By Jeffrey Lord on 7.2.10 @ 6:09AM
Tribune Editor defends refusal to publish police report, as story explodes.
Mark Garber is not pleased.
In an e-mail to me, the Executive Editor of the Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers, the Oregon paper in the headlines for uncovering — and then sitting on — the story of the Al Gore sex case, believes I was unfair to the paper in a column earlier this week. The column, “Al Gore and The Media Protection Racket,” can be found here.
Here’s Mr. Garber’s e-mail:
Saw your Spectator article regarding the Portland Tribune’s coverage of Al Gore.
Thought you might like to see the police report (attached) that you, with such certainty, believe should have been the basis of a news story.
As you will see, the report was filed by a lawyer and contains little to no factual information. As the report clearly states, the alleged victim (the lawyer’s client) canceled three scheduled appointments with police and declined to press charges.
As we have reported, we obtained this report through a public records request several months after the alleged incident occurred.
Do you really believe it would be responsible journalistically to publish a story based on a police report that was filed months earlier by a lawyer whose client refused to talk to police or press charges? Or, was it more responsible to actually investigate whether there was any basis for the story? After all, people make wacky accusations about public figures every day. How would we know, based on this police report that you value so greatly, whether this was or wasn’t a complete hoax?
I know you have no way of verifying this, but your assumption that we held back because we are part of the “establishment” is unfounded. We would have published a story if the massage therapist would have provided information without placing conditions on what we could or could not include in the article. Because we follow an ethical code, we could not — and would not — publish off-the-record information without her permission … and that’s where we hit an impasse.
Perhaps when you choose to write about the actions of others, you might ask for their side of the story first.
Thank you for reading this.
- Mark Garber
Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers
First, we appreciate Mr. Garber’s response.
I have read his e-mail and I think American Spectator readers should be able to read it as well. This is a serious issue. While it is hard in the silence of print as opposed to personal conversations or video to communicate tone, Mr. Garber can rest assured that what follows is not intended as some sort of snarky reply. It is written on the eve of this Fourth of July weekend, a holiday that celebrates both American independence and the freedoms that flow from that independence. Freedom of the press is one of those freedoms, and this incident is in its own way a reminder of just why this particular freedom is so vital. The Tribune’s freedom to publish — or not publish — is their call to make, as it should be always.
The last sentence of Mr. Garber’s e-mail suggesting that “perhaps when you choose to write about the actions of others, you might ask for their side of the story first” — puzzles.
In the third paragraph of my column is this sentence:
The Tribune’s explanation for this is to be found here.
Readers could and can quickly click on the link provided, which takes them then and now to the Portland Tribune website and an editorial by Mr. Garber himself headlined:
Our decision on Gore story based on evidence, responsibility
Tribune vigorously investigated claims about former VP for a story
The editorial, it certainly appeared, explained the Tribune’s side of the story. If this Garber editorial is in fact not the Tribune’s side of the story, as I and every other reader was led to believe, then by all means, Mr. Garber please do tell us what you have not revealed about your side of the story. I will be happy to write it up right here.
Second, yesterday the Portland police department released this statement:
The Portland Police Bureau has made the decision to re-open the case regarding the allegations brought forward against Mr. Al Gore. Consistent with our policy regarding open investigations, the Police Bureau will not be commenting on any additional specifics regarding this case at this time.
The information can found be at the Portland Police Bureau website here.
Now, let’s get to Mr. Garber’s points as he makes them in his e-mail. Garber has attached in his e-mail four pages that will be described below and that can be found here as sent to me.
• Garber: “As you will see, the report was filed by a lawyer and contains little to no factual information.”
No factual information? Really? On the very first page is this series of facts:
- Fact #1: In the upper left corner of the page are these words: “Portland Police Bureau.” These three words make whatever else follows part of an official document of a police department, in this case the police bureau of Portland, Oregon. Every single employee of this department is paid by the taxpayers and citizens of Portland. For that matter, the paper on which this report itself has been produced has been paid for by taxpayers. All of this means that whatever the contents say or don’t say, it is a fact — say again a fact — that this report exists and has been duly recorded by a member or members of the police department. It is a “public record” — as Mr. Garber notes when he says it was obtained through a “public records request.” To say it was “filed by a lawyer” is a reminder that a lawyer is in fact an officer of the court. Law.com defines the term “officer of the court” as “any person who has an obligation to promote justice.”
Thus what we are reading here is not speculation, not gossip, not surmise. It is a police report, initiated by an officer of the court, and by definition the existence of a police report — an official government document — is a fact.
- Fact #2: Dead center at the top of page one, in capital letters, are these two words: “SPECIAL REPORT.” Which is to say, by definition the Portland Police Bureau appears to distinguish between information that gets a form labeled “report” and a form labeled “special report.” Whatever the classification routines of the Bureau, it is a fact — a fact — that the information that follows has been deemed important enough to be filed on a sheet bearing the words, in capital letters no less, “SPECIAL REPORT.”
- Fact #3: Above the words “SPECIAL REPORT” is another word. It is clearly, in the version Garber has sent to me, highlighted in some fashion. The word is very, very distinct. It too is in capital letters. The word: “CONFIDENTIAL.”
- Fact #4: To the right of the facts found in the very first horizontal column — the words “Portland Police Bureau” and “CONFIDENTIAL SPECIAL REPORT” are four small boxes, each with a single word next to them. Clearly, the person filling out the report is expected to fill in one of the boxes to indicate his or her view of the information below. The four words next to the four boxes are these: Information, Continuation, Clearance, Supplemental. The box next to the word “Clearance” has been checked. It is the only box that has been marked — with a handwritten letter “X.”
- Facts #5 and #6: The next line shows two facts. Whatever follows below has been assigned something called “Case No.” So this fact — Fact # 5 - tells us that whatever the information that follows, that information is, officially, a case belonging to the Portland Police Bureau. What case? The report clearly provides this fact, Fact # 6. Someone has carefully handwritten that this information has officially been designated by the Portland Police Bureau as Case. No. “07-9568.”
- Fact # 7: The next filled space bears a one-word title: “Classification.” In capital letters beneath it, someone has typed the following:
SEX ABUSE III
- Fact #8: The next line down presents another series of blank boxes, six to be precise. The words next to the boxes are these, numbered one through six: ” 1. Unfounded.” “2. Pending.” “3. Suspended.” “4. Car. By Arrest.” “5. Exceptional.” “6. Referred.” Someone has clearly marked an “X” in box five, next to the word “Exceptional.”
- Fact #9: There are two dates written. An “Original Report Date/Time,” where someone has typed “102406” and handwritten a backslash with the number “1400.” The next box, titled “This Report Date/Time” has the typed number “121506.”
- Fact #10: “Location of occurrence” on the form has a typed address: “400 SW Broadway.” A quick check reveals this to be the exact address of the Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland.
- Fact #11: In the box labeled “Name” — presumably the name of the person with the information that initiated the CONFIDENTIAL SPECIAL REPORT of the Portland Police Bureau, a report that requires “Clearance” and is checked as “Exceptional” and has been designated with a “Classification” as “SEX ABUSE III” —the name is redacted. Which is to say, it is blacked out so the reader of Facts 1 through 10 cannot read the name listed. So too is the information filling the box labeled “DOB” — Date of Birth — redacted. So too on the next line with whatever information is in the box labeled “Address.” The zip code — 97216 — is seen. The phone listed as “UNKNOWN.”
- Fact #12: Fact # 12 is the fact that begins to stun. In a considerable space under the heading: “Subject of This Report” and, in caps, “FOLLOW UP INTERVIEW” is this underlined section: “Person of Interest.” I will quote it exactly as written in the copy provided to me by Mr. Garber:
Aka: GORE, AL
Former Vice President of United States of America
- Fact # 13: Fact #13 follows in a section underlined as “Person Interviewed.” The information contains the city and zip code, a redacted phone number, the redacted name of the accuser as represented by an unnamed attorney. And these words…appearing here exactly as written:
….reported alleged Sexual Assault by AL GORE to (redaction)
Respectfully, Mr. Garber, to say as you have that what your paper had in hand “contains little to no factual information” is, to many, an interesting fact in and of itself. On the very first page of this report are, as listed, thirteen facts that make this a very, very serious news story.
Other facts in this report as forwarded by Mr. Garber:
Fact: The name of the investigating detectives, C.M. Waddell, Rich Austria and Molly Daul. Indeed, Detective Sergeant Austria, whose initials are on this report — another fact — is described — factually — as “Sexual Assault Detail Sergeant.”
Fact: The report says that the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oregon State Police were contacted “in an attempt to have a larger law enforcement agency investigate this case. All above agencies declined and referred him [presumably the lawyer] to the agency of jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred.”
Fact: The police spoke with the accuser’s attorney, who said the incident occurred “at a local upscale hotel on October 24, 2006.” Arrangements were made to interview the accuser on December 21, 2006 in the lawyer’s office.
Fact: On December 21, 2006 “at 0700 hours” a call came in to police saying the appointment could not be kept “due to personal reasons” and was rescheduled for December 26, 2006 “at 1500 hours.”
Fact: That appointment was canceled and rescheduled for January 4, 2006 [sic] at “1500 hours.”
Fact: On January 4, 2007 that appointment was canceled and the officer reported that he was told “the case was going to be handled civilly and they (accuser and lawyer) would no longer require the services of the Portland Police Bureau.”
Fact: An important last line: “This case is exceptionally cleared as (redacted) refuses to cooperate with the investigation or even report a crime.”
Again, it is a fact that every single item listed above is written in an official document of the Portland Police Bureau.
Is this woman telling the truth? We have no idea. Did the above facts get presented to The Tribune? Yes.
Do people “make wacky accusations about public figures every day” as Mr. Garber says? Absolutely yes. Are they backed up with the filing of a police report that requires an individual to seriously put themselves in the line of legal fire if they are not telling the truth? Rarely. Why? Let’s take the case at issue.
The case exists, it has a specific, factual name — Case. No. 07-9568 of the Portland Police Bureau. While Al Gore is a public figure and therefore has some problems with libel laws per the Supreme Court’s Sullivan decision (which greatly narrows the ability of a public figure to sue for libel), this is not somebody hurling political invective by saying, for example, “Al Gore conspired to lie on global warming and make millions.”
This person has filed through her lawyer a police report — Fact #1. An actual police report — labeled by the police themselves as a “CONFIDENTIAL SPECIAL REPORT” in which a quite specific allegation of sexual assault is made. If Mr. Gore believes himself to be innocent and defamed, the former Vice President could easily sue this woman into oblivion if he chose to do so. And I might add, that if she is lying and he does this and proves his case, one doesn’t have to be a political wizard to understand the wave of sympathy that will wash his way. Mr. Gore is a very astute man.
That’s politics, however, and what we are dealing with here are journalism and facts. Facts 1 through 13 and all the rest.
But there is another fact in all of this that has at once nothing and everything to do with the Gore case and the Portland Tribune’s handling of it.
At this moment in American history — for reasons that have as much to do with journalism and politics as technology — this country is going through a media revolution. Gone for good is the monopoly once enjoyed by Establishment media. At the national and global level this means once sturdy institutions such as the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, Time and Newsweek. And at the local level in cities all over America this includes the newspapers, television and radio stations.
There isn’t enough room in this piece to go through all the reasons for this. Is technology responsible for some of the problems faced by newspapers, for example? Sure.
But suffice to say there are millions of Americans who believe — and have held this belief for decades — that there is a vivid double-standard in what we now call the Old Media. Here’s a link to an earlier piece in this space that does go into some detail, for those who are interested.:
Only this week Andrew Breitbart of Big Journalism.com has offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who would step forward with the archives of a site called JournoList 400. The site is in the news as a result of some leaked e-mails from then-Washington Post reporter David Weigel.
Charged with covering conservatives, Weigel it turned out had an axe to grind against the very people he was supposedly covering. Assigned to report facts, his work presented by the paper as that of an impartial journalist, Mr. Weigel was otherwise. As confirmed with e-mails scorching Rush Limbaugh, various conservatives and conservatism in general and so on. Once he was outed, the Post accepted Weigel’s resignation — and news is Weigel has just accepted a position at the leftward MSNBC.
What a shocker!
The news with JournoList — that some 400 liberal journalists conspire regularly behind the scenes to set the mainstream media news narrative — is explosive. Breitbart, who played a key role in the ACORN revelations, is no fool in quickly identifying this allegation as the real issue behind l’affair Weigel and characteristically doing something about it.
The revelation confirms precisely what conservatives have said for decades. A formalized group that goes out of its way in the day of the Internet to set a narrative of events. A narrative that winds up producing or not producing stories depending on the politics of the news story subject. That this alleged media cabal exists in a fashion that wasn’t simply possible technically pre-Internet. It is precisely this kind of thing that conservatives have long believed before there was any ability to coordinate. That a general set of liberal beliefs by mainstream journalists, documented in poll after poll over the decades, results in, say, the New York Times doing a front-page story on a bogus John McCain mistress in the 2008 campaign. Yet somehow the same paper can’t seem to report a word about the quite disturbingly true John Edwards story with Rielle Hunter and her Edwards love-child.
In another recent example, Obama White House aide Van Jones exists to be celebrated in the liberal media — yet news of the controversy surrounding his multiple far-left speeches and passionately expressed views on being a Communist keep him invisible. Not a peep from the media until Glenn Beck’s spotlight results in a midnight holiday resignation. Then — and only then — does news of Van Jones’ problems belatedly appear. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.
There is one example (there are an endless number, actually, but one will suffice) worth mentioning, since the issue we are discussing here involves Al Gore and a police report.
On November 2, 2000, five days before then-Vice President Gore would face then-Texas Governor George W. Bush in what was already seen as a potentially very close election, suddenly, very suddenly, there was news. A bombshell. As Bush was eking out a narrow lead in the polls, a 24-year-old police report — say again, a 24-year old police report — from Kennebunkport, Maine, abruptly surfaced in the national media.
Like the Gore police report of today, the report accurately recorded several facts, the central one being that in September 1976 a 30-year old private citizen named George W. Bush had been charged with a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. In a hastily called evening press conference, with all media focused, presidential nominee Governor Bush admitted to the facts listed on the report. There are those today who believe this story contributed to the historic closeness of the 2000 election.
Should this report have been held? No. In fact, the Bush team made a mistake in not releasing this news when the campaign began. As with the existence of the Gore police report, the Bush police report was a fact.
But the fact of the matter is that this was one more incident that said to millions of Americans the media simply could not be trusted. The handling of today’s Gore police report issue and the 2000 handling of a Bush police report issue — from almost a quarter century — a quarter century earlier! — are all by themselves seen as a very potent symbol of media abuse. One standard for Bush (as there was for Nixon or Reagan or Quayle before him or Palin or McCain after him) and another for Gore (as there was for JFK, Carter, Mondale, Ted Kennedy, and Clinton before him and today Barack Obama after him.)
This is why Rush Limbaugh can very accurately call himself “America’s real anchorman.” This is why millions listen to Hannity or Levin or watch Beck, O’Reilly and the Fox crew. It explains the success of Mr. Breitbart and Matt Drudge and the Internet itself.
Simply put, millions of Americans believe the Establishment media — the liberal media — is willing to do anything that has to be done to skew a story and produce — or protect — a specific political agenda. This includes ignoring a story, investigating a story, leaving out facts, making up facts, constructing a narrative or ignoring a narrative. Whatever it takes.
This belief explains why Fox News trounces its competitors, why the talk radio stars are so popular. If there’s a story out there — they want to bring it to you. Fair and balanced, as it were.
As it happens, I have met Al and Tipper Gore. They’re nice people, and while I simply don’t agree with their politics what goes on in this space is not about destroying someone’s life. The Gore’s marriage and their problems are not my business.
But a police report filled with facts — 13 on the first page alone — facts that say a very rich, very influential former Vice President of the United States, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, an Oscar winner currently exerting considerable influence in a serious public policy debate — now newly separated after 40 years of marriage — has been the subject of a documented investigation of sexual assault by the Portland Police Bureau?
This is not news?
No, it is not as Mr. Garber’s e-mail quite vividly shows.
The problem for Mr. Garber — and I want to emphasize I’m sure he’s a good guy, a well-respected editor and all of that — is that he and everyone else in the media today labors under a burden. A burden of a lack of credibility caused by decades of bad journalism seen both now and, sadly, at the time, as biased. Journalism that was and is incapable of presenting straight facts in a straight-forward fashion and letting the reader/viewer/listener make his or her decision for themselves, chips falling where they may.
But I don’t worry too much. Sean Hannity told me and everyone watching Fox on Wednesday night that the Portland Police Bureau had just announced it was reopening the case.
I’ll be watching Fox for developments. Why? Because they know what a fact looks like — and they’re not afraid to tell me.
What I make of that fact they tell me is up to me — and you.
To borrow a phrase: Let Freedom Ring.
And a Happy Fourth of July to Mr. Garber, his colleagues at the Portland Tribune — and to you.
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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