Sunday, October 31, 2010

More on the Alex Sink cheating debacle (Updated)

Alex Sink cheated during last week's gubernatorial debate with Republican candidate Rick Scott.  And, as is so often the case, the coverup ends up as the larger story.

Sink blamed the cheating on campaign staffer Brian May, who sent Sink a text message by phone.  But video shows Sink looking at the message for some 10 seconds or so and excusing the event to the CNN staffer who confiscated the phone shortly after by saying "Oh that's okay. It didn't have anything on it that was-."  Yes, she clammed up abruptly at that point.

Regardless of May's actions, Sink was guilty of cheating when she received debate advice from the makeup artist "They want you to stand up."  And evidence keeps popping up that pokes holes in Sink's story about the incident:
John King, a co-host of the debate, said on CNN Tuesday that CNN reviewed an audio clip that clearly reveals that the makeup artist alerted Sink about the message.

"We listened very closely to the audio,'' King said, "And the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said, 'I have a message from the staff.' And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone... It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again,
remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.''
(Miami Herald "Naked Politics" blog)
The Herald blogger, Marc Caputo, notes that we're taking John King's word for the audio content.  The aired portion of the video that includes the conversation between Sink and her makeup artist picks up with the attempt to read the message on the phone.  Caputo has a point that hearing the audio firsthand would be nice, but if we're not trusting the reports of journalists without seeing the evidence where does that end?  Do we need a Marc Caputo for anything other than posting audio and video clips?

I find it interesting that the Herald--a liberal newspaper if there ever was one--is still on this story while the St. Petersburg Times has gone silent since Oct. 28 (a story about a Rick Scott ad that mentions Sink's cheating).

The Times sponsored the debate, but has demonstrated no real interest in the story.

Oct. 27
Oct. 27

Update (Nov. 1, 2010)

Looks like I missed a Times story from Oct. 28 that mentions the cheating episode.  But the story is not objective reporting, instead making editorial excuses for Sink based on an earlier Caputo story that did the same thing:
Sink has spent the last two days responding to the flap after debate moderater John King of CNN concluded that Sink knew she was receiving coaching from an aide during the debate. It took Sink's campaign two days to persuade the media that she did not cheat and unwound the video to show that she did not realize why she was being handed the phone.
Simply reporting the facts ought to lead any reasonable reader to the conclusion that Sink ought to have known she was cheating.  King stated that CNN had audio of the stylist telling Sink she had advice from her campaign staff ("[T]he makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said, 'I have a message from the staff.'").  The stylist also wondered aloud--loud enough for CNN's microphones, anyway, whether it was campaign staffer Brian (May) who sent the message.  On top of that, Sink received advice separately from stylist, who told her twice--the second time in response to Sink's request--to "stand up" to Scott. 

There's simply nothing in the video that permits any so-called "objective" determination that Sink did not know what she was doing.

This is probably a good example of how, when the chips are down and the pressure is on, the desire to see the Democrat win affects a news staff's ability to report the news.

I naively felt that Rick Scott was unwise to put so much emphasis on Sink's debate cheating.  I did not think the media would be able to ignore it.  It lasted about two days in the news cycle before the Times eventually accepted Alex Sink's fig leaf as though it was a suit of armor.

Though King's statement appeared on Caputo's Miami Herald blog, regardless the Herald published a story with largely the same content as the one from the Times:

Again, there's no objective indication from the video that Sink didn't know why she was show the phone screen.  And such determination relies on granting Sink the benefit of the doubt.  Consider, for example, that Sink might be smart enough to pretend that she doesn't know what's going on long enough to look at the message while preserving plausible deniability.  An objective reporter doesn't dimiss that possibility out of hand.

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