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Posted at 9:49 AM ET, 03/11/2011

A tale of two stings

By Jennifer Rubin

We've recently had two episodes of entrapment journalism. I'm a bit old school, so the idea of concocting a story featuring a journalist who then reports on the self-created event seems, well, wrong. But putting that aside, the two episodes were revealing of the character of the targets and the divide between our private and public faces.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came out of the phony David Koch episode unscathed. (The same is probably not true of the staffer who put the call through.) He restated the position he took in public and, most important, he did not agree with the caller's outlandish comments for the sake of ingratiating himself with a man he thought was the billionaire philanthropist. Walker's staff soon realized the sting was a potential positive event because it revealed that Walker says "the same thing in private as he does in public," as his press secretary put it. (Walker's staff gets an "F" for call screening but an "A" for rapid response by sound bite.)

By contrast, Ron Schiller of NPR revealed in a sting video an enormous capacity for duplicity. He plays the public role of fair journalist; in private he is a cartoon version of the bile-spitting, biased liberal that conservatives have long suspected run public radio. Is he really a closet anti-Semite who believes that Jews dominate the media? Or was he trying to show some "street cred" with the fake Muslim Brotherhood member?

We can bemoan the existence of 24/7 news coverage and journalism-by-deception, but you can say this: Those who are not the same in public as they are in private had better beware. It's no longer just the tell-all book or the disgruntled employee who can rat out a public figure; now they do it themselves.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 11, 2011; 9:49 AM ET
Categories:  Culture  
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Comments

Here's an excerpt from the vicious bile-spitting governor talking to the man who he believes to be David H. Koch. Of Koch Industries.

Here Walker discusses his plan to trick the Democrats in to coming back so the Republicans can pass the bill, and jokes about menacing them with a baseball bat he keeps in his office.

So much for saying the same when worshiping his financial patrons as what he says in public.

"Walker: ... we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders — talk, not negotiate — and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn — but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them come back and sit down in the state Assembly. They can recess it, to come back if we’re talking, but they all have to be back there. The reason for that is, we’re verifying it this afternoon, but legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. Um, so we’re double checking that. But that would be the only, if you heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them. And my sense is, hell, I’ll talk to them. If they want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I’m used to that, I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.

Murphy: Bring a baseball bat. That’s what I’d do.

Walker: I have one in my office; you’d be happy with that. I got a Slugger with my name on it.

Murphy: Beautiful."

Posted by: member8 | March 11, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Both of these "sting" operations were egregiously wrong: the notion that you can lie, pose, work a person into a completely false situation and that what they say in that situation somehow reveals the "truth" -- is just wrong. I completely condemn this type of pseudo-journalism as practised by either side of the political spectrum.

What both of the stingers got right, though, is that both politicians and fundraisers will say anything at all to somebody who promises to give them enormous amounts of money. By posing as donors with crass or abhorent views, they had maximum ability to elicit idiotic replies from their targets.

Contrary to your story, Ron Schiller was not a journalist and had no say over NPR's content. He was a fundraiser. Anybody who has ever worked in a field where fundraisers operate will tell you that they will agree with pretty much any opinion held by a major donor.

I have no doubt that NPR's perspective is very far to the left of the current Republican party. This is not, and has never been, the same thing as "palling around with terrorists," unless you set it up that way.

Posted by: ElizaJane2 | March 11, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer does what she typically does. She pretends things that undermine her argument don't exist or simply declares victory for the side she agrees with and goes home.

Neither NPR nor Gov. Walker came off looking good from the respective "pranks" pulled on them. I think you'd have to be seriously in denial to claim otherwise.

Posted by: mustangs79 | March 11, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"Jennifer does what she typically does. She pretends things that undermine her argument don't exist or simply declares victory for the side she agrees with and goes home."

She's got to be angling for a contract with Fox. She's certainly not working towards any job which requires thoughtful analysis, but just the bases form of partisan combat.

"Both of these "sting" operations were egregiously wrong:"

Actually, I don't think so. Police certainly use these techniques all the time against the little people to entrap them in to doing illegal things. Everyone from the president to the lowliest street person needs to understand that there are people out there with an incentive to trick them in to doing bad things in order to harm them, and act accordingly.

For people in positions of responsibility, that means never saying anything which could be misconstrued. One can communicate effectively using sarcasm and not expose oneself to 'stings'. Never write what you can phone. Never phone what you can say in person. Never say in person what you can nod. Never not what you can wink.

NPR officials should have been fired for bad judgment. They shouldn't discuss contributions or politics with strangers on the phone or otherwise, but only hold discussions in the office. And due to the post 9/11 world, all visitors to the office need to be frisked at the front door and metal-detected, surrender all electronic devices, etc. It's the terrorism, you know.

Think of it as a game. Smile. Ask the visitor if he's ticklish.

Posted by: member8 | March 11, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The comparison of the two events is very telling:

1. The private person, by many accounts a 'liberal', resigned so as not to damage the 'liberal' organization;

2. The Republican who conspired with someone outside of the state, let alone not in the government, and who considered planting provocateurs in a crowd of peaceful protesters is defended by the Republicans/Conservatives/Tea Partiers. The same folks who consider '2nd amendment solutions' in the event they lose an election.

Draw your conclusions.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | March 11, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Teachers, firefighters, cops target M&I [Bank] with boycott
By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel

Madison -- Teachers, firefighters and police officers said they would begin a boycott of M&I Bank if the bank does not begin publicly opposing Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to curtail collective bargaining for public workers.

Unions representing those groups said they would start other boycotts of businesses that backed Walker in his campaign.

The letter to M&I President Tom Ellis said the boycott would begin March 17 if the bank hasn't opposed Walker's efforts by then.

"In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company," the letter says. "However, if you join us, we will do everything in our power to publicly celebrate your partnership in the fight to preserve the right of public employees to be heard at the bargaining table."

The letter was sent by the heads of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 311, Madison Teachers Inc., Green Bay Education Association, Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Assocation and the Madison Professional Police Officers Association.

The Professional Police Association represents dozens of municipal and county law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Sara Schmitz, a spokeswoman for the bank, did not have an immediate comment on the letter.

Earlier this week, the bank, reacting to showing up on a Facebook-sponsored list of boycott targets around the state, said that "Marshall & Ilsley Corporation and M&I Bank have not made contributions to any political campaign in Wisconsin. By law, corporations and businesses are not permitted to make direct contributions to political campaigns.

"Individual employees may choose, at their own discretion and based on their political beliefs, to make contributions to political campaigns. Donors are typically required to identify their employer. Each campaign -- Scott Walker and Tom Barrett -- received voluntary contributions from individual M&I employees."

Posted by: member8 | March 11, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Saying that Jews dominate the media is not anti-Semitic on its face. The speaker may be anti-Semitic but making that statement isn't anti-Semitic, it is simply a statement of fact.

Jews dominate the media in the U.S. through ownership, management, and intimidation, most effectively through the latter. The end result is that no media personality, radio, tv, newspapers, or in any other form can ever tell the truth about what Israel has done and is doing, much less be critical, to the Arabs in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians and Lebanese. To do do or even allude to such matters is grounds for immediate dismissal and professional suicide, e.g., Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez.

It is jaw dropping to listen to someone you might admire politically for their knowledge of the world and political events, and their fearless outspokenness on most matters, whether its someone like Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, or Bill O'Reilly, as they turn into lying, obsequious, sycophants should someone speak ill of Israel. They will viciously attack any poor soul such as Helen Thomas who might express some sympathy for the Palestinians, pledge their undying allegiance to Israel "our (sob) only ally in the middle east" and change the subject. They know their jobs depend on it.

Write a book about a political campaign or flower arranging, you get the book selling tour of the talk shows if you have distant relatives with the connections to get it published. Write a book critical of Israel and even if you are ex-President Carter or internationally respected academics like Walt and Mearshimer you might as well have written a book on the joys of child porn as far as reviews and a book selling tour are concerned, you will be boycotted, savaged at every turn, and exiled to oblivion. Your name never again to be brought up in polite company in any but a pejorative sense.

Only another Jew is allowed mild criticism of Israel that is if they are willing to take the "self-hating" Jew insults from a world-wide, organized, Israeli government sponsored, attack group.

Someday in the far future, historians will look back and wonder how such things could happen. How a powerful people would let themselves be beaten down and frightened into supporting a group of people with interests that conflict their own.

The power of words. The power of the Big Lie.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | March 11, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Lazarus40- "Someday in the far future, historians will look back and wonder how such things could happen. How a powerful people would let themselves be beaten down and frightened into supporting a group of people with interests that conflict their own."

That is a wonderfully apt statement assuming you're referring to the Wisconsin teachers and their union overlords. Or, did I miss your point?

Posted by: dano7 | March 11, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin is lying and race-baiting. The guy agreed that there was 'Zionist influence' in some newspapers. That's a completely factual and uncontroversial statement. Rubin's characterization was a lie, and a libelous one in my opinion, which could subject the Washington Post Corporation, herself and her family to costly litigation, as it would were I the target of it. If it were me, I'd hit her with a lawsuit so big her grandchildren would be answering motions.

It's also a distraction. If she can create a bunch of noise surrounding that issue, then it's impossible to discuss anything else.

Well done, Mike O'Keefe.

Posted by: member8 | March 11, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This article seems to imply incorrectly that the prank call did not catch Gov. Walker in anything damaging. Walker told the blogger/faux-Koch that he DID consider planting agent provocateurs among the demonstrators to stir up trouble, but decided not to for political (NOT moral) reasons! He had to have either really considered planting goons (illegal? impeachable? it should be!) or to simply have said whatever he thought Koch wanted to hear (merely unethical -- as some commentators suspected happened in the NPR stings). That part of the Walker conversation was noted in Peter Wallstein's Post blog, though the incident has received virtually no coverage in the Post's print editions. Walker and the now-disgraced NPR exec's may have both obsequiously said what they did merely to pander to someone they thought was a big contributor. Walker was actually talking to a previously-obscure blogger; the NPR fundraisers were talking to a group that had been proved deceptive (in the videos it used to destroy ACORN). Yet the sting against the union-busting gov gets very little MSM coverage and seems not to do him damage, while the Post and other MSM are falling all over the sting against NPR where heads are rolling. Go figure.

Posted by: mindthegap | March 11, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

By the way, this 'law' is far from certain. It contains:

• changes to the earned income tax credit;
• a $79m reduction in the lapses required from the DOA secretary;
• $165m in debt restructuring;
• increasing funding for MA programmes to close funding gap through end of fiscal year;
• the sale of state power plants;
• increasing funding for Corrections to close gap through end of fiscal year;
• reallocation of group health and pharmacy benefit reserves;
• audit of dependent eligibility under benefit programs

I'm no accountant, but some of those look very fiscal to me.

Posted by: member8 | March 11, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

member8 @ March 11, 2011 2:18 PM: Reason leads one to expect that ANY legislation put together as secretly, and under as much pressure as the Republicans were, and as hurriedly as this one, will have major flaws. I expect that as soon as the courts have a chance the Republicans will actually start negotiating. This was a BIG move on their part, and does not seem to have changed anything in their favor.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | March 11, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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