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Pelosi and the Protester

The Media Research Center tries to pretend that their employee who hurled a gotcha question on abortion to Nancy Pelosi is an actual journalist instead of an activist and fundraising tool.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/15/2015


Meet Sam Dorman. He works for CNSNews.com. It's unclear exactly what he does -- he's not on the CNS staff list, and his archive page lacks a bio.

Anyway, Dorman was running around D.C. to various members of Congress this week to hurl a single question at them: “Is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?” To Republicans, the question is a softball allowing to rehash right-wing anti-abortion talking points. For Democrats, it's a gotcha question designed to trap and annoy them. That's all by design.

Of course, if all you're doing is running around asking important people a single gotcha question with the sole purpose of advancing a political cause, you're not really a reporter -- you're an activist. Given that Dorman has mostly been targeting Democratic congressmembers with his gotcha question, one could also say he's making a political statement by doing so. Acting as a protester, if you will.

When the Washington Post did an article on Dorman hurling his gotcha question at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the reporter, Kelsey Snell, referred to Dorman as an "anti-abortion protester." Snell didn't identify Dorman by name, noting that "It was unclear who the questioner was and for which news organization they worked."

For some reason, Dorman got all huffy about this. He tweeted at Snell: "I am not an anti abortion 'protestor'. I am a credentialed member of the press. Please correct your story."

But one does not have to have "credentials" to act as a journalist in America; he may be referring to what it takes to get into Pelosi's press briefing, but the fact he apparently has them means the standards are low enough that his insistence that he has them is a laughable attempt to pull rank.

And, again, if you're just asking a single gotcha question to your ideological enemies, you are, in fact, a protester and not a reporter.

Another curious thing about Dorman: His Twitter account fails to identify his real name (it lists only @blah2k as the account name and "freedorman" as the handle) or his employer Thus, Dorman's tweet to Snell was a complete failure because she has no idea who's tweeting her.

A CNS fundraising effort to capitalize on Sam Dorman's gotcha question to Nancy Pelosi gave away the game: His question was intended to get an angry reaction from her.

Further, it appears from Snell's description of the Pelosi encounter and from the accompanying video that Dorman never announced who he was or who he was with before hurling his gotcha question at Pelosi. For a self-proclaimed "credential member of the press," Dorman sure doesn't want many people to know about it -- or maybe he just wants it known when he gets caught acting more like an ideological protester than a journalist.

Wait, wasn't it just yesterday that Dorman's boss, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell, was ranting about the need for media transparency? Yes, he was. Bozell might have a little credibility on the issue if his own so-called reporters weren't so determined to hide their identities in public (and also if he hadn't spent more than 15 years being decidedly less than transparent about who writes the column that comes out under his name).

Dorman's anonymous tweet, however, was all that was necessary to get the MRC rage machine going. It took two MRC staffers -- Kristine Marsh and Katie Yoder -- to write about this for NewsBusters, insisting that Dorman is a "journalist" and a "reporter" despite him offering no proof of it and ignoring the fact that Dorman apparently never identified himself before hurling his gotcha question at Pelosi. They also touted his tweet to Snell despite the fact there's nothing at Dorman's Twitter account that would identify him as Dorman or as a CNS employee.

The whining worked: The Post updated its article to identify Dorman as a "reporter" and his employer and to remove references to him as an "anti-abortion protester," even though it's not exactly inaccurate.

But that wasn't enough for the MRC. Dorman's immediate supervisor, CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman kept up the MRC's misguided defense of Dorman, directing his ire toward the Washington Post instead of his own reporter. Chapman whines in an Oct. 2 CNS article:

In Kelsey Snell’s story posted at 12:14PM at The Washington Post’s PowerPost, the headline incorrectly read, “Nancy Pelosi shut down an abortion protestor’s question in a press conference.”

There was no “abortion protestor” at the press conference; the question was asked by a CNSNews.com reporter, who is credentialed with the U.S. Capitol.

In the lead of the story, Snell also incorrectly reported that Pelosi “was not interested in entertaining questions Thursday from an anti-abortion protestor who shouted a question to the California Democrat during her weekly press conference.”

There was no “anti-abortion protestor” and the question was not “shouted.” (See the video.) In addition, the lead is further misleading because it has changed from the headline’s “abortion protestor’s” to “anti-abortion protestor.”

In the second paragraph of her story, Snell wrote that, “the protestor sat in the first row of the presser and spoke up over several reporters vying to ask a question of the Democratic leaders.”

Again, the reporter, Sam Dorman, was not a “protestor.”

The fact that Chapman felt compelled to state three times in five paragraphs that his reporter is not an "anti-abortion protestor" is evidence of how unclear that was to Snell and other actual journalists present at the press briefing. Chapman also provided no evidence that Dorman identified himself and his employer before asking the question, thus further raising legitimate questions about whether he was a "reporter" or a protester.

Chapman also failed to mention that Dorman's tweet at Snell came from an account that did not identify his real name or his occupation, so Snell could not possibly have known who he was.

Chapman continued his whining:

Snell did not name the “news organizations with an ideological perspective” to which she was referring. When CNSNews.com asked her by Twitter Direct Message if The Washington Post was one of the “news organizations with an ideological perspective,” Snell did not respond.

She also did not answer numerous questions that CNSNews.com sent to her by Direct Message, including who told her that the questioner was “an anti-abortion protestor”? Also, if it was “unclear who the questioner was,” then why did Snell report that it was a “protestor”? Where did she get this information? And is she credentialed as a reporter at the U.S. Capitol? Snell did not reply.

Is Chapman actually denying that CNS has an ideological perspective? Seems that way, though Dorman's question alone -- whether "an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being" -- should answer any questions about intent and ideology.

Curiously, Chapman recited Snell's journalistic credentials (Politico, NPR, master's degree from Medill) but not that of his own reporter, while still complaining Dorman was labeled as an "anti-abortion protestor." Does Dorman have an activist background Chapman doesn't want to mention, or some other activities in his past that betray Chapman's attempt to portray him as a straight-news reporter?

Chapman followed up with an Oct. 6 CNS article touting how his boss, Brent Bozell, "wrote to Pelosi, noting that good reporters 'ask tough questions,' that her answer was 'disrespectful'; and that she should apologize to the reporter, CNSNews.com’s Sam Dorman." Of course, Dorman's question wasn't "tough"; it was a gotcha question designed to mock her stance on abortion.

If Dorman's question wasn't an act of protest, the MRC wouldn't be trying to raise money off it. And that's exactly what it's doing.

An Oct. 6 email to followers contained a link to a page at CNS where it requests that readers send it money: "It costs $12,000 to fund an Intern at the MRC, and it is an example like Sam’s as to why your continued support for our MRC Internship Program is so vital!"

Wait, the internship program? Yep. It turns out that Dorman isn't even a real reporter -- he's an intern. The MRC has not admitted that until now, not even in the two stories on the situation written by his boss Chapman.

The MRC tries to elide that in its fanciful description of the Dorman-Pelosi encounter (bold and italic in original):

Sam Dorman was excited to be the intern chosen to represent CNSNews.com at the weekly press briefing on October 1st. Armed with a laptop, recorder, and his journalist credentials, he entered the briefing with intention to ask truthful questions directly related to public policy. When called upon, Sam addressed leader Nancy Pelosi, simply asking:

“In reference to funding for Planned Parenthood: Is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?”

But Pelosi responded with, “I do not intend to respond to your questions”.

Pelosi even went so far as to belittle the credentials of our CNSNews.com intern.

Somehow, we doubt that the Capital's press office would give out credentials to an intern so easily; you might remember that a decade ago, WorldNetDaily essentially complained that the Senate Press Gallery's standards for press passes weren't low enough for WND to get one (though it eventually received one). It may be that the credentials belong to CNS, and Dorman simply had access to them that day.

Again, the MRC is throwing the "credentials" stuff around merely to pump up the idea that CNS is a real news organization.

But the ultimate evidence of Dorman's intent comes from Dorman himself, in a statement underneath his picture: "At first I was nervous to ask the question, but after Pelosi erupted with anger, I knew I had pushed the right button."

Journalists try to gather information. Protesters try to push buttons. Dorman's admission that he was trying to push a button on Pelosi and provoke the response he got is all the evidence we need that he was in protest mode, not in journalist mode.

So, that settles it. Dorman is a protester, CNS is an ideological news organization, and the MRC is trying to exploit Dorman's ideological clash with Pelosi to raise money. It's almost as if the whole thing was planned this way.

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