Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Dated June 29, 12:30 am, revised at 1:00 pm.

Fair and Balanced with Mark Brown? I don't think so.

Vetting the Sun-Times' Mark Brown: Jack Ryan to Rod McCulloch to General John Borling to Mark Brown to Archpundit- Who is misleading the Public? Looks to be Mark. Why is it I am not surprized? The business people at the Sun-Times inflate their circulation numbers and this columnist doesn't get his facts right. I guess the real news on my blog will be when I find something in the liberalstream media that, upon checking, turns out to be correct.

Checking the facts and assertions relating to the events that led to the demise of the Jack Ryan campaign and the comments, statements, and analyses by Sun Times columnist Mark Brown, Ex- General Borling Campaign Manager Rod McCulloch and blogger Archpundit, Brown is batting 0, McCulloch, at best 0.050 [This is charitable, giving him 50 out of 1000 for getting the cities right, but virtually nothing else] and Archpundit, 0. And, these are the folks who are criticizing Jack Ryan for lies to and misleading the electorate? With accuracy batting averages like that, I would be careful, if I were Brown, McCulloch and Archpundit[sounds like a not so reliable law firm], before I threw any stones. The facial cuts from the shattered glass may not help their appearances.

As discussed below, Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, is 0 for 2 as to the key assertions he makes in his June 28 column, and he omits two items from the column that were very relevant to the discussion and should have been included, making him really 0 for 4; Rod McCulloch, the former General John Borling campaign manager, is 1 for 20 [a weighted batting average] in the assertions he made in his March 11 statement. Archpundit (www.archpundit.com) is calling for a correction from Jill Stanek of the Illinois Leader. I am not associated with the Leader [although I have written a few guest columns for the Leader, but nothing lately], but it looks to me like Archpundit is clearly wrong on one point and, as to the other, I am not sure who is right, but it appears irrelevant to the discussion we are having.

Going to Archpundit, first:

Archpundit [www.archpundit.com], in an item dated June 28, 2004 and headed, "Leader Correction Watch
Day 2," writes:

"Still no correction on Jill Stanek’s article in which she essentially calls Rod McCulloch a liar. The article insists the file was never open even though just about every news organization has reported that it was open for a little over a year."

However, the thing of it is, as the guy on Rockford used to say, is that Rod McCulloch called in to Bruce DuMont's WLS "Beyond the Beltway," radio program on Sunday night [June 27] and had a somewhat dramatic exchange with guest and Jack Ryan senior adviser [and Leader President] Dan Proft. McCulloch indicated that he had been shown documents [which included some of the famous Jack Ryan sealed records] by someone who had had a professional relationship with Jack Ryan and who had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Jack Ryan as a part of his being given access to some of the sealed records.

Proft argued that that couldn't be the case, arguing that Jack Ryan had shown documents to Proft and others, required them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and that Proft and others had the docs in their possession for only about 15 minutes before returning them to Jack [or his aides]. The implication of Proft's argument was that no one was allowed to take possession of the documents for enough time to reproduce them before returning to Jack. So, whether the docs were ever not under seal seems not so relevant to the issue of whether Rod is telling the truth on that issue of whether he actually saw the sealed docs [assuming that Rod is telling the truth as to what the person with the sealed records told him, and assuming that the person with the sealed documents was telling the truth as to how he obtained access to the sealed docs].

Some interesting questions do emerge from the above.

Did the person who showed Rod the docs violate an agreement with Jack? It would seem so. Does Jack know enough about who that person likely is for Jack to file a civil lawsuit and might that suit, through discovery, implicate others and thus have implications for someone or some people in either political party. Of course, the old Deep Throat suggestion applies, follow the money. Rod perhaps got some fame out of this. What did the person who showed Rod the docs get out of this? The usual presumption is that people do these things for fame or money. As the man said, follow the money.

Another question is if anyone, including Mark Brown, edits his columns. In his column of June 28, 2004, Brown lionizes Rod McCullough as a conquering hero, but the column seems to raise many more questions than it answers. For starters, how does a so-called major urban paper print something that, on its face, contains so many factual errors. Isn't it the job of the Sun-Times' editors to catch such things? Or, do I have to do everything in Chicago political journalism?

First, Brown says that McCulloch "swore in an affidavit," about the contents of sealed divorce records. However, the only statement that I have ever seen by McCulloch in this matter is one that is titled Statement by Rod McCullough and has a March 11, 2004 fax stamp on it. It is neither signed nor notarized. That document is linked to in a June 24, 2004 Illinois Leader column by Jill Stanek. Unless Brown has something different, I suggest he retract his statement that McCullough swore in an affidavit.

Mark Brown might also explain how he could have read the McCulloch statement before he published the column and still wrote that column. And, if he didn't read the statement before publishing the column, why didn't he? Now, that's a question one of the Sun-Times' bosses might ask Brown. As I said, the column raises more questions than it answers.

Second, Brown states that McCulloch swore in an affidavit that McCulloch had been shown sealed docs that contained Jeri Ryan's allegations about Jack Ryan taking her to sex clubs and trying to make her perform sex acts in front of other people.

But the Statement by Rod states, "and coerced her to have sex in front of other people."

So, Rod's statement, on this score, was false and Brown's statement about Rod's statement was inaccurate-- unless, of course, Brown has yet another document of Rod's that nobody else seems to have seen. I mean there is a difference between "coerced her," and "tried to make her." Rod did get it right that Jeri Lynn Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan took her to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris.

Third, Brown doesn't mention that McCulloch's statement asserted that Jeri Lynn Ryan alleged in the sealed record "he [Jack Ryan] forced (her word) her to have sexual relations against her will." As Proft pointed out to Rod in their conversation on "Beyond the Beltway," this sounds like Rod was stating that Jeri Lynn accused Jack of rape, which we now know she did not.

Fourth, Brown doesn't mention in his column that McCulloch asserted in his statement that Jeri Ryan alleged in the sealed records that her husband, Jack Ryan, had a romantic affair with his Executive Secretary. Moreover, Brown does not tell his gentle readers that this allegation does not seem to appear in the records that were unsealed. Rod argued on "Beyond the Beltway," that the Judge was persuaded by the Ryan attorneys at the last minute not to unseal six paragraphs that Rod thinks might contain this and other items. However, Jeri Lynn, who said in the last few weeks she stood by the allegations made in the court documents, also said that Jack, to her knowledge, never was unfaithful. It would seem unlikely that Jeri Lynn would say that if she had alleged in a court document that Jack was unfaithful. Perhaps this is something that Mark Brown will want to take up with his reliable source-- Rod McCulloch.

Fifth, a small point. Brown quotes McCulloch as stating, "I was treated almost as a conquering hero," at a state GOP fund-raiser over the weekend. But, Brown neglects to report who was raising the funds, for whom they were being raised, where the fundraiser was and when it was exactly [weekend is a pretty long time for a fundraiser]. These are some of the basic questions that journalists, in the olden days, used to ask and get answered before they started writing. One reason I ask these questions is that I attended, as a media person- and I perhaps was the only media person there--on Friday night a little dinner and cocktail reception and Summer in the City thing put on by the Illinois GOP, Proprietor- Judy Baar Topinka, for those attending a training program by the State GOP on Saturday for Committeemen, Committeewomen and such as to some of the nuts and bolts of campaigns and assisting and working for candidates. So, is that what Brown is referring to as a fundraiser?

On Friday night, I saw Rod at the Illinois GOP Dinner, but I don't think anyone would say that I or anyone else treated him as a conquering hero. Of course, Rod was quite involved in the events of March, so I spoke to him about those, as I did during March, 2004. I did not attend the program on Saturday, so maybe the mood of the crowd changed and maybe they crowned and treated him as the Second Coming, a la Cong. Davis and Rev. Moon. But, if Brown thinks that, I guess I would ask for a little corroboration on that one. Yet another old journalistic habit Brown seems not to be following.

So, Mark Brown, do you stand behind your column? If so, could you please reconcile with the above? If not, can you please explain how you could make so many errors in one column? Inquiring minds want to know.

Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of "Public Affairs,” can be reached at JBCG @aol.com