Last week we saw the transparent attempt by NRO’s Betsy Woodruff to land a job at The Atlantic or The New York Times by painting E.W. Jackson’s faith as something alien and fundamentally bizarre, thereby ingratiating herself with the elitist intellectuals who can only tolerate conservatives who don’t tolerate their fellow conservatives (see, for example, Frum and Brooks, et al).
Not to be outdone in the smear-and-defame department, The Washington Examiner‘s young gunner Steve Contorno today offers a hit piece on Jackson stunningly free of original journalism, much less fair or proper context. In fact, the piece reads like a near-verbatim copy of opposition research talking points that someone fed to Contorno (“The Washington Examiner has learned”), as any journalistic undertaking to discover these “facts” would have undoubtedly come with background and color that is starkly absent from Contorno’s regurgitation.
Entitled “Virginia candidate Jackson has history of money problems,” the piece purports to show a pattern of personal financial mismanagement by Jackson dating back to his days as a young lawyer in the early 1980s, fresh out of Harvard. To do that, the piece skips over some key facts that do much to explain the situation, and pushes the reader to conclusions that the facts don’t support.
For instance, Contorno cites a few examples of entities owned or managed by Jackson having been “terminated” by the Virginia State Corporation Commission for failure to pay required fees. But this happens all the time. If an entity is no longer a going concern (because, e.g., its people and donors moved to a new entity), no one at the orginal entity will feel the need to renew the annual company registration with the Commission. While you *could* take the affirmative step of terminating the registration yourself, why bother? Hardly anyone does that, and instead they simply let the registration lapse. Yet, Contorno’s article implies that Jackson is some kind of deadbeat whose organizations were padlocked by the state.
Further, the article completely glosses over the context of some of the purported financial troubles (e.g., a couple of instances where, as a signed guarantor of a church he belonged to, the church’s debt was collected from him), while tossing in a few incendiary inaccuracies for good measure, like the debunked assertion that Jackson has made statements “linking yoga to Satan,” or the bold insinuation that Jackson never served as an adjunct professor at Northeastern simply on the basis that someone at Northeastern did not have a “record” of it.
Look, I’m not saying E.W. hasn’t had financial trouble. A personal bankruptcy in a candidate’s past is nothing to cavalierly dismiss, and neither would be any genuine history of financial impropriety (see T-Mac’s involvement with Global Crossing, Green Tech, etc.). But 30 year old minor tax issues and whether he still owed payments on his encyclopedia set (!!) in the 1993 just don’t rise to that level. Simply put, the facts aren’t what E.W.’s detractors wish they were.
We’ve come to expect that political opponents throw mud at each other. We’ve also come to expect that fair and trustworthy media outlets will fact check and evaluate opposition claims. Unfortunately, what we’e seeing here instead is The Examiner picking up DPVA’s mud and throwing it like it’s their own work. And that’s a shame.