Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Eric Black on his treatment of the controversial Patty Wetterling ad
HH: Eric Black, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Thanks for joining us finally. After two invitations declined, I’m glad to have you. Eric, what’s your job at the Minneapolis Star Tribune?
EB: Well, I’m a reporter, and I also have a blog.
HH: And how long have you been doing it for?
EB: The blog?
HH: No, the reporting.
EB: I’ve been a reporter for over 30 years. I’ve been with the Star Tribune for over 20.
HH: And this campaign season, what’s your general assignment? Are you covering all the ads, or just some of them?
EB: Not all the ads. I’ve been focusing on the Senate race, and lately on the 6th district House race. I often will post links to ads from other races, but they’re coming too thick and fast, and I can’t analyze them all.
HH: Let’s begin by focusing on Patty Wetterling’s ad that was released two days ago, in which she says Congressional leaders have admitted covering up the predatory behavior of a Congressman who used the internet to molest children. Which Congressional leaders have admitted to covering up predatory behavior, Eric Black?
EB: As far as I know, none have.
HH: Does that make what she said a lie?
EB: Well, lie is a word you reach rarely, I think, in these kinds of ads, yes? But I would say that it’s not a correct statement, and you could quibble with the word choices quite strongly.
HH: What…is it possible to lie in a campaign ad?
EB: Well, what constitutes a lie…I guess you have to eventually get into intent. Something that’s inaccurate isn’t necessarily a lie. We’ve dealt with this…you know, I’ve dealt with this in my reporting many times. It’s rare that you get to the point of knowing that someone had uttered a falsehood, knowing it was false, and with malicious intent.
HH: Well, when you say that Congressional leaders have admitted covering up predatory behavior, and there are none, correct?
EB: That’s my understanding.
HH: That’s my understanding. Did you ask her who she had in mind?
EB: The conversation I had about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the ad was with her campaign manager. And I asked him for backup for that statement, and I don’t have the quote in front of me. It was in my story today, in which he described what he thought it was based on.
HH: So you have not actually spoken to Patty Wetterling about it?
EB: I haven’t asked her, no. About the ad? No. I spoke to her about something else yesterday.
HH: And why wouldn’t you ask her about the ad, given that it’s the most focused upon ad in the United States this week?
EB: Well, I called the campaign for a response, and the person they supplied was the campaign manager. This happens to me a lot, too. And I assume he speaks for her.
HH: But when you were talking to her, had the ad already come out?
EB: Yes, but it was a hallway conversation, in which I was working on the previous story, and you know, it was a brief conversation as she was leaving a meeting, as all this cascade of national and international publicity was coming down on her, and she was being dragged off to a TV studio for a national network interview.
HH: Last week, she released an ad that said her opponent, Michele Bachmann, favors imposing a nationwide 23% sales tax on all purchases. She neglected to talk about the replacement tax that that was. Do you consider that Wetterling ad to have been deceptive?
EB: Did you ask me did I consider it to be deceptive?
HH: Was it a lie?
EB: I think the way I put it in the Ad Watch piece that I did was that it omitted a fact so relevant that it created a false impression.
HH: So would that be a lie?
EB: Well, it would be nice to be able to use the word lie more freely, perhaps. Maybe it wouldn’t be, because it’s not the most helpful thing. But in doing these Ad Watch pieces, I guess I haven’t called anything a lie yet, because I consider that has to meet a very high standard of knowledge and malice and forethought. There are ways of calling attention to the inaccuracy or misleadingness of the statement. There’s lots of words you can use, and we’ve tried to be descriptive.
HH: Why are you so reluctant, Eric Black, to call a lie a lie? Because most people understand a lie to be an intentional misstatement of fact and intentional deception. I mean, it’s not a complicated word. Why are you reluctant to use it?
EB: Well, it’s sort of the nuclear weapon of ad watches, and I don’t feel the need to use it. If you say that something is false and misleading, I think the message gets across.
HH: Have both of these ads been false and misleading?
EB: Let’s see. The one about the sales tax we said was…made an omission so relevant, that it created a false impression, I think, namely the false impression that if this tax were imposed, that taxes would go up, as opposed to the fact that it was a sales tax that’s designed to replace the income and payroll taxes. And in the second case, let’s see. You looked at my story today.
HH: It said…you said it exaggerates the known facts in the case. But is that false and misleading?
EB: Well, to the degree that if the word cover up means what I think it means, then that’s false or misleading. It’s an exaggeration.
HH: It can’t be. What did it exaggerate? You know, when I catch a fish and I say it’s three pounds, but it was two pounds, that was an exaggeration. If I didn’t catch a fish, it’s a lie.
EB: Right. So let’s focus on the word cover up for a second. Is it crystal clear to you that if someone gets information about a serious problem, possibly criminal, and does nothing with it, that…I said in my story that that should probably be called something like nonfeasance.
HH: Well, it’s crystal clear to me…
EB: But it’s not a good word for an ad.
HH: It’s crystal clear to me, Eric Black, that doesn’t matter, because what she said is Congressional leaders have admitted covering up. And therefore, there is no predicate for that. It is a lie. I just cannot…if a newspaper’s going to set itself up, as the Strib has, to be a campaign truth squad, meaning it knows what is a truth, and therefore, it knows what is a lie, and refuses to call Congressional leaders have admitted covering up predatory behavior a lie, then it seems to me you’re lying about having a truth squad.
EB: Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. You might be aware, you might not be aware, that there have been false and misleading advertisements against Mrs. Wetterling by the Republican Party, and we didn’t call those lies, either, even though they would meet your definition.
HH: Well, I don’t know if they would. I don’t have those in front of me. I’m a national talk show. I look at national significant stories. This is one of them. But again, I go…if you call yourself a campaign truth squad, that implies that you and your colleagues at the Strib can recognize truth, which means you ought to be able to recognize lies. And if this isn’t a lie, I don’t know what is, and I don’t think there’s any integrity in calling yourselves a campaign truth squad if you’re not going to call lies, lies.
EB: Yeah, well, I think that our efforts in this regard have gone beyond what newspapers normally do to identify false, misleading, inaccurate, deceptive statements in ads. And I think it’s all about whether you use the L word to you, then that’s fine.
HH: No, it’s about whether you’ll use false and deceptive. And I guess you are agreeing that both of her last two ads have been false and deceptive?
EB: Well, I’d have to think about it a bit, but certainly, those are words we would use, and let’s see. Deceptive means trying to lead somebody to a conclusion that isn’t true. False really is another word for inaccurate, I suppose. Yeah, I think you’d certainly be in the ballpark with those words.
HH: Now the Minneapolis Star Tribune is widely viewed as being a very hard left newspaper. Do you believe that the public is justified in thinking that you folks are covering up for not just Wetterling, but Amy Klobuchar and Keith Ellison?
EB: I completely do not believe that. And I think it’s a ridiculous assertion, if anybody actually looked at the coverage on all sides. And you’ve already indicated in this discussion that the last two Wetterling ads out have been slammed by us in our truth squadding efforts. We must be doing a pretty poor job of covering up for her errors if we have called her to account on two ads in a row.
HH: Actually, I don’t think you’ve slammed her. I think you let her go for 48 hours without even a mild rebuke, and that today, calling something an exaggeration fails to alert the public to the fact that she wholly made up a slander on Congressional leadership, attributing to them cover up, which is criminal, in an abhorrent crime, child molestation. But let’s put that aside.
EB: So you’re calling George Will a liar then?
HH: I am not calling George will a liar. I have no idea what George Will wrote. I’m calling what you wrote…
EB: Well, in today’s column, George Will wrote that Dennis Hastert has now admitted to a cover up.
HH: I have not seen that, and I will go review it immediately. And if I can get Will on the line, I’ll ask him what he’s talking about, because I don’t think he has admitted to a cover up. And I don’t think…
EB: I don’t either, as I use those words.
HH: And so, maybe George Will is doing what Patty Wetterling is doing. But Patty Wetterling is running, and you’ve got the truth squad for Patty Wetterling. And your truth squad isn’t going after much truth. I mean, as…
EB: Yeah, but if George Will said it, and you can check it out, it would at least suggest that there are people who are probably not trying to promote Patty Wetterling’s candidacy, who think those words are not quite as outrageous as you think they are.
HH: Eric Black, that’s so irrelevant to what you guys have set yourself up as. If you’re just reporting, I understand that if you’re going to just say he said/she said, we’re just reporters, we’re here to tell you whatever thing’s going on. But once you set yourself up as a truth squad, and proclaim to the people of the Gopher State that you’re going to get to the bottom of it, and then you don’t, well, that’s, that’s a lie. You’re not a truth squad. But I want to go to Ellison. Have you guys fully and fairly, accurately reported his previous involvement with the Nation of Islam?
EB: Well, I’m not very involved in the Ellison coverage, and I can’t cite you chapter and verse, and I think you should probably interview somebody else about it. But certainly, there’s been quite a bit of coverage of the fact that he had that association.
HH: And did you accurately report when that association ended?
EB: Well, as I say, I’m not very involved in the coverage of the Ellison race. I don’t know all the coverage. I certainly know that there’s been a number of pieces about the association, and it really would be good for you to talk to somebody who’s involved in that coverage, if you want someone to talk about it.
HH: That’s fair enough. I understand. But would it be an important issue for the community to be fully informed about, and would it be the Star Tribune’s obligation to do so?
EB: Yes. I think that people should know the facts about Ellison’s association with the Nation of Islam.
HH: Now I’ll go to Klobuchar, for which you are the reporter in charge on this. There is a huge issue about whether or not she has called for amnesty. In your opinion, from the truth squad perspective, has Amy Klobuchar supported amnesty for illegals?
EB: Well, I’m not the lead reporter on that one, and I’m…amnesty for illegals? Let’s see. I haven’t written a piece on Klobuchar’s immigration position, and I’m probably not going to be able to help you. Kennedy has a new ad out in which he makes a statement about social security benefits for illegals, and I’ve been trying to find time to find out what that’s based on. I know that Klobuchar says it’s not true, but I haven’t had a chance yet to…
HH: Well, she supported Kennedy-McCain, correct?
EB: Yes, I think she said she would have voted for that bill.
HH: And Kennedy-McCain included social security benefits for illegals, as is passed out of the Senate.
EB: Well, I’d have to check up on that. And it’s not in my knowledge base right now. There are…there’ve been a number of instances in the course of this particular campaign, where a bill has been raised that somebody voted for or against, or supporting in Klobuchar’s case, said they would have voted for or against. And the opponent has picked out some provision, and said that proves that you, for example…and Kennedy has accused Klobuchar of voting against body armor for the troops, because he said she would have voted against the bill that included money for body armor for the troops, but also included drilling in ANWAR. So they’ve had this dispute about whether when you vote for bills, you’re responsible for everything in it. Kennedy has run an ad saying that he wants to repeal certain tax breaks for the oil companies, but he had just voted for the bill that instituted the tax breaks. And he said he wasn’t for those tax breaks at the time he voted for it. It gets pretty messy.
HH: I’m getting lost in the high grass here, because what I’m getting at is Amy Klobuchar being held to account for what she has said with regards to illegal aliens and amnesty. In your opinion, do you think the Strib has covered that well?
EB: I don’t think we have clarified that. We have an issue series running this week, and one of the pieces, which I’m not writing, is about immigration. And that piece should clarify it, and I haven’t seen it.
HH: Amy Klobuchar has refused to debate Kennedy other than on one occasion. Correct me if I’m wrong?
EB: You’re wrong.
HH: How many times has she debated him?
EB: I would estimate five, and they’ve agreed to about five more.
HH: And are those all being recorded? Or are they only in private, that they are not allowed to be recorded?
EB: Well, the ones I’m aware of have been recorded.
HH: All right. Now last couple of questions. The Strib is…again, runs a poll which has been over the last three cycles ridiculously wrong in its pre-election position. Why do you think that is?
EB: The 2004 poll, the last published poll before the election in 2004, was dead on accurate on the presidential race.
HH: The last published one, which came out on what? Sunday before Tuesday?
EB: No, we kept a tracking poll going. You know, you should really be talking to our pollster about this. But I’ve dealt with this issue some in the blog, and I’ve heard his explanation. He has always continued doing tracking polls after the poll that was published on Sunday. And he’s often picked up movement. And in the past, the attitude was you don’t want to keep publishing polls right up to Election Day, for fear of affecting the results.
HH: So historically…
EB: More recently, he has gotten permission to publish those, and so there have been subsequent poll results, although…inside stories. And the last poll in the 2004 presidential race in Minnesota was one of the most accurate in the country.
HH: What about the Norm Coleman/Walter Mondale polling? Was that accurate?
EB: Certainly, the final result did not match the Sunday before poll. And I don’t know what our pollster, Rob Daves, would say about what his final tracking poll showed.
HH: Have you read the criticisms produced of the Strib poll at places like Powerline?
EB: I’m generally aware of a body of criticism, that Powerline and the Republican Party of Minnesota are associated with, against the polls.
HH: And do you think that the paper has responded fairly to those criticisms?
EB: I would say yes. They responded, and you know, if people remain unconvinced, that’s a problem of persuasion, or a problem of unconvincibility on the other side. You talked about the high grass a minute ago. You eventually get into the question of methodology, and it’s certainly beyond my expertise to know what the best methodology is for a poll. But most of the criticisms which have suggested…if the criticism suggests that the poll oversamples Democrats, which I gather to be a key part of the criticism, the people in the poll business that I talk to tell me that makes no sense, because the sample that you get is the sample that you get, and you don’t adjust your numbers for partisanship.
HH: Eric Black, last couple of questions, just to get you sighted on a map. Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent?
EB: My job description precludes me from answering that question.
HH: Okay. Did you vote for Bush or for John Kerry?
EB: I’m not going to answer that question.
HH: Are you pro-abortion rights?
EB: You have the message by now. What is the point of this?
HH: Well, no. That’s different from not being…identifying yourself partisan. I’ve got lots of journalists like Thomas Edsall, 25 years at the Washington Post, who answers all my questions right away. He’s never voted for a Republican, he’s pro-choice. Are you pro-choice?
EB: Well, hats off to Tom Edsall. I’m not going to answer questions about how I have voted, or what I favor or don’t favor. Perhaps some day, when my job description changes, I can answer your question.
HH: Which part of your job description forbids candor with the public?
EB: I’m sure you are well aware that traditionally within the norms of journalism. Reporters who write about politics are expected to keep their personal politics confidential.
HH: Actually, that’s not the case. Actually, from beginning…even at the time of Pulitzer forward, it is only very recently that reporters have refused to talk about what they believe, because it’s become a way to protect newsrooms which are overwhelmingly left wing from admitting to as much. Because when you in fact get poll results, they are all enormously left wing, and so that when they refuse, my audience, and I believe most of the country, assumes that if not you, then the overwhelming majority of Minneapolis Star Tribune reporters are left wing. Is there something wrong with that assumption?
EB: I’m aware of those poll findings, and I’m sure that they are generally accurate. I have written about them very candidly myself. The question is whether it’s possible for a journalist to, of course, whatever opinions they possess, to so strive for objectivity and fairness in their reporting. It’s an open question in my opinion, but it’s the premise on which modern reporting for mainstream newspapers has been based since before I got in the business.
HH: I agree, that’s the premise. But my question is, do you expect the public to believe that you can be objective about things like whether or not Patty Wetterling is lying in her ads, if you refuse to be honest with the public about…or transparent, not honest, because you didn’t say one way or the other, so it’s not a question of dishonesty…transparent with the public about what you, Eric Black, believe? Why should they trust you?
EB: Do you make any pretenses to being objective?
HH: Yes, I’m very objective. But I’m also very transparent about what I believe.
EB: And do you believe that your ideology and partisan loyalties could color your objectivity?
HH: Absolutely, they do. That’s why I make sure everyone knows what they are so they can adjust for the lay of the green. What I’m suggesting is, the great…
EB: So I get the transparent part. I don’t get how you’re claiming to be objective if you’re at the same time acknowledging that you allow…you freely allow your partisanship and ideology to influence your conclusions.
HH: Okay, I didn’t say that. I said I dig into the facts. I’m objective about facts. But I make sure that my audience knows what I believe, so that they can judge against that backdrop whether or not I’m to be trusted completely, or somewhat completely, or not at all. What I’m saying is that you want us to believe, from behind the magic curtain, that you and your colleagues at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, have our best interests at heart, and we don’t need to know what you believe, and it won’t affect your coverage, and we’re just supposed to believe you when year after year after year, your paper goes way left, avoids critical issues, covers up for liberal Democrats, tweaks its polling data so that it’s always wrong, until you get a cover up poll at the very end, and your editorial people won’t come out and debate their editorials with people whom they slam and slander. Why should anyone believe your paper, Eric? And maybe that’s why it’s connected to its continuing plummeting circulation. What do you think?
EB: First of all, let me just make clear that I’m not accepting any of the premises that you load into that question, which are obviously not so much questions as statements and attacks. I’m just making clear that nothing I say confirms any of those. And it’s certainly not the case that our circulation is declining faster than is going on in the rest of the country.
HH: I didn’t say that.
EB: The newspaper industry in general…
HH: Oh, you couldn’t catch the L.A. Times if you tried. It’s falling like a rock.
EB: Anyway, so it would be…it would be, it would not be very objective to assume that ideology is the source of our circulation decline, which has been very small, that it’s a result of our ideology, unless you were comparing it to others that had an ideology, or less ideological in your view. I just wanted to reject the premises. I do want to say that the question to me is this, and it’s a question I think about a lot, and it bothers me a lot. There’s the Hugh Hewitt approach to telling the public what’s going on, which is to be open about your biases, and very one-sided in your analysis, but at least people know where you’re coming from…
HH: And to bring every point of view onto my show and debate it.
EB: Maybe so, maybe so. I don’t hear your show that often, although I’ve heard it some. And…but have you ever complained about, have you in this campaign cycle complained about any inaccuracies in any Republican ads?
EB: And is that because there aren’t any?
HH: No, because I don’t generally cover ads. The only reason I’m covering this is that it’s an intentional abuse of the Foley scandal by the Democratic responder in the President’s campaign, and it is a slanderous lie on the Congressional leadership. Accusing someone of covering up child molestation is a slander. I don’t care about exaggerations. People can…I think the Ellison coverage that your paper has produced is absolutely shameful in modern journalism, and I think that you’re allowing a bill of goods to be sold to the people of Minneapolis, and I think you’re allowing Amy Klobuchar, a completely and fundamentally unqualified and failed prosecutor, to get a free pass to the Senate, because you’re liberals, and you want her in the Senate for liberal purposes. That’s how I read the Strib. And I don’t think you guys actually believe any of that. I don’t think you have any self-awareness. Certainly, there’s no indication you have self-awareness, but you are certainly in a defensive crouch about what people say generally about you.
EB: And have you ever concluded that a Republican Senate candidate was utterly unqualified and…
HH: Oh, yes I have.
HH: I don’t have one right now at hand, but I generally don’t cover their race [at this point during the playback, Hugh shouted that he wished he would have remembered Lincoln Chafee]. There are lots of races I don’t cover, because they’re completely and totally unqualified to be in the Senate.
EB: And so you’re complaining about a Democratic candidate’s ad, but it’s not because you care about truth in advertising, because then you would have to complain about truth in advertising in Republican races.
HH: That’s actually sophistry, Eric. I told you why I’m complaining about this ad. It’s the national news story of the week. That’s why I’m focused on this ad, and I’m focuses on you guys, because you hold yourself out as truth squad.
HH: I hold myself out as radio talk show host. It’s different.
EB: Yup. Well, I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in the ‘Is That A Fact’ series, where we have scrutinized the accuracy of the campaign ads, and I think that we’ve been tough on Wetterling, and we’ve been tough on Republicans, and we’ve tried to be tough on everyone.
HH: Do you think the Minneapolis Star Tribune does a good job of journalism?
EB: I’m talking about what I’ve done. But you know, yeah. I know how you feel about the Star Tribune. It’s my employer. And I’m not going to slander them on your show. I did want to get back to the thing I was leading up to, because it’s an area where maybe we have some agreement. Or at least, I’ve been struggling with this for a long time.
EB: The question is whether it’s better to get your information from a biased source, knowing its bias, who makes no effort to conceal or overcome the bias, or whether it’s better to get it from a source that is trying to be fair. And of course, individuals within the organization have a bias, and there’s a claim that the norms of the profession enable the journalism to be sheltered from the bias. And I think most people would understand that that can’t be perfectly true.
HH: Now Eric, you understand how court systems work, and how when a witness steps up, they have to answer every question, so that the jury can evaluate where they’re coming from, correct? So the premise of Anglo-American law, our justice system, is built on transparency. And yet your newspaper is built on secrecy. So why should be trust your newspaper as opposed to me? Everyone knows what I think, plus I do lots of research, plus I put on opposite points of view. And anyone asks me a question, and I’ll answer it. Why, given what we believe to be the truth finding function in the country, would we attribute to you guys the ability to find truth when you will not tell us what you believe, and your colleagues won’t come on, much less tell us…aka, Jim Boyd.
EB: Well, I’ve come on, and…
HH: I appreciate that, by the way.
EB: And one of the reasons that I was reluctant to was because of a dynamic that’s very much evident in this discussion, which is that my job does require me to maintain my own…maintain silence about my political and ideological beliefs. And you’re under no such obligation, and of course, you think it’s ludicrous that anyone should. But it nonetheless is the system that I’ve worked in during my working life. I’m troubled by it, and I’m admitting that to you. But I’m still working at it, and I’m thinking out loud about ways to improve it. I don’t believe the way to improve it…
HH: Does the Strib really require…
EB: I don’t believe the way to improve it is to have biased coverage with the biases admitted.
HH: Well, you’ve just admitted that everyone in the newsroom has bias. Every single person has a bias, right?
EB: Right. There’s a tension in my mind. I know you don’t think this is reasonable, but I’m trying to frame this in the way it appears to me. The tension in my mind is whether it’s better to have a system in which people are attempting to overcome their biases, are striving for some sort of a definition of fairness, which I agree is largely in the eye of the beholder, and very difficult to obtain, and as a result of that strategy, let’s call it a strategy or goal or a norm…as a result of that, our not disclosing their biases, or whether it’s better to just have open bias disclosed, but filtering and coloring everything that comes through.
HH: Now…and that’s a fair point of view. Now my question is, though, when you’ve got, as Thomas Edsall says, a fifteen to twenty five to one liberal to conservative ratio in newsrooms, and I’d love to meet the one someday, how in the world can anyone ever expect you folks to figure it out if you’re surrounded by yourselves, ideologically and politically. You’ll never even get the oxygen you need to breathe. And we’ll never know if you’ve even begun to reform, because you won’t answer any questions. I mean, does the Strib really, by employee conduct manual, prevent you from telling me what you think about issues?
EB: The ethical norm of the business is that people who cover politics don’t disclose their personal politics. And if they do, then they have to disqualify themselves from covering those areas.
HH: Now Dana Milbank, Washington Post political reporter, told me he voted for Chuck Hagel the last time he voted. I don’t know where you’re getting this norm. I’ve been up at the Columbia School of Journalism with Nick Lehmann. There is no such norm, unless it’s imposed by the Strib. It’s a choice that you’re making.
EB: Well, if you think I’m making the individual choice, you’re wrong. And if you think there’s no such norm, you’re wrong. There may be exceptions to it, but almost everybody I know in the business, and I know quite a few, work according to this norm.
HH: Well, of course they want to work according to this norm, Eric. It’s like now, I’m talking past you. You guys are protected by this. The whole myth of objectivity, the whole myth of fairness, the whole myth that you guys can be a truth squad, is promulgated and protected by your refusal to answer basic questions. Of course, you’re going to believe in it. It’s like a union believing in union dues.
EB: And do you claim to be fair?
HH: Yes, I’m very fair.
EB: And yet…
HH: I invite people out…I think this is a very fair conversation. It’s tough and it’s blunt, but I’ll keep you here as long as you want, and I’ll let you speak as long as you want.
EB: It’s strange to me that the…your fairness does not require you to be able to cite the cases of lies coming from Republican ads, or Republican officials, or the Republican candidates you’ve concluded were unqualified. I know you’re very focused on the Foley case right now, and there’s plenty to talk about there, and I’m not the master of those details. But it does strike me that a person who’s trying to prevent themselves as objective and fair, would be able to point to the work that they have done that was critical of both sides. And I can’t.
HH: That’s a premise.
EB: I can’t, and if I’m as biased as you say I am, it’s odd that the last two Wetterling ads have been criticized by my pieces.
HH: Well, no, not…in fact, it’s not, Eric, because if, in fact, you damned them with faint damnation, and it in effect, gave them the light rinse, as opposed to the pulverizing hammer blows that they deserved. You’ve done her a favor, and they’re still running. If you had condemned them as the lies and the frauds that they are, you would have done the public a good service. I suspect that’s because you just can’t bring yourself to lay the hammer down on a Democrat, the way it deserves to be brought down on a Democrat, the way it deserved to be brought down on Mark Foley, who is a lying scumbag. There’s one for you, who I’m glad is out of the Congress. I don’t think you can bring yourself to do that, because you would be…I don’t know, at war with your inner self, or at war with your newsroom people.
EB: I admire your courage in denouncing Foley. But I have also applied the ‘Is That A Fact’ test to Republican ads that were false and misleading. I have not called them lies. And I have not called for them to be withdrawn from the air. And as far as I know, the people who are responsible for them felt free to keep them on the air, and to continue repeating the false and misleading claims. And I’m not sure all the reasons why that is, but I assume it’s because you get a lot more eyeballs with a TV ad that runs a hundred times, than a denunciation in the Star Tribune.
HH: Do you not see the difference…
EB: But if you’re going to make the claim you’re making, you need to demonstrate that I’ve been tougher on the Republican ads and softer on the Democrat ads.
HH: No, I don’t. You hold yourselves out as a truth squad. You say you can see the truth. Patty Wetterling said Congressional leaders have…
EB: Just playing logic here. You’re saying that my light treatment, your words, of the Wetterling ad is a result of my liberal, pro-Democratic bias.
HH: I said there are a couple of possible explanations.
EB: If that were true, wouldn’t you expect that I would be harsher on the Republican ads, and drive them from the air, and call them lies?
HH: No, no it wouldn’t. Honestly, sometimes I wonder about people who have never looked at fixing a sports game. Do you know anything about fixing a sports game? You play the game. You just try and make sure that at the critical moment, you miss the shot. This is the critical moment. You missed the shot. She said Congressional leaders…and this is, by the way, an ad not just running in Minnesota, it’s been on every national broadcast. This is the key part of the Democratic attempt to exploit the Foley scandal, and you are saying it exaggerates known facts, which is not true. It lies. Obviously, if you…what my position is, if you can’t get yourself to the proposition of understanding that one massive error like this undermines your claims of objectivity, we’re never going to meet. But at least the public has had a chance to hear you. Now Eric, I’d love to have you back on Monday. I’m running out of time here, because I’ve got to go tape some things. I want to give you the last word.
EB: The last word now?
EB: Yeah, okay. So it’s my belief that to sustain the allegation that you’ve made against me, would require a study of my treatment of ads on both sides, and it would also require a study of the ads that I let go, according to you, and which sides they came from, and the word choices that I made. If I’m…if you’re suggesting that I’ve been laying in the weeds trying to earn my credibility, so that I could at the key moment win the race for Patty Wetterling by calling her ad an exaggeration, that’s just ludicrous, and no serious person, certainly no one familiar with my work, would believe it. But if you want to make the larger claim, do the larger homework. Thanks. We’ll talk again.
HH: Eric Black, thanks for coming on.
End of interview.