Later, the Coleman campaign also barred The UpTake from a press conference on November 11 and a campaign event featuring former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The Minnesota Independent reported that bloggers from MinnPost.com and Minnesota Democrats Exposed were admitted to those events.
Faced with a three-minute barrage of questions from reporters about whether U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) received gifts of clothing from businessman Nasser Kazeminy, a spokesman for his re-election campaign refused to explicitly deny the report, saying the campaign will not respond to bloggers. Later, on Oct. 10, 2008, the campaign refused admission to two reporters from alternative online media outlets in Minnesota at a scheduled news conference.
The original allegations about clothing gifts appeared on the “Washington Babylon” blog on Harper’s Magazine’s Web site on October 6. The blog is written by Ken Silverstein, an award winning reporter formerly of the Los Angeles Times.
“I’ve been told by two sources that Kazeminy has in the past covered the bills for Coleman’s lavish clothing purchases at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis,” Silverstein wrote. “The sources were not certain of the dates of the purchases; if they were made before Coleman joined the Senate in 2003, he obviously would not be required to report it under Senate rules.”
Two days later, on October 8, Coleman’s spokesman, Cullen Sheehan, was asked repeatedly by reporters at a news conference about the allegations. Sheehan repeated the phrase “the Senator has reported every gift he has ever received” at least seven times, but refused to explicitly deny the allegations. Sheehan said the campaign will not “respond to unnamed sources on a blog,” but refused to offer further explanation. Video of the press conference is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VySnpLoaUrI.
Sen. Coleman offered a somewhat more detailed explanation when he was asked about the alleged clothing gifts by a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter on October 7. “The idea of responding to the things bloggers throw out is something I’m not going to get into. There are very awful things that are said about people on blogs. And the idea to make it a legitimate story is something … I just don’t respond to it,” Coleman said, according to an October 9 MinnPost.com report.
Silverstein argued in a Washington Babylon post on October 8 that Coleman’s stonewalling was an attempt to change the topic and deflect criticism surrounding the alleged gifts. He pointed out that Coleman had been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations before the story was published, and the senator had refused to explicitly confirm or deny the story.
While Coleman’s refusal to specifically deny the alleged clothing gifts generated attention from both local and national media outlets, the campaign continued its new policy of denying access to the alternative media Oct. 10, 2008 when it refused to admit journalists from Web sites The UpTake and The Minnesota Independent at a scheduled news conference.
Video from The UpTake shows an unidentified Coleman staffer refusing to admit the two journalists, along with the videographer from the DFL party who produced the Sheehan video, to the news conference. The Coleman staffer explains that the news conference is only open to “credentialed members of the press.” When asked what it takes to be credentialed, he says it is only for “legitimate members of the press.” The staffer refuses to explain further, telling the journalists they are “free to leave.”
An October 10 story by David Brauer on MinnPost.com said The UpTake and The Minnesota Independent are “undeniably left-favoring” news organizations, but still provide valuable services to the public.
The UpTake would have provided the only live video feed of the news conference. It also provided the only live video feed of the first debate between Coleman and his challenger Al Franken.
Newspapers Shut Down Partisan Coverage Ahead of Election
The Star Tribune, Minnesota’s most widely read newspaper, announced October 25 that it had “asked” its local news columnists to refrain from partisan commentary until after the election. Editors said the decision was an effort to “separate news from opinion.”
Editor Nancy Barnes announced the decision in a column about the newspaper’s coverage of the economic downturn and the elections, published October 25. “The challenge as an editor is to separate partisanship and emotion from the truth,” Barnes wrote in the column.
The decision was announced three days after columnist Katherine Kersten lambasted Democratic senatorial candidate Al Franken for his “penchant for the pornographic” and anti-Christian comedy in a column that generated more than 500 comments on the newspaper’s Web site. On October 21, columnist Nick Coleman wrote about GOP congressional candidate Michele Bachmann, suggesting her “stupid” comments about her belief that Barack Obama may hold “anti-American views” could cost her the election.
Colorado Community Newspapers made an even more dramatic effort to avoid partisanship in the newspaper, halting all political coverage two weeks before the election. “Any news coverage, letters to the editor or any other content discussing the Nov. 4, elections will not be printed to allow readers an opportunity to develop their stance without media interference,” an October 20 notice in the Littleton (Colo.) Independent said.
– Michael Schoepf