Great job, Salem Weekly -- putting up an online story about how Ward 6 city council candidate Daniel Benjamin lied to the Statesman Journal about his criminal record. Benjamin claimed in his candidate questionnaire he didn't have one, but actually he has been convicted of assault twice.
Here's how the story begins:
Earlier this month Salem’s Statesman Journal newspaper endorsed a candidate for the Salem City Council who lied to them on his candidate questionnaire. The endorsement was made while the paper possessed documentation of the misrepresentations made by the candidate – Daniel Benjamin, who is running for the open seat in Ward 6 in East Salem.
The newspaper conducted an interview with all candidates with a written questionnaire. One question was: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime, been disciplined by a professional licensing board/organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give the details.”
Benjamin answered: “No.”
In fact, Benjamin was arrested three times in the 1990s on charges of assault. Two of those arrests resulted in convictions. Benjamin’s record also shows traffic violations including driving with a suspended license in 2006.
On April 28, Statesman Journal staff was provided with documentation of Benjamin’s criminal record. The newspaper elected to not publish this information, and on May 4, it officially endorsed him as the best candidate running for city council in Ward 6.
Wow. This is hugely embarassing for both Daniel Benjamin and the Statesman Journal. I just left a comment on a letter to the editor praising Benjamin's "ethical voice" that the Statesman Journal published today. Here's what I said:
Benjamin will provide an "ethical voice?" Maybe this letter writer doesn't know Benjamin's full history -- which has just been reported by Salem's alternative newspaper, Salem Weekly.
The Statesman Journal knew that Benjamin lied when he filled out the newspapers endorsement questionnaire. Benjamin said he never [had] been convicted of a crime, but actually he has two assault convictions.
I don't know which is more disturbing: that the Statesman Journal endorsed Benjamin even though the editors knew he had lied to them, or that they refused to publish the information they had about his criminal record and details of his current bankruptcy.
I guess all it takes to get a Statesman Journal election city council endorsement these days is to be backed by the Chamber of Commerce. Truthfulness doesn't count for anything, apparently.
[Update: The Statesman Journal just updated its story on Benjamin and Lor after being forced to do this by the Salem Weekly story. I would have been much more impressed journalistically if the Statesman Journal editors had done this when first informed about Benjamin's false statements on the candidate questionnaire. This shows the importance of having an independent newspaper voice, Salem Weekly.]
[Second update: Now the story has been taken down. Link above doesn't work. Here's a PDF file of the updated story that includes mention of one of Benjamin's assault convictions. The Salem Weekly piece says Benjamin had two convictions, and another arrest assault that didn't result in a conviction.}
Download Benjamin and Lor compete for Ward 6 seat on council
Fortunately, Ward 6 voters have another candidate to vote for: Xue Lor. The Salem Weekly story says: