by Max Brantley
Here's Stephens Media coverage of Mike Huckabee's news conference yesterday at which he slandered a Democrat-Gazette reporter with more of his typical sloppiness with the facts. The D-G news department is heard from about Huckabee's smear, first printed, in of all places, the D-G's Sunday editorial section:
In the piece, Huckabee accused one of the newspaper's reporters of writing stories that were "misleading if not dishonest" regarding, among other things, the destruction of computer hard drives in Huckabee's office before he left office. The destruction was standard operating procedure, but the newspaper stories implied impropriety, Huckabee wrote.
Huckabee said at Monday's news conference that he had a responsibility to set the record straight.
"In a case when a reporter says he couldn't reach any of us for comment, and in fact he had reached (Huckabee spokeswoman) Alice Stewart, who had spoken with him for 15 minutes the evening before and had answered questions, but they didn't appear in the story, that's not about, really, my sensitivity. It's about, really, I think, the question of the integrity of the journalist," Huckabee said.
Talking to reporters after the news conference, Huckabee said, "Taking half-truth and presenting it as whole truth - that's Jayson Blair-Janet Cooke type stuff," a reference to disgraced former reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post, respectively, who were found to have fabricated stories.
Contacted for a response, Frank Fellone, the Democrat-Gazette's deputy editor, said Stewart left a voice message on Jan. 18 saying she was trying to reach Huckabee, and the next day she relayed Huckabee's answers. The first of the stories was published before Stewart provided any answers, but Stewart was quoted in a follow-up story published Jan. 20, Fellone said.
"I regret that the former governor has made it his life's mission to impugn a distinguished Arkansas journalist ...," Fellone said. "He demeans himself."
Asked why the newspaper chose to run Huckabee's response as an opinion piece rather than a news story, Fellone said, "Like any good news organization, we separate news from opinion."
The decision to run the piece was not made by the news staff, he said.