Last year, Executive Editor Vicki Gowler told Statesman readers that an important part of their Larry Craig coverage was whether or not he was “lying by omission.” Implicit in this charge is the suggestion that the Idaho Statesman never does such a thing, that the paper always gives its readers all the facts.
WorkingPressToo has been saying for months that he truth about the Statesman will come out. That time has come.
wp2 just completed an interview with a key source in Dan Popkey’s investigation about Senator Craig. Those of us who have read Popkey for the last 20 years aren’t surprised he stretched the truth, but now we find out he actually lied about — or left out — key, firsthand information that would have proved his stories false.
wp2 interviewed former congressman and current Colorado University President, Hank Brown, and he had some great insight on two separate interviews he did with Popkey. What does Hank Brown know? Brown was on the House Ethics Committee during the 1982 page scandal.
In the first interview, wp2 finds out that Popkey and the Statesman lied to readers. Popkey and his editors repeatedly said they worked on the Craig story for six months. So when Popkey talked with Hank Brown two years prior to running the story, must have about something else, no? No. Brown tells wp2 that Popkey’s questions were very leading, and the reporter had clearly talked to many other people before his interview with Brown in 2005.
It seems strange they would fudge on dates like this but perhaps the Statesman didn’t want to look like it was engaged in a witch hunt. In the absence of an explanation, wp2 is left to guess. But if Popkey and Statesman can’t even be honest about the length of time they worked on a story (something they stated over and over again when they ran their distortions), how can we believe anything else they wrote or will ever write again?
The second item in the Hank Brown interview that sheds tremendous doubt on the Popkey articles is another apparently deliberate omission. Brown told Popkey that Craig was never under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. Never.
That bears repeating. On the record, Brown told Popkey that Craig was never under investigation. But Popkey’s artfully worded stories and the weak defenses by his editor, Vicki Gowler, led us to believe that Craig was under investigation by the Ethics Committee. The Statesman is quoted in their December 2, 2007 story saying “The Statesman reached five of the six living members of the 1982 committee; they all said they cannot recall whether or not Williams named Craig.”
While Hank Brown isn’t the most famous guy on earth, we do know several things about him which are indisputable: 1) he is alive; and 2) he spoke with Dan Popkey. So the quote that five of six members of the 1982 ethics committee “cannot recall” is…puzzling.
Popkey interviewed Hank Brown again on February 1, 2007 and Brown gave Popkey the same information. Again, Popkey had the facts, but lied or failed to share key information with readers. With a firsthand account from a member of the House Ethics Committee, vs. innuendo from sources with axes to grind against Craig, the choice would seem easy. Stick with what you can prove, right? Nope. Instead, what we got from the Statesman was a cop-out. The paper “couldn’t disprove the allegations against Craig. That was good enough for them.
Popkey also knows from the Califano report, which was commissioned by Democrat and Republican leadership in the House, that the allegations made by House pages were false. Popkey and his editors also know that John Feruggia, the CBS reporter who broke the story, put words in their mouths and was accused of reckless reporting by his colleagues.
Besides ignoring facts and lying to readers, Popkey is disingenuous with his sympathies for Craig in a Howard Kurtz piece that ran in the Washington Post on August 30, 2007. “This is a horrible thing, says Popkey who has written about Craig since 1984. “It’s a tragedy for Idaho, and I feel for him.”
He evidently felt so horrible that he didn’t stop to consider whether it’s wrong to destroy someone’s career by selectively presenting readers with distorted facts. And insiders and former reporters at the Statesman call B.S. on Popkey too. Not only was Popkey jumping for joy, but his editors plastered the coverage all over the paper and the website for months in a blatant attempt to get the Pulitzer that Publisher Mi-Ai Prrish had been seeking since her first day.
The information that Popkey has in his files cannot remain secret for long. There are many he interviewed and many trips he took that will eventually surface. Popkey and the Statesman have files full of material that prove their stories false. Fortuantely, someone on the Pulitzer Committee had the good sense to recognize yellow journalism when they saw it. The Pulitzer Committee should actually remove Popkey from the finalist list like they have others when they caught reporters falsifying information. They should also publicly sanction Popkey and the Statesman for their false reporting.
The person who should be investigated is Popkey for his unethical approach to journalism and his outright lies to readers. He should at least tell us why Statesman reporters can’t even live up to the paper’s own standards. They preached to us that lies by omission should not be tolerated. Unless you buy ink by the barrel.