Anatomy of a press hit
'Because I said so' ain't good enough any more
by Alan Lange
I want to pick up a little bit on something Brett Kittridge over at Majority touched on yesterday. Wednesday, Patsy Brumfield wrote an article that wondered aloud whether or not MS Dept. of Public Safety Commissioner was potentially violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits partisan political activity by those actively managing/administrative federal funds. I guess it's fair game as long as everything's on the up and up.

So, Patsy's got her intellectual curiosity up, and she needs an expert. So, who should she call? How about a former US Attorney that would theoretically have prosecuted similar sorts of violations? Patsy calls Brad Pigott, who certainly fits the former US Attorney category. Pigott's a reputable and smart guy, but he's not unconflicted. As Kittridge noted in his post, Pigott's got a dog in this hunt other than just being a Democrat as Patsy mentions in the article. He's a big Jim Hood donor (see page 4). He's even hosted parties for Hood. Of course this wasn't disclosed in the article.

That's when the YallPolitics award winning Memory Division kicks in. Here's a little more context. Pigott was a major Hood insider. He was "in the room" with Hood, Scruggs and the gang shortly after Katrina as one of those assisting with plans to sue the insurance industry. That is about as "inside" as "inside" gets with Hood.

Hood testified as follows . . .

12 Q. So if I heard your answer correctly, you met with
13 Mr. Scruggs to discuss your strategy before you filed that suit
14 within 14 days of Katrina.
15 A. And there was probably 15 lawyers in one meeting I know
16 that we had. I think a couple of them, three or four three of
17 them are here today.
18 Q. Where did that meeting take place?
19 A. In our office.
20 Q. When did it take place?
21 A. Sometime before we filed the suit.
22 Q. And can you tell the names of the lawyers that you
23 consulted with about your filing this lawsuit to try to
24 invalidate the water exclusion in the standard homeowners
25 policies in Mississippi?
1 A. I can think of a few of them; but, I mean, I don't recall
2 all of the names. I think Danny Cupit was there. I think
3 Mr. Liston was there. Crymes Pittman, Mr. Scruggs was there.
4 There was about -- Precious Martin was there. Former
5 U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott was there.
6 Q. I'm sorry?
7 A. Former U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott was there; Carlton Reeves,
8 an old law clerk buddy of mine that worked with Mr. Pigott in
9 his firm in Jackson. Maybe Governor Lang (Allain) was there. I'm not
10 sure. I think he was. I think he was there as well. I'm
11 sorry. I don't recall all the names. There were more, though.
12 I can tell you that.
13 Q. How many days before you filed the suit was it that you had
14 this consultation?
15 A. I don't know. I don't know. I mean, it was --
16 Q. Three, four days?


He's also been a vocal Democratic mouthpiece against Haley Barbour on the much ballyhooed but otherwise insignificant blind trust issue.

Barbour has placed his personal holdings in a blind trust, a move critics say serves mostly to shield them from public and regulatory scrutiny. ``Governor Barbour's so-called `blind trust' has 20/20 vision,'' said Brad Pigott, a former Clinton administration U.S. attorney for the Mississippi district that includes Jackson. ``I don't know of a soul down here who believes Governor Barbour doesn't know what Governor Barbour owns or gets out of the Washington lobbying firm that still uses his name.''


Bottom line - the fact that Pigott is listed as an expert on the Hatch Act is fine. There doesn't seem to be anything in motion for the premise of the article (namely that Simpson is actually being looked at for a Hatch Act violation). I personally doubt anything will come of it because if Hood's camp had the goods on Simpson, they would have sprung it for real. However, it's either criminal ignorance or willfull complicity for Patsy Brumfield not to mention Pigott's history with Hood in the context of this article. Even IF Brumfield didn't ask Pigott about his background with Hood, Pigott should have volunteered it and made sure it was disclosed in print. Making him look like some random, unbiased expert was ill-advised and candidly reflects poorly on both of them.

Of course, after the article went up, the AP picked up the story. The Sun Herald even ran it on their "Breaking News" email, which was a bit surprising as there was nothing really breaking about it.

My larger point is that 'Because I said so' is no longer good enough. Being biased is fine. Pretending you're not isn't. Disclose your bias and conflicts and move on. But these little tricks that the media got away with for literally decades are just too easy to call out now. The data is out there. However, there are still those in the Mississippi media establishment that think that just because they write it makes it so. Not anymore.

In full disclosure, I donated to Jim Hood's opponent in 2003. I am pretty sure I did not in 2007.


Posted January 28, 2011 - 4:52 pm

YallPolitics.Com now uses Facebook for comments. Log into Facebook to comment here.







©2005-2019 Jackson New Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact us at editor at yallpolitics.com