter to look into the sexual misconduct allegations nearly a year before the election. The reporter was not even informed of something her editor knew: that Packwood had kissed one of the paper's own Washington correspondents after an interview in his Senate office. The paper's conduct in that case was completely political and totally inexcusable.

Gee, releasing the Bush DUII story on the Friday before the election was no big deal, but a newspaper releasing the story on the allegations against Wu is outrageous?

I guess that (D) behind his name makes a difference doesn't it?


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