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Don't Say What Simon Says

A Republican screws up in California -- and the ConWeb isn't there.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/18/2002

A ConWeb ethics question: What do you do when the California gubernatorial candidate your "conservative news" organization is heavily backing does something so boneheaded that even you can't figure out how to explain it away?

Answer: Pretend it never happened.

And that's just what NewsMax does with the latest blunder by California Repubican Bill Simon. During a debate, he accused incumbent Gov. Gray Davis of illegally accepting a campaign donation in the governor's office and offered "proof," a picture of the check-passing. Unfortunately for Simon, it was fairly easily demonstrated that the picture was taken nowhere near the governor's office, and Simon was forced to apologize to the organization that gave him the check (though not to Davis).

This put NewsMax -- last seen trying furiously to change the subject after Simon's investment firm had a $78 million judgement levied against it -- in full la-la-la-la-I'm-not-listening mode. It ran no news stories at all on the incident as it was going on. Its "hot topics" section on the race is barren for the week Simon's allegations were disintegrating, save for a piece on the gubernatorial aspirations of Arnold Schwarzenegger. (That story-count goose egg applies to WorldNetDaily and as well; you know the results would be much different if Davis had blundered this bad instead of Simon.) Even its designated Davis basher-slash-Simon booster, Patrick Mallon -- who writes a weekly column on the race for NewsMax -- laid low during the crisis.

But with his Oct. 14 piece, Mallon -- whose Sept. 30 article was ironically and prematurely titled "Only Vote Fraud Can Save Davis Now" -- certainly wanted to continue that head-in-the-sand stance. Since this was his beat, however, he had to. So he did the next best thing: try to dispatch it as quickly as he could. He starts off by complaining that "clairvoyant Davis defenders and apologists in the media are microanalyzing a picture" (too bad Simon's campaign didn't do that before releasing it to the public, wouldn't you say, Mr. Mallon?) takes a swipe at "the hayseeds in the Simon campaign" because they "screwed up (intentionally?)", then tries to play the moral equivalence card: "it's revealing how not one has equally demanded that Davis step down for damage far more serious to the pocketbooks of California taxpayers."

That sums up the first three paragraphs of a rather long article. Mallon then hastily moves on to more important things: "So, while reporters write Simon's obituary over at One-Hour Photo, let's discuss how to steal an election." The presumed implication here, of course, is that Democrats do that all the time, but one has to wonder if Mallon's real aim is to give pointers to Simon's campaign since it's looking more and more that this particular method may be the only way Simon can beat Davis.

Mallon wasn't completely inactive during Simon's week of falling apart, though. He took the time to critique an article on Simon by San Francisco Chronicle writer Carla Marinucci for the web site ChronWatch. In seemingly full denial, he wasn't in a mood to discuss Simon's screw-up then, either:

Dear Carla:

Come on, admit it: you're on the Davis Team--but you masquerade behind the facade of being a legitimate columnist. The ''coup de grace'' will occur when Davis is shown the door.

Have you read your fellow Worker's Unite Paper today, the LA Times? Their poll says Davis leads Simon 45-35, which means not even HALF of those polled are for the governor. I've got news for you, ''campaign worker,'' those are perilous numbers for ANY incumbent this close to the election.

Bruce Cain is a registered Democrat, so what objective purpose do his stale comments have?

The only useful comment Cain did make about Simon's use of the photo can be equally applicable to the Chronicle's value, and your reporting. Cain said: ''And in terms of its carelessness, it's probably unparalleled.'' Same for your article.

Have fun at your next lunch with Garry South and Roger Salazar. And could you do me a favor? Ask South what he has living in that rat's nest on top of his condescending dome.

Ah, yes, your classic partisan ad hominem attack: Mallon has decided that if a journalist writes something insufficiently praiseworthy of Simon, that journalist obviously must be working for Davis. Notice that Mallon doesn't bother to address any of the substance of Marinucci 's article, which is about how badly Simon screwed up, since that's pretty much beyond dispute. The writer, her sources and her employer, sure -- but not a word about what the article actually says.

Mallon's article is, sadly, quite representative of the rest of ChronWatch -- conservatives taking whacks at the Chronicle, despite that lofty, MRC-esque slogan claiming it's "striving for balance in the news." (Why is it that when conservatives say they want "balance" in the news, what they really mean is wanting yet another venue to attack people they don't agree with?)

Simon finally returned to NewsMax's "news" pages on Oct. 14 with a piece on Simon's joint campaign swing with Rudy Giuliani, hoping NewsMax readers wouldn't recall that just a few months ago it was denouncing Giuliani as a "Judas" and "no Reagan Republican" who "can’t be trusted by either Washington Republicans or conservative voters." The article -- which also quickly sums up the events of the previous week without even trying to defend it -- shows what the Simon campaign is reduced to: having a guy his supporters don't completely trust dismiss the debacle as a simple mistake of a first-time candidate and that it was no indication of how he would govern the state if elected.

Of course, nobody expects NewsMax to be completely truthful. Which makes Patrick Mallon the perfect NewsMax correspondent.

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