Why AP spiked the ‘Emmer son drinking’ story that City Pages ran

Let’s just call it “Personal Attack Week” in the governor’s race.

The week began with Minnesota Democrats Exposed blogger Luke Hellier alleging Mark Dayton’s lawyer pulled documents from a 1999 divorce file. On Tuesday, rightblogger Sheila Kihne trumpeted news that New York City turned up no records of Dayton teaching there, though it’s been a part of the DFL governor candidate’s biography for decades. Finally, this morning, City Pages — no friend of GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer — revealed that Emmer’s 20-year-old son Tripp had pleaded guilty to a petty misdemeanor for underage drinking in July. For good measure, CP published Facebook photos of the younger Emmer partying.

Beyond the fact that none of the stories help us figure out who can close Minnesota’s $6 billion deficit, each had its problems.

Hellier’s and Kihne’s pieces amount to insinuations. Hellier turned out to be wrong about who pulled the documents; it was Dayton’s ex-wife’s lawyer; conservative compatriots Power Line were more up-front about correcting the miscue. Kihne’s digging was incomplete; Dayton’s campaign quickly produced a teaching certificate and a program from a city school.

City Pages’ story wound up being confirmed, but it involved the candidate’s kid, not the candidate himself.

Nevertheless, MinnPost amplified Heller’s accusations in a Doug Grow story; Politics in Minnesota and other outlets vetted Kihne’s charge. City Pages’ allegation was recounted on Minnesota Public Radio, but only after the Emmer campaign released a statement acknowledging the incident.

One outlet that resisted the cavalcade of sideshows: the Associated Press. According to AP Minnesota news editor Doug Glass, the wire service’s reporters discovered the younger Emmer’s arrest last month but declined to run a story.

Here’s how City Pages editor Kevin Hoffman defends publishing his piece:

“Obviously, the family of a political candidate is off-limits. But we decided the candidate made it an issue by having his son star in a campaign commercial, [and] the campaign or someone else scrubbing photos from a Facebook page. [Candidate] Emmer’s two DWIs and reform for DWI laws in this state have been an issue in this campaign, and his son is now in the court system, a record freely available on the court’s public website. … If all those stars aligned, we might not have published it.”

AP’s view, according to Glass:

“We ultimately decided it wasn’t a story for us for a few reasons. I don’t see the younger Emmer as a public figure at this point. The arrest was not a DWI arrest; if it had been, we would have been more likely to run it given his father’s history. And the narrative of the arrest, with a citation issued right on the spot, appears to remove any chance that someone exerted influence in the case.”

Pat Lopez, the Star Tribune’s political editor, says that before she went on vacation late last week, the paper was unaware of the Emmer family allegations. Her boss, assistant managing editor Kate Parry, won’t say if the paper learned of the allegations between then and City Pages’ publication, explaining, “We just don’t talk about stories we haven’t published. … What I can tell you, as of this moment, this does not meet the bar of when a candidate’s children is news.”

Where is that bar? Parry says the circumstances are complex. If the arrest had been for a DUI, it would’ve been more serious and upped the chances of seeing print; had there been damage to property, same thing.

In 2002, the paper earned the then-Governor Jesse Ventura’s enduring enmity for reporting on Governor’s-mansion partying by Ventura’s son Tyrel. That involved a taxpayer-funded entity and alleged property damage. Also, Ventura was what Parry called an “older child” — he was 22 at the time.

Hoffman says City Pages came upon the younger Emmer’s conviction after getting the Facebook tip from an unnamed source not connected to a rival campaign. The weekly newspaper then did a check of court records and confirmed the linkage via a hockey website, which had the younger Emmer’s birthday.

For his part, Glass says AP did not learn of the arrest via a tip or a leak from a political campaign.

As for the GOP bloggers’ allegations about Dayton — which inevitably include the “Why isn’t the mainstream media reporting this?” — Glass and Parry say, don’t be so sure we’re not.

Glass says AP does monitor and follow up on stories that explode in the blogosphere. “We don’t want to rule out a whole bunch of things because personal things can be important as well. [But] we know the kinds of messages each side wants to frame about the campaign, and we say, ‘Let’s not be used to put out a story that’s not a good story, or would be thin.’ We want to spend our time writing about relevant issues, things that are important.”

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 09/02/2010 - 02:33 pm.

    What we now know is not only was Emmer’s kid used in campaign ads, he was paid from campaign funds as an employee. On the date of the Underage Consumption charge, Tom Emmer was doing his “I’m a waiter for a day!” in Roseville ( http://www.emmerforgovernor.com/news/2010/07/ ) but the kid was busted in Douglas County.

    Was Tripp doing campaign work on the day he was busted? That we don’t know.

    But we do know that last cycle, GOPers went after Ashwin Madia’s staffers – and Brodkorb’s blog was a part of going after those staffers.

    So, since Emmer’s kid is prominently featured in campaign ads, is a paid staffer, and Brodkorb himself took going after staffers as an acceptable tactic last cycle, I can see why some people will view going after Emmer’s kid as a legitimate target.

    And speaking of “target”, I wonder how their executives will view funding Emmer now?

  2. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 09/02/2010 - 03:05 pm.

    A 20yr old got a minor, sweet christ who cares!

  3. Submitted by B Maginnis on 09/02/2010 - 05:17 pm.


    David, you’re actually lumping these three issues together?

    Moral relativism, anyone?

    Dayton gets a pass for some rather egregious allegations because Emmer’s adult son was tagged for underage drinking?

    Because that’s how this column strikes me.

    These are very, very different issues as they realte to a CANDIDATE’s fitness for office.

  4. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 09/02/2010 - 06:02 pm.

    Keep moving folks; no story here.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 09/02/2010 - 05:24 pm.

    Brian –

    Well, Dems could complain I’m lumping “egregious allegations” (interesting phrase) with something that was factually true.

    All depends on your bias, I guess.

    As noted in the piece, the Dayton stuff suffered from insinuation and lack of definitive proof. The CP thing was weakened by being about the candidate’s kid.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/02/2010 - 06:55 pm.

    The difference is that the statements about Dayton were false, and could have been shown so with a minimum of fact checking before they were made public.
    The statements about Emmer were true, but of questionable appropriateness.

  7. Submitted by John Jordan on 09/02/2010 - 08:33 pm.

    So the moral of the story is:

    Conservative candidate kids, fair game no matter how minor (or in the case of Palin, feel free to just make stuff up).

    Liberal kids, hands off (Obama).

    Love liberal consistency.

  8. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/02/2010 - 08:41 pm.

    I am no fan of Emmer…

    But his kid’s judgment errors are not pertinent here. I’m sure Tom gave him the business about this.

    Of course it goes without saying that Dayton’s divorce should also be off limits.

    In the (in)famous words of our governor: “Cheap shots are cheap but they are not free.”

    Could we please keep on topic: How are we going to get out of the mess we’re in? How are we going to educate our citizens so that we can be globally competitive? How are we going to create jobs for our citizens? This is what should be debated, not Tom Emmer’s kids drinking or Mark Dayton’s divorce or whether he ever did teach in NYC.

    Let’s keep our eye on the ball, Minnesota.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/03/2010 - 07:24 am.

    I hope that that if asked to respond; the Dayton campaign will say that this should be treated as a private family matter.

  10. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/03/2010 - 09:19 am.

    Gotcha (Oh, well, maybe not – but no doubt the false charges against Dayton will continue to be repeated by our conservative friends forever more – as with the totally bogus “angry Al” meme).

    Gotcha with Emmer’s son’s drinking. (I can’t help but wonder how the members of MAD feel about the “unimportance” of his minor consumption.) For me, this is relevant because it may indicate that the Emmer children have been programmed by their parents in the same way Tom, himself, was programmed by his parents, leading to more dysfunctional behavior to come (but I hope not).

    At any rate, can we get back to the REAL “gotcha,” the one that will come into effect when the new governor takes office?

    Will we have the “gotcha” of all our state infrastructures further de-funded to the tune of $6 billion dollars over two years and reach the point that NOTHING and NO one works in Minnesota anymore (-Emmer)?

    Will we have the “gotcha” of across the board sales tax increases on the poor and middle class with tax cuts for the rich and big business (no doubt small business will be left out as it always is with the GOP) while our state infrastructures are de-funded (but to a lesser extent than Emmer so that they still kindof work a little bit) (-Horner)?

    Or will we have the “gotcha” where the rich return to paying their fair share of taxes – a percentage of their proceeds of their hourly pursuits at least equal to the rest of us – while the poor and middle class receive a gift, rather than a “gotcha,” that gift being that we begin to rebuild the state back to where it might be able to work like it did in what really were the good old days?

    Personally, I think the rich are the only ones who can afford that “gotcha,” having moved forward in accumulating wealth at massive speed, even while the rest of us have been going backward. Those who don’t care to contribute their fair share to the state are welcome to leave. We will be a more prosperous, more productive, healthier state without them trying to convert us all to their damaging (to the rest of us) and self-destructive (to themselves) “I, me, mine and give me yours, too” attitudes.

  11. Submitted by Fritz Dahmus on 09/03/2010 - 12:15 pm.

    Well, that settles it…..a president who receives oral sex in the oval office is perfectly capable…………but a parent whose underage son drinks is totally unfit to run a state.

  12. Submitted by Fritz Dahmus on 09/03/2010 - 12:23 pm.

    Greg Kapphahn…..we’ll all chip in and “pay our fair share”…..with the exception of those who are incapable and need our support…..such as you (as per your description of yourself).

  13. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 09/03/2010 - 05:17 pm.

    I’m more likely to vote for a circus-trained chimp than for Tom Emmer. But the story about his son wasn’t even remotely of interest. Yesh, it’s a nice little “gotcha” moment. But it only barely makes that editorial threshold.

    Why talk about that story (or the other ones listed) instead of the “real issues?” Because a Emmer kid story will get about 100 times more pageviews than one devoted to discussing budget issues.

    And if I were king of the Internet, I would delete any comment than began with “Oh, but the other side does things even worse than this…”

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/04/2010 - 10:27 am.

    #7: “…liberal kids are hands off (Obama).”

    What in the world are you implying?

    I may have missed it, but there seem to have been no scandals (underage drinking or criminality of any sort) involving Sasha or Malia, neither of whom has reached her teens.

  15. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/04/2010 - 11:17 am.

    Feposted from another thread:

    I came across young Emmer’s conviction more than a month ago, while or shortly after tne DUI ads ran, and wondered why the press hadn’t even mentioned it. When Emmer ran an ad featuring his idyllic family, I wondered again and thought, “OK, they feel family is off limits.” Reading that young Emmer was/is employed by his father’s campaign (at over $300 a week) makes it relevant, IMO, just as it would be if any other staffer had been popped for commission of a crime. (I also can’t help but wonder what Emmer’s many volunteers and contributors think about Emmer using the campaign as a way to employ family members.)

    Tripp Emmer was an adult when he chose to endorse his father, was a paid campaign aide, and presumably knew of the use of his father’s DUI history by the opposition when he chose to go out drinking that day. To paraphrase his father, we makes our choices and we takes our lumps. Young Tom has taken his and, with luck, will learn something from this.

    That said, going after his past behavior was over the line, IMO.

  16. Submitted by Bob Collins on 09/04/2010 - 11:47 am.

    Not that it will matter to the echo chamber, but David just pointed out why the future of good journalism still needs the Doug Glasses of the world.

  17. Submitted by Fluffy Rabinowitz on 09/04/2010 - 12:46 pm.

    Sexual Violence and degradation of women is a serious issue that the posters on this board seem to be dismissing as ‘rite of passage’ for young men.

    Tripp Emmer’s ‘Artistry’ of drawing a penis with semen dripping into a unconscious girl’s mouth is horrifying.

    What else was done to this unconscious girl?

    Tripp Emmer is 20 years old! Young men don’t behave in this fashion unless they have been mentored with the notion that women are not worth respecting.

    This girl’s parents should have called the police and had Tripp Emmer arrested for assault!

  18. Submitted by rolf westgard on 09/05/2010 - 10:30 am.

    Elect the Emmers, and “Eat, drink, and be merry” will be the order of the day. Beats worrying about the recession.

  19. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/05/2010 - 09:02 pm.

    FWIW, the City Pages piece does not credit young Tom as the pornographic artist, even though one can readily conclude from the photo that he endorsed it.

    I read nothing by anyone endorsing or giving him a pass on the behavior.

  20. Submitted by George Hayduke on 09/06/2010 - 05:13 pm.

    It’s a sad commentary on the state of “professional” journalism today when photographic evidence of a possible assault involving a gubernatorial candidate’s paid staffer is reduced to “photos of partying” or a “sideshow.” Let’s reiterate a few facts here for you “professionals” who seem to want to “bury the lede,” as they say in the business–or in this case, ignore it altogether:

    1) The issue isn’t about whether a candidate’s kids are on- or off-limits. The issue is whether a paid campaign staffer is on- or off-limits. Tripp Emmer is a paid campaign staffer–over $300 a week. You can look it up if you bothered to take the time to find the facts. How would you pros treat this if it were, say, a paid staffer in Tim Pawlenty’s office–unrelated to Pawlenty–whose public Facebook photos showed the staffer giving the thumbs-up to an apparently incapacitated young woman with penises and semen drawn on her face and arm? Would that pass muster as “news?”

    2) Tripp Emmer may be under the legal drinking age, but he’s no minor. He’s a 20-year-old adult, and thus fully liable for his actions. In other words, he’s as legally liable as Ventura’s 22-year-old kid was. And that makes a world of difference when you’re talking about assault rather than drinking.

    3) An alleged perpetrator of an assault doesn’t have to be a “public figure” for it to be newsworthy. This is a story about possible criminal behaviour, captured in a photo.

    3) None of you “pros” has bothered to ask Tom Emmer how he feels about his campaign staff displaying public photos of themselves cheering on a pornographic assault on an incapacitated woman. You’ve all been distracted by the other bright shiny object–the drinking violation–and you’ve allowed Tom Emmer to avoid the issue of a possible assault by a paid campaign staffer.

    4) Why is it relevant how a reporter (or AP) learns of a possible crime committed by a paid campaign staffer? Does it make the penises and semen drawn on the girl’s face any less offensive–or criminal–if the tip came from another campaign, or a blogger, or alternative news source? I wasn’t aware that the validity of a news tip depended on its source–especially a news tip that is in the form of photographic evidence.

    5) I have yet to see a comment anywhere from Tripp Emmer himself. Any journalist worth a damn would have made that his first call in order to get to the bottom of this, and attempted to locate the girl in the photo. I’m sure Tripp knows who she is.

    Go ahead and call it the “echo chamber.” You “pros” keep focusing on that bright shiny object over there. Meanwhile, the real story of a possible criminal assault by a gubernatorial candidate’s paid staffer remains untold to the vast majority of Minnesotans who follow the news.

  21. Submitted by George Hayduke on 09/06/2010 - 06:43 pm.

    A couple more points, if I may:

    David, I like your lede on this piece:

    “Let’s just call it “Personal Attack Week” in the governor’s race.”

    But let’s make sure we’re referring to the correct personal attack–the personal attack on the passed-out girl with the penises and semen drawn on her face and arm that was depicted on Tripp Emmer’s Facebook page.

    Also, since Tom Emmer has taken $511,834 in state subsidies to run his campaign, we can now draw a direct line from state taxpayer funds being used to pay alleged assaulter Tripp Emmer’s salary. Just in case anyone wanted to make a case that this is different than a Pawlenty staffer cheering on a pornographic assault on an incapacitated woman.

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