Rogers: October surprises fall as leaves
Yes, we’re aware of Breibart’s claims, the Boebert camp’s hollering, the Frisch camp’s summary denials, partisans statewide leaping to conclusions that just happen to serve them.
We’ve seen this play out before. Voting is about to start, a congressional or presidential or gubernatorial race is maybe a little close for comfort, and so operatives aim to tip things their way if they can.
The more salacious, the better, of course. Sex, fraud, bribery, blackmail — any stigma will do. Tara Reade and Hunter Biden come straight to mind for Republicans and Democrats.
They do for me, too.
The Wall Street Journal passed on the Hunter story for lack of evidence. So did Fox News. You might not remember. The New York Post’s lead reporter on the story disavowed it when it ran; too thin. The Post refused to share evidence it said it had, and so the assertions of facts could not be vetted by other reporters.
That didn’t stop politicians and pundits, including at Fox and the WSJ, from talking about the story — indeed, creating their own story about the story that could not be confirmed. And so we all know at least something of the tale that may or may not have any actual truth to it.
Never mind that The New Yorker and The National Review had already done long pieces on Joe Biden’s troubled son. There wasn’t much to break, and no one found anything more than a family member pathetically trying to trade on his famous and powerful dad’s name.
But it all was exciting and salacious and made for much stomping around about big stories and a protective press.
Tara Reade was much closer to home for me. I knew her personally for a time through a writing group in Nevada City, California. She had worked for Joe Biden decades before, when he was a senator, and said he was as creepy as other women in 2019 were saying. Touchy, huggy, hair sniffy — that sort of thing. We talked with colleagues and contemporaries from the time and reported her story. She also wrote a column about her recollections.
A year later, her story escalated to a rather wild claim about a sexual assault in a busy Capitol Building. Same drill. This time our and others’ reporting debunked that.
In Vail, we had over a year of this kind of reporting on Kobe Bryant’s sexual-assault case — lots of claims, and plenty way more salacious than the truth, which had to be checked out and confirmed to primary sources.
In Vail, we watched The Denver Post report on second-hand sources — rumor — that Vail Resorts planned to sell to a group led by a former CEO. Our reporter had the same second-hand sources, and we never could crack the story with direct witnesses who could be cross-checked, documents, that sort of thing. Not that an eyewitness doesn’t lie, exaggerate, misunderstand or otherwise have a different take than another, which is why we look for corroboration.
Especially with stink bombs that a politicized and unreliable entity such as a Breitbart “breaks” at the convenience of a candidate’s campaign.
The Denver Post got some big headlines, and we got heat for not following suit. None of their breathless stories turned out to be true. The Kobe news we did break — most of the major developments — all held up, I’m relieved to say. We didn’t wind up publishing any stories about the sale of the ski company that never was, but only because we couldn’t vet it properly, a vexation in daily journalism. The Post’s gamble could well have paid off.
You can choose to buy all the Frisch stuff right now. I’m not here to stop you. The right-wing media is all over it, hardly a surprise. Republican politicians and operatives are all over it, hardly a surprise, and somewhat hysterical email enablers of course are all over it, hardly a surprise.
We’re going to do our job, though. Sometimes, rigorous journalism means ignoring the obvious special interests and following the leads more fully. Which is exactly what our managing editor, Rick Carroll, is doing. He’ll have the fuller, truer, most factual story of all when he’s done.
For now, we can see the full colors of the irresponsible press in all their glory. But those leaves will fall away like other election surprises. The bare truth will remain — whatever that turns out to be — and that’s what we’re going for. Always.
In this case, well, you’ll still have plenty of time to decide your vote if this claim has any sway on your choice. However Rick’s reporting turns out, it’s far more likely to be the truth. That’s assuming there’s a there there at all.