October 25, 2007

Investigative Journamalism, Republican’t Style

Filed under: News — Tom @ 10:28 am

What do you do if you are a Michigan Republican’t who’s concerned that your long-time comfortably incumbent Congresscritter appears to be headed for a tough election?

Why, you harrass his potential opponents:

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – A politically conservative student armed with a video camera and a Web site is trying to force a Democratic congressional candidate out of his teaching job at Central Michigan University.

Dennis Lennox, a 23-year-old junior, has posted videos on YouTube of himself questioning assistant professor Gary Peters about campaigning for office while holding a prestigious position at the university.

Some say Lennox is persistent. Others accuse him of pandering for attention.

“What I’m doing isn’t about getting media attention,” said Lennox, a political science major. “I’m speaking for the hundreds of students, alumni, taxpayers and even legislators who have complained because Gary Peters won’t pick between Congress and campus.”

In one video Lennox posted online, Peters is seen walking to his car while Lennox asks him several questions, including whether he is angry about his campaign not getting “positive press.” Peters doesn’t respond.

Peters said in an interview this week with The Associated Press that his university position is part-time and privately funded.

“The bottom line is that people who run for public office still need to pay the bills and still need to work,” he said. He drives 130 miles from a Detroit suburb to Mount Pleasant to teach class once a week.

Peters, 48, is seeking the Democratic nomination to face Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg in Oakland County, one of the top congressional targets for Democrats nationally in 2008.

“If I was running for Congress in a seat where I had no chance of winning, I probably wouldn’t have any attention put on me at all,” said Peters, a former state senator who lost a close race for Michigan attorney general in 2002.

He acknowledges it would be difficult to keep his $65,000-a-year job at the university if he gets elected to Congress, but says he will worry about that if he wins. Peters holds the Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government — named for a former Republican U.S. senator and Michigan Supreme Court justice.

Lennox helped start the group Students Against Gary Peters and created a Web site for what he calls “Petersgate.” He insists that he isn’t targeting Peters because he’s a Democrat.


Go read the whole thing.

There’s a followup to the original report, which doesn’t really say a lot about the he said/she said going on between this student and the dean of the university in question – he wants to troll through Peters’ emails looking for impropriety, and is video taping Peters everywhere he goes (which is against school policy) – and she took a swipe at the camera when he shoved it in her face in her office while asking about his FOIA request for the emails, according to what I can make out in the articles I can get to (note to Freep/DetNews: don’t try and make me pay for online archives of articles you published last week).

Now, I’m not sure how I feel about this situation. If there is some validity to the accusations of this student, then some investigation should be done by journalists (preferrably professionals) – and the student is within the bounds of reasonable discourse in asking the questions he is asking. On the other hand, if this is a Stalkin’ Malkin acolyte looking for smear and deflect material to put a stop to an opponent who might be able to beat the incumbent Republican’t candidate (and/or become the next Scaife bonus baby), all of the sludge he spews should be dropped back in the sewers that are current Republican’t political strategery machinations. It certainly does smell somewhat like gotcha journalism, what with the ambushing of the target on a constant basis (bordering on stalking/harrassment), the apparent disdain for even asking the target for permission to engage in this behavior, and the refusal to abide by university policy while on campus.

Anyone who can shed more light on this story would be welcome to give me the low down in the comments. For now, the jury’s still out on this one…

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