Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Major award to Villian of "Governor of Goat Hill"

  
Scott Horton, of Harper's
    If there is a villain in my book, "The Governor of Goat Hill," it's not Don Siegelman. The former Alabama governor is, among other things, too nice in person to suit that word. Corrupt, can't answer a question with the truth, and it's his second nature to blame others for acts that were his doing. Still, not a villain. As I embarked upon the final section of the book, called, "The Hoax That Suckered Some of the Top Names in Journalism" -- a truly awful person came to the fore. Scott Horton is as mean-spirited, egregiously insulting and fact retardant as any of the far-right's talking heads. I chose to open that final section with an introductory chapter about him, called, "The Dishonest Broker." (Go here if you wish to read that.)
       In another chapter, "Creative Perjury," I believe I make an air-tight case in support of my opinion that he, well, coached Jill Simpson prior to her testimony before lawyers with the U.S. House of Representatives. (For that chapter, go here.) And here for a rather comical passage from a chapter on the "60 Minutes," report on the Siegelman case. It shows Horton leading the New York Times by the nose and into a reporting disaster that was to require the paper to issue not one but two corrections.
         Two weeks ago, the American Society of Magazine editors gave Horton and Harper's the National Magazine Award for Reporting for a controversial and dubiously reported story by Horton asserting that three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were murdered by their American captors. Until now, Horton's story was probably best known for the scrutiny it had received. His report, a major piece if true, had been effectively debunked.
           Yesterday (May 23), Alex Koppelman, a former reporter for Salon, and now news editor for AdWeek, published a story called, "A Tall Tale Gets the Prize." Koppelman's piece is a most entertaining read as well as a strongly presented indictment of Horton, Harper's, and the judges who chose Horton's story over  more celebrated pieces in, among others, the New Yorker and Rolling Stone
           The following is a rather long chapter in my book explaining how I first became aware of Horton, and our most unusual battle in the pages of a publication called, The Montgomery Independent.
           
           It's long, but I've removed some portions. I think the read pays off and proves, not merely that Horton is a serial fabricator, but that his editors at Harper's know it.

Me v. Horton

       “If just two percent of what Horton reports is true, he qualifi es as one of the greatest investigative reporters of this or any other age, Gilded included. I intend to argue that two percent is at least twice Horton’s average, and that, furthermore, his editors at Harper’s know it.”
    -- Me, in February 2008 story in the Montgomery Independent.


      “Just imagine. I have written 160,000 words about the Siegelman case. I am fairly certain there are some serious mistakes in there. But Eddie writes 7,000 words and finds zip, nadda. Quite a show.”
      -- One of Horton’s comments inserted into that article by Independent publisher Bob Martin.


     Throughout this book I’ve presented what occurred chronologically, not as it happened, but as I discovered it. Not so with this last section on the Free Siegelman movement. The research didn’t commence until February 2008, well after Simpson’s affidavit, her testimony, and so much of the reporting and opining by Horton, Time, the New York Times and others.
    I wasn’t unfamiliar with the subject, just hadn’t dug into it. Was trying to finish the book, after which I intended to bone up on the Simpson nonsense and give it maybe a chapter. This plan changed after the mailman delivered, in late January, that week’s Montgomery Independent.
     Within was a column by Scott Horton that accused Mark Fuller of issuing rulings against Siegelman in return for the Air Force’s award of a 10 year contract worth up to $18.1 million a year to a Colorado-based company called Doss Aviation. This was the company researched a year before by Jill Simpson, and cited
by Scrushy in his failed, belated motion seeking Fuller’s removal from the case.
      Horton’s column, originally published on Harper’s web-site, described what if true would rank as one of the more unusual criminal quid pro quos in American political history. Participants in this enormous scam included a federal judge, Alabama’s governor, officials high and low in the U.S. Air Force, and by necessity,
the White House.


    The Independent is a weekly published by Bob Martin, at the time one of my oldest friends in Montgomery. Bob had despised Siegelman, and routinely pulled my stories off the web and ran them in the Independent. This was fine with me, as it meant more people read them. In return, he gave me a free subscription.
    After Siegelman conceded the 2002 election, Martin wrote the following in his weekly column: “Bob Riley didn’t win the governor’s race. Don Siegelman lost it, and he lost it primarily because of a newspaper reporter named Eddie Curran of The Mobile Register. Curran ferreted out the obnoxious greed of the Siegelman administration. He didn’t get all of it, but he got enough to cost the governor re-election…”
      Accurate assessment or not, it reflected both Bob’s admiration for my work and his feelings toward Siegelman.
     The Independent is well-read in Montgomery in part because of its coverage and commentary on state politics, and I knew that Bob’s decision to publish Horton’s column had to cause Fuller great discomfort.
      Bob later accused me of using him to attack Horton in his pages, and he was right. Bob had published vile garbage about honest people. That needed correcting, and if it required using him, so be it.
      A few months before, Bob had begun re-printing some of Horton’s pieces on the Siegelman case and writing columns that mirrored Horton’s positions. He was trumpeting Jill Simpson’s fantasies in prose as self-righteous as Horton’s, gobbledygook about core American values being trampled upon and such.
     Bob had long ago allowed the Independent to become a forum for his close friend, dog-track owner Milton McGregor. Anyone – judge, governor or lesser politician – who dared take a public act deemed detrimental to McGregor’s gambling interests got
it between the eyes in Bob’s columns. McGregor is a major supporter of Democratic politicians, because in Alabama, taxing the poor through gambling is not only consistent with Democratic principles, but is among the state party’s only objectives. 
      (McGregor, of course, has since been indicted on a host of federal charges alleging bribery of public officials and is set for trial in June.)
        Bob Riley opposes gambling. Therefore, Milton McGregor detests Bob Riley. Consequently, so does Martin and his paper....


      The story that lifted me out of my seat was published in the Independent on Jan. 21, 2008. Martin presented it under the double headlines: “Siegelman’s judge’s firm got $18 million contract;” and, sub-head, “The same day he denied Siegelman’s appeal bond.”
       Horton’s column began:
       “The story out of the Frank M. Johnson Federal Courthouse in Montgomery never seems to change. It is a chronicle of abusive conduct by a federal judge who treats his judicial duties with the same level of contempt he retains for the concept of justice itself.
      "His name is Mark Everett Fuller, and according to the sworn account of a Republican operative (Simpson) testifying before Congress, he was handpicked to manage a courtroom drama to destroy Governor Don Siegelman, and to send him off to prison, post-haste. And that’s exactly what he did.”
      The Judiciary Committee’s back-door man (Horton, for reasons explained elsewhere in the book) told his readers that Fuller “sits in
a shadow which has grown progressively more sinister as time passes.” He derided a Fuller-authored motion as “farcical, the sort of thing that any judge would be ashamed to allow see the light of day.” As if that wasn’t enough, Horton piled on some more, saying Fuller’s brief refl ected the work of, “a third-rate legal mind.”
     Horton and Martin knew Fuller couldn’t defend himself. He was a federal judge and the case remained active. He’d presided over the trial with distinction and fairness. If someone wished to question or criticize his rulings, that was one thing. But accusing him of selling rulings for Air Force contracts?
      Horton was operating without boundaries or scruples, and my old friend Bob Martin had lost his. Somebody had to throw himself in front of this runaway bullshit train. I knew the best man for the job, and it was me.


       I had to approach Bob gingerly, to express my opinion of what he and Horton had written without off ending. I told him in an e-mail that I thought the Independent’s treatment of Fuller “most unfair,” and asked if he would permit me to write, without pay, an article addressing the accusations against Fuller. “I anticipate that the Independent will continue publishing Horton and probably
opining against Fuller. I simply would like to present your readers with one article providing another perspective.”
      Bob answered right back, said he’d love to have it.
      Typically, the story took me far longer than I’d anticipated, and was much longer as well, requiring two installments, both long as hell. It’s the rare Horton paragraph that doesn’t contain multiple errors and lies in support of his malicious attacks. These paragraphs required deconstructing, and that, among other things, took time.
      I was already somewhat familiar with Horton, and had read a few of his columns, but not until my self-assigned work for the Independent did I carefully read the stories by Time, the New York Times, and others; Simpson’s affidavit and her congressional testimony; and, by far the most time consuming, Horton’s
output on the Siegelman case.
      I was blown away by what to my mind was and remains, an alarming case of multi-level journalistic fraud. And this was before the “60 Minutes” report and the Judiciary Committee’s April 2008, Horton-flavored report on “selective prosecution.”
      It was while doing that research that I realized my already over-long book on Siegelman was going to get longer.


       The most enjoyable part of the Independent assignment was the writing. Gone were the constraints that prohibited me from tossing off one-liners, from having fun with the writing. I could work at the Mobile Register for 60 years and never get to write: “Of criticisms of Horton’s writing, a deficiency of confidence is not among them. He makes his cases like a good poker player with a bad hand. He bluffs.”
        And a favorite, for its linkage to a man Horton assuredly hates: “Like the obviously embittered, multi-divorced radio host Rush Limbaugh, Horton crosses all lines of civil discourse in his personal attacks. In Horton’s case, that group includes anyone he associates with the imprisonment of Don Siegelman -- or as Horton calls him, America’s number one political prisoner.”
       The first installment was published on Feb. 21, 2008. In it, I disclosed that I was on an unpaid sabbatical from the Register to write a book about the Siegelman scandals. “If anyone should declare I have a conflict in writing this piece, let them. I contacted Bob and asked that I be able to write this, for free, because I
am disturbed and disappointed to see that the Independent had begun running Horton’s columns. However, I applaud Bob for allowing me an opportunity to correct the record, if even only a fraction of it.”
       I wrote that the purpose of the two-part series was to present a rebuttal of the Horton column accusing Mark Fuller of trading rulings for Air Force contracts.
      This, from that first installment:
     
      (Horton’s) article is laden with factual error, innuendo and a level of sourcing that would not be permitted in the lowest rank of newspapers. That it was published under the Internet masthead of Harper’s -- the second oldest magazine in the country -- can
only be seen as an indictment of that publication…
       It is among my hopes that upon finishing this article you will see a different Mark Fuller than has been presented in Horton’s pieces, including those published in the Independent. Perhaps most importantly, I hope that you hold Scott Horton in contempt for the
bully, liar, phony and pompous ass that he is.


       I had to support such bold statements, and did.
       There was no way to address all of Horton’s fabrications, but I plucked out a few good ones. A particularly illustrative example of the Horton methodology involved two different accounts he gave for a trip Bob Riley made to Washington the previous June.
       As it happened, Riley’s trip coincided with Siegelman’s sentencing.
       Horton’s first account of Riley’s trip was published on the afternoon of July 28, just hours after Fuller sentenced Siegelman and sent him straight to prison. The headline on Harper’s web-page was, “Siegelman sentenced; Riley Rushes to Washington.”
      The thrust of the column was, as Horton put it, “the plot involving Karl Rove to ‘take care’ of Siegelman.” He wrote that “sources in the Cullman County GOP” told him that Riley had been “summoned urgently to Washington.”
      Followed by:
      
     Riley told disappointed organizers of the Cullman function that he will meet with Bush Administration officials to discuss damage control relating to the Siegelman case.
     “The sentence will come down today, and they’re very concerned about all the questions about the role Karl Rove played in this prosecution,” the source said.


       If Horton was telling the truth, then:
       • He had at least two secret sources within the GOP organization of a small rural north Alabama county, which is pretty amazing for a New York liberal.

       • Fuller told Karl Rove and Bob Riley ahead of time that he planned to sentence Siegelman straight to prison.
      • Riley blabbed this stunning news to the spy-infested Cullman County Republican leadership.
      Either all of the above are true or, Jill Simpson-like, Horton made the whole thing up.
      That was Version One of Riley’s trip to Washington.
      Version Two appeared in the column written (for Harper's) seven months later and published in the Independent. This time, no mention was made of the emergency summons from Rove to prepare for the feared Siegelman sentencing fall-out. Instead, Riley’s trip was used in service of Horton’s quid pro quo assertion that Fuller ordered Siegelman straight to prison in return for the decision by the United States Air Force to award the big contract to Doss Aviation. Wrote Horton:


       “Now let’s recall that the day after sentencing of Siegelman, Governor Bob Riley suddenly canceled his plans to speak to fellow Republicans in Cullman County, and rushed off to Washington.
      “(Riley) said he was meeting with the Air Force in order to promote the interests of some Alabama companies seeking contracts. True enough. And of the Alabama companies then pushing aggressively for an extremely lucrative multimillion dollar Air Force contract was named Doss Aviation.”



       During the weeks I worked on the story I sent several e-mails to Horton and his editors at Harper’s. In one I noted the two separate purposes for the trip as reported by Horton; and asked “what evidence does Horton proffer to support his allegation that Riley, while in Washington or at any time in his life, lobbied for Doss?”
      As with most conspiracy theories, there was one kernel of truth. Riley had indeed gone to Washington and he did meet with Air Force officials. His trip – and its purpose – was reported at the time in the Alabama press.
     Then, and still, Alabama was engaged in a nationally-publicized battle over one of the largest Air Force contracts ever, worth up to $35 billion. A partnership of Northrop Grumman and France-based EADS was competing against Boeing and would, if it won the contract, build the giant mid-air refueling planes in Mobile.
     Doss Aviation, again, is in Colorado. It was Horton’s story that Riley canceled the Cullman County function to race to Washington to lobby for Doss Aviation; and that Alabama’s governor did so to reward Fuller for nailing Siegelman. No mention was made of Riley’s real purpose – to urge Air Force decision-makers to
pick the Northrop Grumman-EADS team I used a portion of one of my e-mails to Horton and his editors in the Independent, and do so again here:


       Now, I realize that according to Harper’s, Bob Riley is the devil incarnate and a pathological liar. Nevertheless, I felt it would be worthwhile to say nothing of fair to contact the governor’s press office to seek clarifi cation on this matter.
      Of the ‘sources in the Cullman County GOP’ (who told Horton that Riley told them he was summoned by Rove to Washington), Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said, “Whoever said that, if anyone indeed did, totally made it up.”
      “Riley did not meet with Karl Rove to discuss anything, much less damage control,” Emerson said. He also provided me with Riley’s schedule on that trip which I will be glad to forward it to you should you request it.
      Emerson also said the following: “Governor Riley said that until Doss Aviation was mentioned in connection with the Siegelman trial, he had never even heard of Doss Aviation.”


     Neither Harper’s nor Horton responded when asked to explain either one of the writer’s two different explanations for Riley’s Washington trip.
    In the column run by the Independent, Horton wrote:


     "And shortly after that sentencing (of Siegelman) came down and Governor Riley made his push for fellow Alabamians seeking Air Force contracts, the Bush Administration took an important decision. On October 4, this story appeared on the
HT Media wire:
      RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Oct. 4 — The U.S. Air Force has awarded an $18.1 million contract to Doss Aviation Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo., for flight screening for USAF pilot candidates."


       In fact, the contract – the result of a highly competitive bidding process that lasted three years -- was awarded almost two years before. It was simply finalized in October 2007. Horton knew this.
     He’d written about the pilot training contract in a column published two months before that press release in an August 2007 attack piece called, “The Pork Barrel World of Mark Fuller.”
      In that column he quoted from Scrushy’s recusal motion, the one for which Jill Simpson provided research. That motion, and Horton’s column, gave the amount of the contract and when it was awarded – in February 2006, or 20 months before Fuller sentenced Siegelman.
     Horton knowingly misrepresented Bob Riley’s trip to Washington. He then misrepresented the timing of the award of the contract to Doss. Then he connected the two lies to make his ferociously declared quid pro quo accusation against Mark Fuller, Bob Riley, Karl Rove, Air Force contracting officials and everyone
else who by necessity would have to be in on such a deal. All were smeared in the service of burnishing the Siegelman as victim storyline.
       When I called the president of Doss Aviation, he told me that “60 Minutes” had also called. One can only wonder where the CBS news-hounds got the hot Doss tip. I like to think they wasted a lot of time chasing down that and other sham leads sold them by Horton and Team Siegelman.
       For the first time ever I called Mark Fuller. He was polite and acknowledged that he’d read the articles about him by Horton, but said he couldn’t discuss them or anything related to the case. However, he suggested I contact his former law partner, Joe Cassady, which I did.
      Cassady said he’d practiced law with Fuller’s father for more than 30 years.
      When Mark Fuller graduated from law school he joined their small Enterprise firm. Fullers’ father had represented Doss for years and when Mark Fuller joined the firm, Doss became a client of his as well.
      He explained that some time ago Doss split into two companies. One, based in Dothan, makes fire-retardant clothing for emergency personnel. The other, Doss Aviation, provides pilot training, fueling and other aviation-related services.
      Their only connection is some common ownership.
       In 1989, Doss’s owners decided to sell. Mark Fuller encouraged Cassady and others to join him in buying a substantial share of the company. They did so, and the investment turned out well. Upon being appointed to the federal bench Fuller resigned from Doss’s board. He sold shares to decrease his ownership, and ceased
having anything to do with its operations, Cassady and others said.
      As required of federal judges, Fuller has publicly disclosed his outside income, including hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the Doss companies. His position as a shareholder was no secret during his confi rmation process before the U.S. Senate. Neither Democrats nor Republicans made an issue of his part ownership in this small, uncontroversial company.
      Until federal judges are prohibited from having investments and receiving outside income -- be it from real estate, private companies, mutual funds or what have you – there is nothing remotely unethical about Fuller retaining shares in Doss. Nor, for that matter, did it present any conflict that would have required
him to remove himself from the Siegelman trial.


      While I was working on the story, Harper’s – not its web-site, but the magazine -- published an article by Horton called, “Vote Machine: How Republicans hacked the Justice Department.” It was promoted on the magazine’s cover, and on the flap that Harper’s has historically used to tout the major pieces within.
      I scanned it until I came across Horton’s presentation of the Siegelman case. It was immediately apparent that he and Harper’s didn't limit their fact-retardant ways to the web-site.
     In one four-sentence stretch, Horton listed what he called “several problems” with the prosecution’s case. First, he told readers that Richard Scrushy had backed Bob Riley, not Siegelman, in the 1998 election. Problem: Bob Riley wasn’t a candidate for governor in 1998. Fob James was Siegelman’s Republican opponent.
       Two sentences later, Horton wrote: “And finally, according to his own uncontradicted testimony, Scrushy didn’t even want the appointment.”
       In an e-mail I informed Horton and his editors that Richard Scrushy didn’t testify at trial, so he “didn’t give uncontradicted testimony about anything.” I also told them that there was testimony that it was very important to Scrushy for HealthSouth to have representation on the CON board.
     That’s just a sampling of the errors. There were plenty of others, and that’s just on the Siegelman portion of the piece.
      Blogs are usually one-person operations, and as such, are notoriously error-laden.
      However, I’d supposed that Horton’s work for Harper’s – whether called a blog or on-line column -- would have higher standards, or in any event, some standards. This seems a fair assumption, especially if, as we are told, that the Internet is the future. Will once-heralded publications like Harper’s routinely
publish error-laden columns and as a defense, say, “It’s just the Internet?”
      I addressed the issue in one of my e-mails to Horton and his editors:


      I can say that my story, while not yet complete, will address Horton’s (and by extension, Harper’s) almost complete failure to identify sources cited for making some very amazing statements.
     Prior to becoming familiar with Mr. Horton’s work, I would have assumed that a magazine of Harper’s reputation and historical significance would not allow anyone, be it in the magazine or under its masthead on a web-page, to publish serious allegations that are neither sourced nor corroborated by public record. Failing to adequately source does have the benefit of making it difficult to refute statements made by people who, I suspect in some cases, don’t even exist…
      I would like to be able to provide readers the answer to a few general questions, including:
       Does Harper’s have different standards for fact-checking and editing for stories in its magazine that it does for stories and under its masthead on the Internet page?
      If so, why?
      Does Harper’s even edit Horton’s copy?


      Horton responded with a short e-mail saying that there were different standards for on-line columns than the magazine. Other major magazines operated in similar fashion, he said.
      One can only hope that these other magazines keep a tighter rein on their Scott Hortons.


      Well before I turned in the first piece, Bob realized that I was going to be critical of Horton. He suggested that I not write about Horton, whose columns, Bob said, were, after all, just “speculation mixed with fact.”
    I responded that it was not possible to address Horton’s accusations against Fuller without writing about Horton.
     I sent the first installment, waited for questions from him, received none. When it came out, I saw that Bob had added a most unusual editor’s note. He wrote that his own research had “corroborated” much of Horton’s reporting. I held my tongue. I still had the second installment to sneak in there. And all in all,
I couldn’t complain. He’d given me tons of space and hadn’t changed a word – in this way, my dream editor.
     Thanks to the Internet the first installment won some notoriety in the loony left blogosphere. On her, “Raw Story” blog, the deliciously melodramatic Larisa Alexandrovna breathlessly reported an advance warning that she and Horton were to be “swift-boated” by the “corrupt politicians of Alabama and their paid shills
in the Alabama press.”
      “Scott Horton, it seems, will be the first victim. I just got word from folks in Alabama that the article on him just went out in the print version of the Montgomery Independent and authored by Eddie Curran (who it is suggested has an interesting relationship with Jeff Sessions).”
     I hesitate to even speculate as to what she meant by, “an interesting relationship with Jeff Sessions,” other than to deny it to my last breath and demand strict proof thereof.
      Horton, said this hilarious woman, “will need your backing.”
     “I can only assume I am next in line,” she wrote wishfully.
     If you’re among those who believe everything written in a “congressional report,” consider this: One of Alexandrovna’s “Raw Story” blog posts was footnoted as evidence in the Judiciary Committee’s April 2008 selective prosecution report.
     That's a true fact.
      I shot Bob the second installment the following Tuesday morning, and waited. Nervously. And there’s nothing unusual in that. It’s part of being a reporter, especially for long, complicated pieces. You file a story, and wait. I’ve been through it a million times. But this time it was different. Bob had caught hell
from certain circles for publishing part one. Part two ended with something that I almost didn’t include for fear that Bob would kill the whole thing.
      Shortly after embarking on the Horton project I began, like others in Alabama, to wonder what the deal was with this New York writer for Harper’s and Don Siegelman. There was a rumor, widely circulated but unconfirmed, that Horton was related to a Birmingham lawyer, William Horton, who had two connections
to the Siegelman case.
     William Horton was the former long-time general counsel at HealthSouth. He’d been the rare HealthSouth official to serve as a defense witness in the accounting fraud trial in Birmingham. Upon leaving HealthSouth, William Horton went to work for the Haskell Slaughter firm which, through Tommy Gallion, had assumed some murky role in the representation of Jill Simpson.
     No one, myself included, seemed able to confirm a relationship between the two Hortons. I finally took the direct approach, as described here. I gave this final part the subhead, “A Horton conflct?”
      First I noted the above connections, and then:


      Scott Horton didn’t reply (to my questions) so I e-mailed William Horton to ask if he was related to Scott Horton. He replied that Scott is his second cousin.
    “At the risk of telling you more than you want to know, we are not in close or frequent contact (Christmas cards are about it), and indeed, I wasn’t aware of his activity for Harper’s until this past fall and had assumed he was still practicing law.
     "Shows you what I know, I guess,” he wrote.
     I take William Horton at his word. But I note the relation, as I did in the following portion of an e-mail to Horton and his editors, for this reason: “I wonder how Scott Horton would treat such a coincidence were it to be found in relation to the prosecution of Don Siegelman?”


      I imagined Bob apoplectic. Here I was, not just exposing Saint Scott for the fraud he was, but noting, even if only in passing, that Horton’s cousin was a partner of (Martin's) much beloved Tommy Gallion.
     This was an especially long piece. Did Bob have questions? Could he shoot me the story so I could give it a final proof, with any changes? I e-mailed, called, left messages. Nothing.
     Late Wednesday, which for the Independent was past the last minute, Bob sent an e-mail.
      “Eddie, why do I get this feeling in my gut that I’m being used?” he asked.
     He informed me that the piece was so critical of Horton that he’d sent it to him for a rebuttal.
     I had, as Bob knew, gone overboard in seeking comment from Horton and Harper’s. Horton had every opportunity to respond and for the most part elected not to. I asked why he was giving Horton this opportunity when he’d never done so for “Horton’s victims -- people attacked like vermin.”
    Bob said he’d send me the story prior to publication. He did not. When I saw it in print, I knew why. He’d inserted Horton’s quotes within the story, and in all caps. Bob also stuck in small editor’s notes throughout. As a result, readers went back and forth from three different writers: Me, Bob and Horton. It was bizarre.
    Horton’s responses were sarcastic as ever but absent his signature arrogance and flair. After the part reporting his relationship with William Horton, readers saw this:


     “I REALLY HAVE TO THANK EDDIE FOR TRACKING DOWN MY LONG LOST SECOND COUSIN, WHO I HAVEN’T SEEN OR SPOKEN WITH IN A DECADE OR MORE … BUT SINCE EDDIE HAS WORKED OUT MY ENTIRE GENEOLOGICAL CHART, I’D LOVE TO KNOW ALL THE OTHER RELATIVES I HAVE IN ALABAMA I LOST TRACK OF. MAYBE WE CAN HAVE A BBQ.”


     Elsewhere he explained that web-logs (blogs) such as his were “spontaneous and usually unedited.” 
     Particularly revealing were his comments regarding those prized Cullman County GOP sources. He touted himself as being the, “FIRST SOURCE ANYWHERE TO NOTE THAT RILEY HAD SUDDENLY CANCELLED HIS LONG-SCHEDULED SPEECH TO CULLMAN REPUBLICANS IN ORDER TO TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON.”
     Not just the first to report it, but the last. Who cared? Had the sorry Alabama media fallen down again in failing to report that a chat by the governor to a county GOP organization was cancelled?
     Horton wrote that he came upon the scoop while interviewing a source who “TOLD ME THE EVENT HAD BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE SOMETHING URGENT HAD COME UP THAT RILEY WAS GOING TO WASHINGTON.”


     “THE UN-NAMED SOURCE QUOTED WAS AN UNHAPPY
ORGANIZER WHO RELAYED THE INFORMATION TO ME. FRANKLY I NEVER THOUGHT THIS WAS MUCH MORE THAN SPECULATION.
     WHO WOULD THINK HE WOULD HAVE ACTUAL INSIDE
KNOWLEDGE? AT BEST THIS WAS SCUTTLEBUT. BUT IT SURE DOES SEEM TO HAVE EDDIE RILED UP.”
    
     When he wrote the columns, Horton didn’t represent the information from his multiple GOP sources in Cullman County as “speculation” or “scuttlebutt.” Assuming he was telling the truth this time – and my money says he didn’t have one much less two Cullman County sources – Horton was admitting to using
speculative scuttlebutt from an “unhappy organizer” to accuse a federal judge, Alabama’s governor and so many others of engaging in this convoluted criminal conspiracy.
      Horton cloaked his twisted fantasies in journalism and sullied good people.
     Worse, Harper’s let him. When I showed the magazine’s brain trust what he’d done – not just in his “blogs” but in the magazine – they neither stopped him nor made any effort to correct the record.
    Then the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee let Horton either ghostwrite or dictate the focus of their “selective prosecution” report, and for evidence, used 15 columns of his spontaneously written scuttlebutt.


      Horton has since authored two cover stories for the magazine, and now holds the title, Contributing Editor. Bob Martin continues to republish Horton’s columns in the Independent.



     (End of chapter)

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