The Scott DesJarlais campaign has complained to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press about a Clay Bennett cartoon. writes Alison Gerber. It depicts DesJarlais with a pistol in his mouth and a caption that says, “The Character Assassination.” (See cartoon HERE.) The DesJarlais staffer said it’s not appropriate to publish a cartoon depicting a sitting member of Congress with a gun in his mouth. He said he’d called the U.S. Capitol police about the cartoon.
Tossing the term “Capitol police” around in a conversation and insisting that officers will be calling me about the cartoon shows a disregard for the First Amendment. It also is a clear attempt at intimidation.
What an irony. Someone who works for the federal government asking federal law enforcement to do something about an image that is protected under the First Amendment.
…In a common move from angry politicians, the DesJarlais congressional staffer said he intends to cut off reporters Andy Sher and Chris Carroll, who are covering the campaign for the 4th Congressional District, where DesJarlais is in a suddenly tight race with Democrat Eric Stewart.
The congressman can retaliate against the newspaper by cutting off information to our reporters, but Sher and Carroll — two bulldog-ish reporters not easily intimidated — will still cover the race. If DesJarlais and his people won’t talk to the newspaper, we’ll still talk to his opponent, his supporters, his detractors and voters in his district.
Gasket-blowing over political cartoons is hardly a new thing. They’ve been steaming things up since, well, before the United States was even a country. They’ve also been shaping public opinion and influencing history.
An engraving by Paul Revere that depicted British troops firing on unarmed Colonials during the Boston Massacre of 1770 wasn’t exactly how the event happened. Still, it was widely circulated in the Colonies and is credited with stirring up anti-British sentiment.
…So I will not try to convince you that Bennett’s cartoon was in good taste. That’s for you to decide. Even in the Times Free Press newsroom, journalists were divided about whether Bennett’s cartoon crossed a line. But that’s irrelevant.
Comedian Stephen Colbert ridiculed DesJarlais Thursday night on his “Colbert Report,” calling the congressman a “Republican Rottweiler” who “proved his flexibility by lifting his leg and peeing on his own position.”
Colbert joked that DesJarlais is “still adamantly against abortion except when it endangers the political life of the father.”
Offensive? I’m sure DesJarlais and his supporters think so.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Significant reforms of how the state operates and a responsible budget that includes strategic investments, reductions and savings for the future highlighted Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s second legislative session as the state’s chief executive.
Haslam introduced his comprehensive 2012 agenda on January 10, the first day of this year’s legislative session. His legislative priorities included a limited number of significant changes, which built upon his efforts in 2011 to reform teacher tenure and tort laws.
“This administration heard the Lt. Gov. and House Speaker’s call for an efficient and effective legislative session this year, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished in working together,” Haslam said. “Our focus continues to be on making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, which goes hand in hand with an ongoing emphasis on improving education. I’m also committed to making sure state government does its job of providing services to Tennessee taxpayers at the lowest cost in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible.”
News release from DesJarlais campaign:
Jasper, Tenn. – While Eric Stewart touts that he is fiscally responsible, the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance says he failed to report contributions received, overstated his contributions that were reported and failed to properly maintain campaign records or follow campaign finance statutes.
Findings one through three in an audit conducted of Eric Stewart’s campaign finance activities paint the picture of a candidate who didn’t report all the contributions that he received and then exaggerated what he actually reported. Moreover, Eric Stewart kept campaign contributions records so poorly that authorities conducting the audit could not determine if he was in compliance with campaign finance statutes.
“While liberal Democrat Eric Stewart is trying to mislead voters into thinking he is a deficit hawk, reality clearly shows that he is irresponsible and sloppy when he manages even small budgets under his direct control. It’s hard to imagine having someone represent the Fourth District on federal budgetary issues in Washington who lacks the ability to balance their own bank account,” said Brandon Lewis, campaign manager for Congressman DesJarlais. Response from Stewart campaign:
In response to the press release sent out by Congressman Scott Desjarlais today, state Sen. Eric Stewart issued the following statement:
“With regards to our campaign disclosures from over 3 years ago, our campaign made some mistakes. I took responsibility for them, worked with the registry and made the appropriate corrections.
But now it’s time for Congressman DesJarlais to take responsibility for his actions and start standing up for working families in Tennessee. This is just another example of how Congressman DesJarlais is out of touch with his constituents. I guess you could say it’s another day and another hypocrisy from Congressman DesJarlais. At a time when folks are still struggling to get back on their feet and small businesses are worried about how they are going to make payroll, DesJarlais is trying to distract voters from recent news that he spent over $250,000 of taxpayer money to help his reelection campaign, that he took political contributions in return for letters of support for federal funding, that he voted to raise taxes on hard working Tennesseans on average of $750 per family and that he voted to end Medicare as we know it. Congressman DesJarlais must be feeling the heat by trying to divert the focus so soon. Of course, if I had his record of voting against hard working families in my district….I would want to talk about something else too.”
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Lee S. Anderson, who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press for 70 years, has announced his retirement.
Anderson is associate publisher and editor of the newspaper’s opinion page. He will retire on April 18, according to the newspaper (http://bit.ly/yGoH0Y ).
Anderson is 86 years old and said of his career that he wouldn’t change a thing. He said he was 16 when the paper hired him. When the surprised youth asked when they wanted him to start, the answer was “immediately.”
Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher and chairman of the Times Free Press, said Anderson has been inspirational because of his dedication, loyalty, work ethic and passion for newspapers.
Jason Taylor, president and general manager of the Times Free Press, called Anderson’s career “nothing short of legendary.”
From Jack McElroy’s blog:
Frank Gibson, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, is moving to a new role. Starting next week, he’ll be public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association. The good news is that he’ll continue to battle for government access in that job.
Gibson has been synonymous with TCOG since the organization was founded in 2003 to bring together citizens, journalists and lawyers concerned about the preservation and improvement of open-government laws.
Under his leadership, the group has been very successful. Soon after its inception, TCOG conducted statewide public records and open meetings audits that showed the need for additional training and education. In 2006, after the Tennessee Waltz scandal broke, it got open-government language included in the governor’s ethics study commission report and persuaded the legislature to include “sunshine” for the General Assembly in the ethics law. In 2007, it convinced the governor to create the Office of the Open Records Counsel to help enforce the Public Records Act, and in 2008, at its urging, the legislature passed the first improvements to the records law in 25 years.
This past year, Gibson and TCOG battled a number of bills to limit access and public notice. The fight convinced the press association that it needed someone in Nashville year-round, and Gibson was the guy. His departure won’t mean the death of TCOG, however. The organization decided Thursday to draft a job description and appoint a committee to look for a new director, who will team up with Gibson to provide even more firepower in the fight for open government.
Alfred H. Knight III, a prominent Nashville attorney who fought for decades to open government to the press and public, died Monday at Saint Thomas Hospital, family members said. He was 74.
“What I like most about the practice of law is helping people who need help,” Mr. Knight said in an interview videotaped this year for the Nashville Bar Association’s oral history project. “It’s just that simple.”
For decades, those who needed help were media outlets including The Tennessean and organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded Mr. Knight with its highest accolade, the First Amendment Award, in 1984.
More in The Tennessean.
From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:J. Todd Foster has resigned as executive editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press for personal reasons.
Jason Taylor, president and general manager of the newspaper, made the announcement to the newsroom staff this afternoon.
Foster had been named executive editor of the Times Free Press July 1, 2010.
He had previously served as editor of the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier and from 1985-89 had served as a reporter for the Chattanooga Free Press.
News release from Rep. Jim Cooper’s office:
NASHVILLE–U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) has named Stephen George as his new press secretary. George, who most recently was the editor of the Nashville City Paper, will take over the press operation starting in September.
“Stephen brings a much needed outside perspective to Washington. His experience will be invaluable to our operation,” said Congressman Jim Cooper. “We are delighted to welcome him to our team.”
George has almost a decade of experience as a reporter and extensive knowledge of the Nashville political scene. Though based in Washington, he will split time between the two offices.
“I’ve always found the legislative process fascinating, and I am thrilled to work for someone who considers it as thoroughly and respectfully as Jim Cooper,” said George. “His principles are sound and evident in what he says and does. I look forward to working with him and his talented staff.”
Legislation to cut back on the number and length of home foreclosure legal notices now required in Tennessee is being pushed by bankers who stand to save money if the bill passes and opposed by newspapers that stand to lose money.
While that is clear, the two sides – both aided by a contingent of lobbyists – clashed sharply over whether the proposed change would benefit financially strapped homeowners and the general public as the bill advanced in the House last week.
As drafted and introduced at the behest of the Tennessee Bankers Association, HB1920 would require that just one notice of a pending foreclosure be published in a newspaper based in the county where the property is located.
Current law requires three notices. That has been the case for more than 125 years in Tennessee, according to Steve Baker, a Nashville foreclosure attorney who testified before committee in support of sticking with the “tried and true” three-time publication rule.
The bill was amended in committee last week to set the number of required notices at two, a move that sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, characterized as “compromising with ourselves.”
The full News Sentinel story is HERE.