[Update: Late Wednesday, the Star Tribune added a clarification to Souhan’s column noting Urdahl’s vote.]
There’s something ironic about a journalist ripping someone for asking a question, much less attacking them for “dumbing down” an issue while missing a crucial fact himself.
Star Tribune sports columnist Jim Souhan delivered a haymaker on state Rep. Dean Urdahl for asking Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley at a House Government Operations hearing Monday, “Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire owner?”
“Some of our elected officials are often no smarter than the guy who writes in the comments section of an online newspaper, ‘Your stupid’,” thundered Souhan. “Urdahl should recognize that he has marked himself as a Republican who is trying to kill a jobs and economic stimulus project.”
One problem: Urdahl voted for the stadium bill.
“Your dumb,” meet “your dumber.”
Unless Souhan truly believes a mere question is more powerful than an actual vote, it seems he simply didn’t know how Urdahl voted. The columnist did not answer an email or phone call this morning, but it’s possible he based his rant on Star Tribune reporter Mike Kaszuba’s story, which recounted Urdahl’s question but did not state which button the Grove City Republican pressed.
“He never talked to me,” Urdahl said of Souhan Tuesday. “This is pretty irresponsible. It starts with Kaszuba just putting the quote out there, but didn’t report the preface to the statement, which was — and I paraphrase — ‘Here’s a question I get asked most frequently, it’s on everyone’s mind, let’s get it out of the way.’”
Unlike some Republicans who apparently switched their votes when the committee’s “no” verdict became clear, Urdahl says, “I was voting ‘yes’ all along. I wasn’t one of the ones that passed [on the initial round of voting]. No gamesmanship — I was voting yes to move to the next committee.”
MinnPost’s Doug Grow, who attended the hearing, said, “It was almost like the planted question to get straight to the fundamental question before delving into details.”
The best columnists report, but not all do, at least not as often they should, especially when many of them have radio shows and other media obligations/compulsions. Columnists have license to unload, and great columns have bounced off someone else’s reporting. The risk of non-reporting? Looking like a lazy-know-it-all.
“My next call, I’m calling his editor,” Urdahl says. “I want a clarification in his column. People read that I’m shallow, have a third-grade mentality, I’m a job-killer … this is just so wrong, egregiously wrong. Who could read that column and assume I voted ‘yes’?”
Clarifications on opinion pieces are rare, so we’ll see how that goes. But even if Souhan dwelled in ignorance, what about his underlying point: that even raising the “billionaire” question was stupid?
“I’m a state representative; I represent the people of my district,” Urdahl says. “I thought if one of my constituents was sitting here, and had Lester Bagley in front of them, what question would he want asked? I knew the answer; I wanted to get the Vikings on the record for the people of Minnesota answering that question. When you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, I don’t think it’s an inappropriate question.”
(Urdahl says Bagley answered that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was making the third-biggest stadium contribution of any stadium owner, which doesn’t quite answer the question.)
Urdahl says he’s had to field “a couple hundred calls and emails” since Kaszuba’s initial story, and after pro-stadium SavetheVikes.org initially, erroneously listed him as a “no” vote. Souhan’s piece, he says, has only kept the fire going.
The representative says he’s no stranger to critical voter feedback, but in this case, it’s especially galling since “I’ve had to defend a vote I didn’t take.”