This is SO beautiful for a snarky blogger such as moi: discovering that the source of a Big Political Lie railed against in several Statesman Journal stories came from... (drum roll, please)
A story in the freaking Statesman Journal itself!
This fills me with so much pleasure, because there's nothing I enjoy more -- well, actually this isn't true, but let's pretend it is -- than criticizing our town's pitiful excuse for a community newspaper. So if you sense joy oozing from the words you're reading, you're correct!
If you followed goings-on in the recent race for Salem Mayor between Chuck Bennett and Carole Smith closely, you probably noticed a frenzy in the Statesman Journal about a "mysterious mailer" sent out a few days before the election.
A May 13 newspaper story said (I've boldfaced a crucial part):
An unsigned campaign flier criticizing a Salem mayoral candidate has appeared in Salem residents mailboxes, and its anonymity is within state election laws.
The red, white and blue flier is worded as if candidate Chuck Bennett wrote it himself, yet includes a list of "accomplishments" phrased unflatteringly. Nowhere on the flier does it say who paid for or sent it.
...Bennett said the flier is full of lies. For example, it says he's a member of Creekside Golf Course, but Bennett says he doesn't even know how to golf.
When asked whether her campaign or supporters sent the flier, mayoral candidate Carole Smith said she had "no comment on that."
Molly Woon, communications director for the secretary of state, said there is nothing illegal about the flier, including its anonymity. Satire is protected free speech.
So, as I noted in Chuck Bennett complains about legal, truthful satirical mailer about him, "I'm not sure why this deserved a story in the Statesman Journal, given that the mailer is (1) completely legal, and (2) truthful. I'm basing my truthful claim on what I've seen of the mailer -- a photo shared by a Facebook friend yesterday."
But in the first Statesman Journal story, Bennett was complaining about something on the other side of the mailer, which I later learned said (again, crucial part in boldface):
HERE IS HOW I HAVE HELPED THE COMMUNITY IN THE RECENT PAST:
I made the motion and voted to give a Chamber developer a $3 million tax abatement and a $749,999 grant.
I serve on the Water/Sewer Rate Committee, and I am a member of Creekside Golf Club (owned by the same Chamber member), so I can coach them on what to say to get their water bill lowered.
I made the motion and voted to approve the lowest Streetlight fees for the Chamber’s largest businesses and the highest pro-rated fee for homeowners.
Did you know your home’s Storm Water fee includes run-off from the city owned street in front of your property?
So far the Chamber, Chamber PACs, and Chamber members have donated $20,000 to my campaign. This has paid for 60% of my campaign costs.
I am endorsed and financed by the Salem Chamber of Commerce so they will be a high priority when I am Mayor.
Well, gosh, I wonder where the idea that Chuck Bennett is a member of the Creekside Golf Club came from? Could it have been a front page story in the April 16, 2016 print edition of the Statesman Journal? Why, sure.
What's perplexing to me is that Statesman Journal staff knew that the online version of the April 16 Creekside Golf Club story was corrected the next day, omitting the mention of Bennett being a club member. And Statesman Journal "Content Coach" Don Currie (that's the sort of job titles they have these days) told me that a correction in the print paper also appeared on April 17.
But I didn't notice the correction. Nor, I'm sure, did most other readers. Thus it is completely understandable why whoever wrote the satirical anonymous mailer would say that Chuck Bennett was a Creekside Golf Club member.
Here's another perplexing thought that came to me: Chuck Bennett seemingly would have read the April 16 Creekside Golf Club story, since as a city councilor he was quoted in it. It makes sense that Bennett would have been the one who told the Statesman Journal that he wasn't actually a member of the club.
Yet the Statesman Journal and Bennett both condemned the supposed lies and "scurrilous statements in the mailer" even though newspaper staff definitely knew that the paper itself was the source of the only lie that I can detect in the mailer: that Bennett was a Creekside Golf Club member. Bennett likely also knew this.
A few days ago I sent Chuck Bennett and three Statesman Journal staff (Dick Hughes, Michael Davis, and Tracy Loew) an email asking them to comment on what I'd call MailerGate if I wanted to be dramatic, which I do, so I will call it that.
Bennett didn't respond. As noted above, Don Currie did respond on behalf of the Statesman Journal.
Bottom line: so far as I can tell, nothing in the mailer was untruthful, aside from the mention that Bennett was a member of the Creekside Golf Club. And whoever composed the mailer had good reason to believe this was the truth, because a Statesman Journal story said so.
In my view, the Carole Smith for Mayor campaign definitely should get an apology from the Statesman Journal, and perhaps also one from Chuck Bennett.
Yeah, the election is done and gone. Bennett won.
But MailerGate cast some underserved aspersions on the Carole Smith for Mayor campaign. I'm pleased to set the record straight on the Creekside Golf Club aspect of the controversy.