It's been two days since our alternative newspaper, Salem Weekly, embarassed our "real" newspaper, the Statesman Journal, by publishing a disturbing story of political and journalistic malfeasance: City Council candidate lies to Statesman Journal, gets their endorsement anyway.
The evening that story went up on the Salem Weekly website, the Statesman Journal edited its original story about Ward 6 candidates Daniel Benjamin and Xue Lor to reflect the fact that Benjamin lied on the SJ candidate questionnaire about not having any criminal convictions.
[Note: the Salem Weekly story now includes a mention that Benjamin denies he was ever convicted of a crime. Here's a link to a aggrieved letter from Benjamin to Salem Weekly.]
After the edits, the revised Statesman Journal story included:
Benjamin is chairman of the North Lancaster Neighborhood Association, serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity and is a member of the city's budget committee. He emphasized his civic involvement and national service in the U.S. Army, from 1986 to 1989, as evidence of his fitness to fill the Ward 6 seat.
But the candidate has a blemish on his record: a 21-year-old conviction for an assault on a former girlfriend.
Benjamin was convicted of assault in the fourth degree in 1993 and was sentenced to six months of felony probation, according to records on file with the Oregon Department of Corrections. The incident occurred in Multnomah County.
The Statesman Journal's candidate questionnaire asked those running for city council if they have ever been convicted of a crime. Benjamin answered "no" in the questionnaire.
When asked to explain his answer, Benjamin said he thought his record had been expunged. He said that in December 1992 he was drinking and got into "an altercation" with a former girlfriend.
A Gresham Police Department crime report, dated Dec. 31, 1992, states that the victim was punched in the back and ribs and suffered a swollen lower lip.
"I have made some mistakes in the past," Benjamin said. "I am so different from what I was back then."
Well, the Salem Weekly story reported that Benjamin has another assault conviction, and also was arrested another time for assault without being convicted. Regardless, it was good to see the Statesman Journal promptly correcting its previously misleading and inacurate story.
For an hour. Then the story was taken down. Now the link to it looks like this.
Two days. No acknowledgement by the Statesman Journal that it ignored Benjamin's apparent lie on the paper's candidate questionnaire, then took down a corrected story about the Ward 6 candidates. Maybe tomorrow?
Meanwhile, people are leaving some interesting comments on the Salem Weekly story. Here are the ones that have been submitted so far.
And how about Salem Weekly, were you aware of Christopher Proudfoot’s TWO convictions for Driving While Suspended & Driving Without Insurance, one of those being within the last couple years. Or how about Proudfoot’s eviction, or the collection agencies who have had to go after him?
Or even more, what about the collection agencies that have had to pursue other Salem weekly endorsed city council candidates? Did I fail to see that reporting on your part, or is it just that you won’t do so due to your political biases?
Business as usual with the Chamber/homebuilders.
Seems like a normal dude with a not so “perfect” past. Honestly Id rather have a guy like this in office than some squeeky clean guy that looks like hes never done anything wrong.
Several commenters here are missing the point. It isn’t so much Benjamin’s past assault convictions that are the problem (though they should disturb voters), but the fact that he lied about not having any criminal convictions.
Do Salemians really really want a city councilor who doesn’t tell the truth?
Well, I guess the Chamber of Commerce and Statesman Journal do, because they endorsed Benjamin. The SJ definitely knew about Benjamin’s lie when they endorsed him; it isn’t known if the C of C asked Benjamin about his criminal past, but now they know about it, along with his lie about it– and he’s still their guy, I assume.
The newspaper should have published the information they had. Endorse the guy, OK, but don’t endorse the lie. Which is asking a lot, I suppose, the paper
endorses so many lies by government, why should we expect them to not endorse a lie from our council.
People going to lie, especially in politics. Having some grand vision of some guy/gal that’s squeaky clean, goes to church every day and says their prayers at night and wants world peace is naive. Honestly we keep putting people in office that put off this fake persona way too often. I would much rather have some normal Joe-Blow dude who’s messed up a few times in life and is just honest about it and moves on. Yes, it’s a shame he didn’t just come right out and say it, “Ya I did that”. But you know what? It’s the way politics are these days you’re better off lying about it, omitting it when possible and just avoiding it if you want to play the game. Which is stupid, and it’s because people are so obsessed with this naive world view that these white washed too good to be bad phonies are going to better the communities we live in. Be honest you really want someone in any political office that’s never done anything? Not me I want someone in office that’s a little bit like me, probably done a lot of stuff and pulled their shit together and is a good person because their life experience has propelled them in a positive direction.
What concerns me is that Benjamin has not got his “shit together”. Violent assault convictions, driving with a suspended license and without insurance, bankruptcy and more are not simple traffic tickets. One does not become a peaceful and responsible citizen simply by denying one’s past and lying to cover it up. This man has problems that most people would, and should, rightly be concerned about when it comes to elected office.
I feel profoundly sad that Mr. Rogan has come to view politics and politicians in such a cynical and nasty light. The vast majority of politicians and candidates I have known and worked with are wonderfully dedicated and decent individuals. They are not without fault but they deal with their flaws more honestly and directly than Mr. Benjamin. That is why they deserve the public’s trust and Benjamin does not.
Likewise, the Statesman Journal has also violated the public’s trust in burying the story and continuing to endorse this individual. They, like Benjamin, have revealed themselves to have a very low opinion of the public they purport to serve. Shame on both of them.