The 60 Minutes report tonight was even worse than I expected – and I expected it to be awful. In fact, it was execrable: easily the worst journalistic ethics I have ever seen in my life.
First, the “expert” given the most air time to allege that Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, now serving time for bribery, should never have been prosecuted in the first place was “Republican” former Arizona AG Grant Woods. Two points. First, how the heck would Woods know? He was in Arizona, not Alabama. Second, despite 60 Minutes going to great lengths to stress that Woods is credible specifically because he is a Republican criticizing other Republicans, the truth is that Woods is hardly a GOP stalwart. As long ago as October of 2002, he was publicly threatening to bolt the GOP and become a Democrat. A quick Google search seems to show that he takes the “liberal” side in most of his law cases (I will gladly correct myself if proved wrong on this); for instance, he most recently was in the news for agreeing to prosecute a border patrol agent who shot an illegal immigrant. And in 2006 he publicly supported Democrat Harry Mitchell in his bid to unseat conservative Republican U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Some Republican Woods is! And again, he is in Arizona, not Alabama. What a joke.
But as a journalistic sin, the prominent attention given to Woods is child’s play compared to the airing of the utterly bizarre allegation by ditzy-sounding Alabama attorney (and supposed one-time Republican “operative”) Dana Jill Simpson that Karl Rove “approached” her at a 2001 “meeting” and asked her to try to photograph Siegelman in sexual acts with an aide. On air at least, though, 60 Minutes did not even bother to ask her the most obvious of follow-up questions to test her story. Such as: Exactly where did this supposed meeting take place? Exactly when in 2001? Was anybody else present? What was the meeting about? Why did Rove have any reason to think she, of all people, could find Siegelman in flagrante, much less photograph him? Did Rove ever follow-up with her to find out if she had been successful? Did she tell anybody else at the time about Rove’s supposed request? And so on….
As I noted in my earlier column, there is absolutely no reason to believe the woman, and not even any logic that would explain Rove’s interest in such a project in Alabama while he was busy getting settled into his first year at the White House, a full year before the Alabama governor’s race.
I mean, the entire story is ludicrous on its face. And 60 Minutes now has good reason to look up to the National Enquirer as a exemplar of journalistic ethics and accuracy to which 60 Minutes can only hope to aspire IF 60 Minutes would spend years improving its product.
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