Fox9 screwed up. And belatedly, they seem to have recognized that.
Thursday night, the station passed on unsubstantiated innuendo about DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, in the guise of condemning it. Anchor Tom Lyden began by saying, “A Republican blog taking the bait tonight,” but the truth is, Fox9 swallowed the hook.
Lyden did channel his inner put bull, eviscerating Republican blogger Luke Hellier for trafficking in an “investigation” without providing any evidence.
Hellier, who has teased the story repeatedly on his blog, claimed to have “a significant amount of public documents.” With his typical dramatic flair, Lyden held up a manila folder he said contained the same allegations Hellier received. “It’s all unsubstantiated,” the Fox9 investigator said. “The documents that purport to support something don’t support anything.”
Some state Capitol reporters have received the envelope (though not MinnPost) and they know exactly what to do with the information: check it out, but shut up the hell up until you have something.
Hellier may have become Lyden’s piñata, but the blogger’s payload was delivered to a far bigger audience. Twelve hours after Fox9 posted the news to its website — replete with the headline “October Surprise: Rumor or Innuendo?” — the station pulled the text and video down. Hellier promptly posted the Fox9 video on YouTube.
Station officials will not provide explanation for their web redaction, though sources say the ethical considerations were discussed before the original story.
In writing about this, I had to wrestle with doing exactly what I’m condemning Fox9 for. It’s ironic, since for two months, I wouldn’t retransmit sexting allegations against Brett Favre because no verifiable evidence had emerged. (As in the Favre case, there’s no real accuser.) But frankly, Fox9’s screw-up was too astounding to ignore.
Were the locals passive-aggressively carrying GOP water, a la Fox News? I’d opt for Fox9’s lust for sensationalism — at best, a misguided attempt to preemptively deflate Hellier’s so-far passive-aggressive attack. But I’ll admit, any theory is possible.