I watched a 5 minute, 18 second ABC investigative report on Troopergate in a genuine desire to learn more about Sarah Palin’s concerns about the dangerous Trooper who had tasered his stepson, allegedly threatened to kill a member of Palin’s family, drank beer in a police car, etc. Palin herself reported the alleged death threat against Palin’s father made by Trooper Wooten (her former brother-in-law): “I will kill him. He’ll eat a (expletive) lead bullet, I’ll shoot him.” And Wooten himself admitted that he tasered his 10 [or 11]-year-old stepson, according to some reports justifying it as a training exercise.
Yet some on the internet have suggested that it’s not so simple. I, for one, wanted to know more. In Chicago, a big issue over the last decade has been the extent to which police hierarchy looked the other way when dealing with “dirty cops.” The press in Chicago is uniformly harsh on officials who treat such serious behavior leniently, as Alaska Director of Public Safety Moneghan appears to have done.
So I was shocked that the entire ABC report made no mention of any reason anyone would want to have a dangerous cop fired. The only reason even hinted at in the entire ABC report was that the trooper was Palin’s brother-in-law.
I think that all the reporting that’s actually in the ABC report is fine; it is effectively edited to make Palin look like she is shading the truth (at best) — and she probably is. But it is unconscionable for ABC to fail to mention ANY LEGITIMATE REASON why Palin might want the dirty cop fired or any reason to be contacting Mr. Moneghan about it (the threats to kill her family that she witnessed). The ABC report is trying to say that Palin fired the state official because she wouldn’t fire her former brother-in-law; even if that were true, don’t you think the audience would be entitled to know WHY?
If I were head of ABC News, I would immediately fire or demote the producer of this ABC report. I would then break up the team that did the report and bring some political diversity to ABC’s newsroom by hiring a Republican-leaning producer from outside. There is no possibility that an ABC producer could report an entire 5 minute story with extensive clips from past interviews without knowing of the reasons for Palin wanting the allegedly dirty cop fired. To suppress that knowledge from their viewers because it would allow viewers to understand Palin’s actions was a breach of simple journalistic ethics. An apology to Palin is due.
That ABC, which has been fairer in this election cycle than NBC or CBS, could act as it did here just suggests how bad things are in journalism today. This is the most biased season of press coverage that I can remember for at least a decade.
And I am not as sanguine as others that the backlash against the press will effectively offset press bias. As ABC’s report shows, Palin is probably at least shading the truth — perhaps worse — and fair-minded viewers who know no more than ABC is willing to tell them would likely think even worse of her.
I’m slowly learning more about Troopergate, but I still have a lot to learn. ABC could have been a lot more helpful. Every day I am thankful that the monopoly on the national news has been broken, but the remnants of that monopoly remain powerful.
UPDATE: Flopping Aces has some details based mostly on online sources. According to that site, it turns out that (1) the investigation into Wooten started before Palin even started her run for governor, (2) there were two people who heard the death threat by Wooten, (3) there were substantive reasons given by Palin for her removing Moneghan and offering him another job in her adnministration, and (4) the investigation found that Wooten had behaved improperly:
“The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable, and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession,” Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in [a] March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days. After the union protested it, the suspension was reduced to five days.
She warned that if he messed up again, he’d be fired.
So apparently Wooten was a dirty cop being treated fairly lightly by his superiors and his union.
2d UPDATE: Some commenters are arguing particular facts below, in particular, some reports that the 10 or 11 year old stepson asked to be tasered, and immediately asked to be tasered again. I have read other accounts that suggest that the child was trying to show he was tough in front of his cousin, one of Sarah Palin’s daughters.
You are missing one of the points of my post, made both at the beginning and the end. I want to know what happened. I don’t know the details; I want to know them. The press should be of more help. ABC just gave one side of the story, an account that was not even very coherent since it didn’t mention why anyone would be concerned about keeping Wooten on staff.
Tasering a child is wrong, whether he asks for it or not. If the tasering was motivated by the stepson trying to seem tough to his cousin — and Wooten knew this — then it would show him to be as childish as his stepson. I wish I knew what happened; I wish the national press cared what happened.