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Fox9 retransmits political innuendo — then reconsiders

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.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/15/2010 - 03:58 pm.

    Mr. Brauer, I agree with you.

    But did not the President, along with several other democratic officials do the same thing in regards to the Chamber of Commerce raising foreign money for our elections?

    That unsubstantiated claim got a lot more press than this Dayton incident. Where is your outrage?

  2. Submitted by Nate Pete on 10/15/2010 - 04:32 pm.

    But Ron, it has been substantiated!

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/13/chamber-foreign-funded-media

    Where is your outra… oh never mind.

  3. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 10/15/2010 - 04:34 pm.

    Ron–

    Tip of the hat to you for only waiting one sentence before pulling out the “hey, but look what the other guy did” argument.

    Aside from the fact that the two stories are nothing alike, The Chamber of Commerce isn’t denying that they’re raising money from foreign governments and businesses. They’re just claiming they keep that money is some sort of a magical lockbox in their general funds, so it won’t be spent on campaign ads.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/15/2010 - 04:47 pm.

    “Thinkprogress”….oh, never mind.

  5. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 10/15/2010 - 07:41 pm.

    I could not believe my eyes and ears as I saw this sensational non-story rolled out last night. I was yelling at my TV screen in disbelief.

    Lyden’s chewing out of the blogger had a surreal, almost Jerry Springer-esque quality to it. Despite some apparent mild discomfort, it was clear early on that the blogger was positively delighted with the attention.

    And to say that his “payload was delivered to a far bigger audience” is actually something of an understatement. There was simply no other possible outcome given the details Lyden chose to include. He actually seemed to recognize this and in the end make a small play for redemption by claiming that there were even worse accusations in the documentation that he chose to leave out.

    Lyden’s conduct was unprofessional and unconscionable. In any other corner of journalism, given the potential ramifications for an election cycle, this piece would be sufficient for immediate termination. Of course, I’d be very surprised if Fox9 took that step.

  6. Submitted by Nate Pete on 10/15/2010 - 07:51 pm.

    That’s right Thomas, Thinkprogress.org

    Notice all of the statements are backed up by links to public documents? (those little underlines under the words)

    Not exactly your Fox infotainment channel, actual facts, but who needs those I guess?

  7. Submitted by John Olson on 10/15/2010 - 08:49 pm.

    You know, Joe McCarthy pulled the same stunt in the 1950’s…..

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/16/2010 - 09:34 am.

    //”Thinkprogress”….oh, never mind.

    Yes, Republican blogs are clearly more reliable.

    David, this is a really nice piece, but please don’t compare this story to the Favre story. Nothing about Bret Farve aside from an obituary rises above the level of trivia. Quarterbacks and major Gubanatorial candidates have very little in common.

  9. Submitted by Chris Viken on 10/17/2010 - 10:48 am.

    “. . . please don’t compare this story to the Favre story.” says Mr. Udstrand. My reading is that David was equating the ethics questions involved for the journalist, not the specific content of the stories.

    It’s an important point since much of today’s journalism seems to lack that comprehension. Or perhaps some journalists understand the distinction full well, but 1 – count on the public to be unable to discern the point, or 2 – know the damage they can inflict is worth any downside.

    This last is similar to the situation where a TV network with a conservative agenda (not naming names) claims to be shocked by an outrageous political ad or incident, all the while replaying it repeatedly in its “news reports.”

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/17/2010 - 09:23 pm.

    An informed citizenry is the bulwark of advertising revenue.

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