Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


An outrage Lori Swanson didn’t commit

Late Friday, I received an email tip: Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson had fired spokesperson Brian Bergson because he couldn’t weaken a negative Minnesota Monthly piece on her.

This was juicy, because Swanson has been a reputation as the Madame Defarge of office management; I have plenty of acquaintances who have fled the place with horror stories.

Capping her flack for not alchemically turning bad news good would be a particularly vivid confirmation of the chatter.

That said, I’ve actually never met or spoken to Swanson, and certainly wasn’t willing to just go on my acquaintances’ biases. Her office was closed when I called, so I left a message at Bergson’s house seeking confirmation, figuring I could publish something Monday.

But on Sunday, I read the same tip, practically word-for-word, in a GOP blog, Drew Emmer’s Wright County Republican:

Good thing I waited. Turns out the tip is bull.

The AG’s office called me Monday morning, insisting Bergson had left on such good terms Swanson will be at his wedding party this weekend.

Bergson (who’d been deer hunting over the weekend) then called to explain he’d been in the public sector his whole life, but with a new wife and hopefully a family, he wanted some private sector coin.

He’s starting at the St. Paul PR firm Goff & Howard Dec. 1, a deal that had been in the works for about a month. I called a friend to double-check for possible spin, and was told the timeline checked out.

And Emmer apparently, if passively, agrees. He’s killed the link to his original blog item without explicitly correcting the record on his site.

[Update: Emmer has now posted a retraction, replete with apology and attorney’s letter]

By the way, Minnesota Monthly editor Andrew Putz says he does have a Swanson profile scheduled for January, which will be thoroughly and fairly reported. If nothing else, I hope this weekend’s bad info sells a few more copies of the magazine’s researched info.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/17/2008 - 12:59 pm.

    Drew Emmer might be a righty-tighty wingnut, but he had the guts to say he was wrong, to retract it, and to say he was sorry.

    Good for you, Drew.

    Hint: You may wanta leave those kinda “scoops” to MDE in the future.

  2. Submitted by Joel Rosenberg on 11/17/2008 - 01:09 pm.

    You put it more clearly in 140 characters on Twitter.

  3. Submitted by Chris Johnson on 11/17/2008 - 03:03 pm.

    I’m glad Drew Emmer posted a retraction and an apology — to Brian Bergson. There is no apology for slamming Lori Swanson, which was probably the real point of the original posting. I suspect the threat of a libel lawsuit with all the facts on its side was probably pretty motivational, too.

  4. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 11/18/2008 - 10:09 am.

    I don’t read it as “guts” that caused Drew Emmer’s “retraction” – but that’s because I read the letter Mr. Bergson’s attorney fired off to Mr. Emmer – which Mr. Emmer posted.

  5. Submitted by Drew Emmer on 11/18/2008 - 11:28 am.

    I sincerely meant no offense to Brian Bergson. It was a mistake to post that he was allegedly fired based on the tip I got. That’s the first threatening attorney letter in two years. Yet one too many.

    But the much more interesting part that is lost in everyone’s enthusiasm for my error is the story about the Minnesota Monthly article. It was supposed to be in the October issue. Now its alleged to be scheduled for the January issue. My prediction is that it will get killed altogether. But I sure hope I am wrong, again.

    Why is no one interviewing Lori Swanson and Mike Hatch? Is Minnesota content to look the other way when anyone suggests scrutiny for our elected folks?

    Would there be a different media exposure if the AG was a republican and fired a couple of busloads of employees?

    Just curious what the professionals think.

  6. Submitted by Joel Rosenberg on 11/19/2008 - 03:24 pm.

    I’m not a professional, and (generally) an admirer of Lori Swanson, even though our politics are different in many respects, Drew, but my answer is that if a Republican with a rep (deserved or undeserved) for being heavy-handed were in the office, or any similar one, the stories would be unending.

    Remember the unending stories about Rachel Paulose, by way of comparison? Both were women lawyers, with reps for being whip smart (pretty safe to say) and heavy-handed (whether fairly or not, I dunno). There was one flurry of Swanson stories around the now-discredited accusations of bad conduct, but that’s about it; Paulose was treated somewhat differently.

Leave a Reply