Thursday, May 27, 2010

Haley allegation not the first from FITS News

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:26 AM

Will Folks just might be the worst journalist in the world, besting even Matt Drudge. Few bloggers, and even fewer print journalists, trade in the kind of innuendo, rumor, hearsay, and hit pieces that appear to be the stock-in-trade of FITS News, Folks' news site.

When it comes to dirty politics in South Carolina, there are other people and organizations who undoubtedly are dirtier than FITS and more malicious in their smears, but nobody does a sloppier job of it.

And, yes, that's counting all the Palmetto State news sites and blogs that are in cahoots with — if not directly run by — political consultants. They shill for their clients and attack their client's opponents at will. They cannot be trusted. And neither can FITS.

Yes, Folks may be telling the truth here about his inappropriate physical relationship with gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. My gut tells me that he is. But then again, my gut has been battered and beaten by too many boozy days and nights. I don't trust it anymore than I would have trusted Lee Atwater.

Speaking of Atwater, for those not in know, he was the all-time king of the political dirty trick — both in his native South Carolina and in D.C.

Many credit him with a push poll that doomed Greenville Mayor Max Heller's bid to defeat Carroll Campbell, an Atwater client, in the race for the South Carolina governor's office. The question that was asked about the Jewish Heller, according to a Catholic Online post which reportedly ran originally in The State: "Would you vote for a Jew who did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?"

Meanwhile, according to a New York Times report, Mr. Atwater was rumored to have been behind a stunt in which a reporter asked a candidate if he had once undergone shock therapy. Even though Atwater denied that he was behind the smear, he did say that the candidate, Tom Turnipseed, had been ''hooked up to jumper cables.''

But Will Folks is no Lee Atwater. He's not content to hide in the shadows. He wants the spotlight. And it looks like that just might be his undoing.

While there are many examples of where FITS News has engaged in tactics more befitting a mud plug like Atwater than a journalist, these next couple are my personal favorites:

Take for example the time FITS News "outed" South Carolina state Board of Education chair Kristin Maguire as "Bridget Keeney," the author of a few triple-x shorts on Literotica.com.

At the time, this is what I had to say:

According to FITSNews, Keeney just might have been the pen name of Kristin Maguire, the chair of the S.C. Board of Education. Or at least she was until Monday morning when Maguire, a Sanford appointee and homeschooler, resigned her post in order to care of her parents and her children.

The site also reports that "Maguire spoke to FITS of difficult times in her life and acknowledged that she had visited certain websites where such material was posted and reviewed. She did not admit to authoring erotic fiction, however."

This is troubling. And not for the obvious reasons. Bible-believing, homeschool advocates are just as free to write X-rated stories as anybody else. The problem is with FITSNews and its actions. Yes, there is some chatter from an anonymous source, and, yes, there are what might simply be coincidental similarities between Maguire and Keeney, but that, apparently, is it. The post presents little to no direct information linking Maguire to the stories.

That FITSNews didn't have proof that Maguire actually penned the stories didn't stop him from declaring that Maquire was a porn penner.

Now, you can point out that Maguire hasn't sued FITSNews — at least as far as we know — and suggest that there is some validity to FITS's claims. And once again, maybe FITS is right. But the site never proved it by any respectable standards of journalism or, I'd argue, the law. So, do we have a case of a news organization that fails to understand what "proof" actually is or do we have a one that doesn't care?

If you're having trouble deciding, perhaps this next example will help you out.

Last September, Folks took a little journey to Washington, D.C. Things apparently didn't turn out like he planned.

Sic Willie decided to pay a visit to Brecke Latham, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett. As you know, Barrett is an Upstate resident who is running for governor against S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, and Nikki Haley, an ally of both Gov. Mark Sanford and Folks. (Note to Sarah Palin: FITS News is not a "liberal rag." It was a Tea Party publication before being in the Tea Party was cool. Folks has been a staunch supporter of Haley; in fact, embarrassingly so at times.)

Now, why would Folks visit Latham?

Well, it would appear that last summer — you know, the Summer of the Luv Guv — a Spartanburg Herald-Journal reporter asked Barrett if he had ever been unfaithful to his wife. Barrett said no.

Here's what FITS had to say:


Previously, FITS had asked Barrett’s campaign the same question about allegations of infidelity involving the Congressman — only to receive a much less cordial response.

“These types of false allegations are defamatory, and anyone who spreads or publishes them (including you and your sources) should be prepared to defend them through the legal process,” Barrett campaign advisor Jim Dyke wrote in an email to FITS earlier this year. “We will use the full power of the law to defend the character of a good man falsely accused for political purposes.”

Against our better judgment, we let the matter drop — at least until the Herald-Journal article on August 11 spawned a fresh round of information pertaining to Barrett’s alleged infidelity, information that was provided to us from an even broader network of sources. It was this critical mass of new details (and independent confirmation of those details) which put our founding editor on a plane to D.C. this morning in an effort to get a responses from several pertinent individuals.

Simply put, we were (are) very close to running a story — and had (have) reached the point in our due diligence when getting people on the record responding to certain allegations had become advisable.

And so we went to investigate after twice giving this particular subject an opportunity to speak off the record.

“Ms. Latham I need to ask you a question,” Sic said politely … except he didn’t even get the chance to state his inquiry.

Latham immediately darted back into the office of Kansas Congressman Jerry Moran — where she has been employed since October of 2008.

There are a few things of note here. One, FITS never says what question Folks was going to ask Latham. Nope. Two, FITS claims to be very close to running a story proving, uh, um, what I don't know exactly (the site never says). Three, FITS never runs the story that was threatened to run.

Now, this didn't stop FITS from alluding to some sort of shenanigans between Latham and Barrett — a charge that the Barrett camp denied to me (and you can take that for what you will) — later on. And this didn't stop FITS from saying that Latham, "more than anyone in the history of Palmetto politics has perfected the art of looking guilty." Guilty of what, FITS never says.

Later, actually May 18 to be exact, FITS appeared to revisit this story:

U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett is one of several candidates who could find himself on the receiving end of some “fireworks” at a televised S.C. gubernatorial debate Tuesday night in Columbia, S.C.

The debate — sponsored by the Palmetto Family Council — will focus on issues important to social conservatives, although several campaigns are reportedly eying the forum as an opportunity to throw (or place) personal jabs at one another. Tuesday’s debate — which begins at 7:00 p.m. EDT — is being moderated by WIS anchor Judi Gatson, who has a reputation for keeping things between the lines. Of course with only three weeks remaining before primary day, it’s increasingly likely that the “gloves will come off” at some point...

The four Republicans will take the stage first, followed by the three Democrats.

FITS has been provided with a list of “loaded questions” that are allegedly being “leaked to WIS,” although it remains unclear which candidates are being targeted by which questions.

Hmm. Now exactly what kind of questions was FITS alluding to? And why would Barrett specifically be targeted in a debate sponsored by a family values group? I just don't have the faintest idea.

Oddly enough, and thanks to City Paper News Editor Greg Hambrick for pointing this out, but FITS' May 18 "fireworks" piece was posted on the same day as this purported exchanged between Sic Willie and Haley staffer Tim Pearson:

—— SMS ——
From: Will Folks
To: Tim Pearson
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:05 PM

Barrett source says “beware tonight’s debate” to me.

—— SMS ——
From: Tim Pearson
To: Will Folks
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:06 PM

Hmm. What do u think that means?

—— SMS ——
From: Tim Pearson
To: Will Folks
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:07 PM

No way barrett brings something up himself. That’s insane.

—— SMS ——
From: Will Folks
To: Tim Pearson
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:08 PM

I don’t know what it means. Once again donehue reported to be the instigator

—— SMS ——
From: Tim Pearson
To: Will Folks
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:08 PM

Mother fucker.

—— SMS ——
From: Tim Pearson
To: Will Folks
Sent: May 18, 2010 1:10 PM

Moderator is judi gatson. She won’t do anything to hurt Nikki.

How curious. FITS posts an article hinting that Barrett may be attacked at that evening's debate for what we do not know on the same day as Folks notifies Pearson about an alleged threat from the Barrett campaign to spill the beans about what we're not exactly sure? Interesting. And oh-so vague.

What does all of this mean? I can't tell you exactly. Maybe Barrett's involved in an affair. And maybe Sic Willie and Nikki Haley did engage in some sort of inappropriate physical relationship, whatever the hell that means. The point is that for FITS News the answer doesn't matter. Only the allegation.

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