DonorGate speculation: City Pages v. Minnesota Independent (and MinnPost)

OK, inside media baseball here, but that’s part of my portfolio right?

City Pages’ Emily Kaiser believes Minnesota Indepedent’s Steve Perry is “stretching [his] speculation duties” with a recent post theorizing that Norm Coleman knew DonorGate was coming a month ago.

In his piece, Perry notes that an early-October Coleman statement — responding to the then-hot controversy over Nasser Kazimeny allegedly buying clothes for the senator and his wife at Neiman Marcus — references “a fresh batch of questions from reporters, fueled by blogs, about personal issues concerning… my wife.”

Perry implies that Coleman brought up his wife’s victimization during SuitGate to buttress his expected DonorGate defense. Kaiser disagrees on two fronts.

First, she notes Coleman didn’t bring up Laurie Coleman out of the blue during SuitGate.

Harper’s Ken Silverstein, who published the first SuitGate story, explicitly brought Laurie Coleman in that first controversy. He questioned whether her job at insurance broker Hays Co. was legit, and mocked Laurie Coleman’s parallel career as a pitchwoman.

So Coleman had ample reason to put his wife in his SuitGate response. You don’t need to inject DonorGate to explain that.

Remember, Coleman blamed “reporters, fueled by blogs.” During SuitGate, the Coleman camp referred to Silverstein as a blogger, and he inspired reporters like the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger, who famously grilled a Coleman spokesman about Laurie Coleman’s job at the now-legendary “The Senator has reported every gift he has ever received” news conference.

Coincidentally, I emailed Silverstein this morning to see if he had any inkling of DonorGate when pursuing SuitGate. “I had no idea, a total surprise. Had I known, I certainly would have reported it at the time,” he wrote.

But what about about Stassen-Berger? Kaiser notes the PiPress reporter “never specifies money, a lawsuit or anything related” to DonorGate during the SuitGate news conference. Stassen-Berger says she didn’t know about DonorGate asking about SuitGate.

Addendum: Kaiser also asks, re: my recent reporting on DonorGate and the Strib’s role, “Does it matter when they found out? Nope.”

It’s an absolutely fair point. However, I think it does matter, to the extent the Coleman camp says a leak could make this case politically motivated, rather than a mere legal coincidence.

Certainly, it would be newsworthy if Democrats were behind an 11th-hour attack — if for  no other reason than 11th-hour attacks are unfair because they can’t be investigated. A pre-filing leak increases that possibility (though it’s not even remotely established at this point).

Overall, I agree that the Strib’s role is not the most important thing about the story. However, it’s Coleman, not the media, that has made the Strib part of the story. Vetting the senator’s assertions reflects on his credibility and the veracity of his defense, which does matter.

Yes, facts are few and far between here, but in the crazy days before Election Day, we can at least try to find the truth of more knowable, if less central things. It’s not pretty, but asking questions is sometimes like that.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 11/03/2008 - 09:16 pm.

    Kaiser might have a point, but I think she was probably trying to pick a fight as much as anything else. Not that I blame her. She’s tasked to build traffic at Citypages, and nothing does that better than a local feud or two.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 11/03/2008 - 10:52 pm.

    Rick, while I wouldn’t put fight-picking past many a journalist, I have to confess I had the same qualms Emily did – but she wrote it up first.

    And while feuds can be silly – maybe this is proof – I think it’s OK for us to check each other when have it coming.

    While I can’t speak to motives, I think Emily made a fair point in both cases and deserves a respectful response.

    I promise I will look up from my navel at some point.

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