Aggressive journalists are good. Aggressive, under-informed, innuendo-trafficking journalists, not so much.
But Wednesday night’s interview between new Fox9 anchor Heidi Collins and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was something else again.
Ritchie will run the governor’s race recount as he did the 2008 U.S. Senate review. By all but the most partisan reckonings, that went fairly. But on Wednesday, GOP Chair Tony Sutton blistered Ritchie’s ties to demonized, now-defunct voter registration group ACORN.
Collins picks up that cudgel. Ritchie gamely explains that ACORN did support him, but just as gamely tries to explain how many eyes and checks and balances made the last recount a model.
Collins isn’t content to give Ritchie an opportunity to reframe the slur. At about the 2-minute mark, she matronizingly interrupts Ritchie to declare, “Secretary Ritchie? Could I ask the questions? I ask, you answer. Yes?”
Now, in some circumstances, this is the sign of a Mike Wallace bringing a pettifogger to heel. To me, it’s an indication of an interviewer who’s somewhat out of control.
It may be the rudest part of the interview, but it’s not the worst part. That comes at about the 5-minute mark, when things have settled down a bit.
Ritchie is explaining the make-up of the State Canvassing Board that will consist of four judges originally nominated by GOP governors, plus himself. On Tuesday, vote-watchers got a heart attack when Hennepin County made a tabulation error; officials were quick to explain the mistake, including in a live phone interview with Fox9 reporter Jeff Baillon.
As Ritchie goes over the make-up of the constitutionally chartered board, he lists a Hennepin County judge (Denise Reilly, who served on a 2008 panel).
Collins: “Hennepin County certainly in the news last night as well, with some of the issues that they were having there, so very interesting that they will also be included on this canvassing panel.”
Did you catch that Megyn Kelly-ish innuendo? Collins is implying that a Hennepin County judge can’t be trusted to be on the panel. But she doesn’t just say so — and she doesn’t give Ritchie a chance to respond.
Second-weirdest moment, at about the 5:30 mark:
Collins: “You told me that it seemed like you were ready for this, prepared for this type of thing to happen. I think if voters hear that right now, they’re going to be saying, ‘What? Are you kidding me? You knew this was going to happen again? You were prepared for it?'”
What? Are you kidding me? Collins makes it sound like Ritchie being prepared for a recount is a bad thing, some sort of conspiracy. This in a state with a razor-thin 2006 governor’s race, 2008 U.S. Senate race, and now this one.
Collins wasn’t here for the first two — she was a CNN anchor — but the whole interview drips with the sort of government de-legitimizing you hear on Fox News, not Fox9.
Collins may want to make a rep as the toughest interviewer in town, and tough interviews are sorely needed. Still, this one fell short of professional standards.
Earlier in the campaign, Fox9 News retransmitted a GOP blogger’s innuendo, eventually pulling the web video. These sorts of escapades increase chatter that Fox News wants affiliates to tilt like the GOP-fluffing mother ship.
I’m still not ready to endorse that level of conspiracy. The newsroom is stuffed with professionals like Baillon, and I thought Election Night coverage was solid and straightforward. For all I know, Collins will keelhaul Sutton one of these days. But as it bids for attention, Fox9 is risking its credibility.