Disappointing. That’s the only word to describe the response to our April 20 cover story exploring questions about whether State Auditor and Democratic United States Senate hopeful John Morrison allowed his personal relationship with Suzanne Harding to influence his office’s treatment of the man Harding later married, convicted securities fraud David Tacke.
Not a single letter to the editor. Not a phone call. Just a brief chirping of crickets (Montana’s Dem bloggers) followed by an eerie lack of response from the Morrison campaign, which had declined to make its candidate available for interviews prior to publication of our story.
Until, that is, Queen City News editor Cathy Siegner asked Morrison campaign manager Tylynn Gordon about our article after a May 4 Helena candidate debate.
Gordon then handed Siegner almost eight pages of “Fact Check” on our story, the gist being that everything we reported was misleading because Morrison, as he’s said before, didn’t do anything wrong. We call it a non-denial denial.
And we find it exceedingly strange that Gordon didn’t think to deliver her “Fact Check” to us. The phrase suggests that facts—as opposed to spin—were gotten wrong, and it’s traditional in the newspaper business for a wronged subject to demand a printing of whatever retractions and/or corrections of factual inaccuracy are provable in the publication that wronged him. At the very least, if he has issues with the story, he can be expected to write a clarifying letter to the editor, and the editor is expected to print it.
In short: If the Morrison campaign thinks we got something wrong in our reporting, we think the Morrison campaign ought to let us know.
An alternate Morrison strategy, of course, would be to discourage further public attention while trying to discredit our story behind our backs.
Morrison’s campaign manager didn’t even want to admit the document existed when we called her on it.
“What do you mean?” Gordon said, or something very like it, twice.
Oh that little thing. That was just something she’d whipped up in case anyone asked—and by the way, she was quick to mention, nobody but Siegner had.
(You know, because United States Senate campaigns often go to the effort of preparing 8-page responses to questions nobody but the Queen City News is asking.)
Gordon didn’t give us her “Fact Check,” she told us, because she didn’t know what we would do with it. Or maybe she knew we’d fact-check it.
We subsequently had a good long conversation with Gordon last week and let her know that if Morrison wants to respond substantively to our story, he’s welcome to do so. We’re interested in what he has to say, and we’re frankly disappointed at his failure so far to say it.
Gordon said she’d take our offer into consideration.
We haven’t heard a peep.