Perdue 'Suspend Elections to Congress For Two Years' Audio Surfaces -- Via Reporter Who Called It a 'Joke' (Updated)

UPDATE: John Frank responded to yours truly in an email. Go to the end of the post for the email and my reax.

Yesterday, Raleigh News & Observer blog contributor jbfrank, who from all indications is also RN&O reporter John Frank, assured readers that North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue was joking when she suggested that "I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years" at a Rotary Club luncheon in Cary.

That's what his headline said: "Perdue jokes about suspending Congressional elections for two years." There were no quote marks around "jokes." The headline echoed what the Governor's apparatchiks were saying. All the while, "Frank" had audio and didn't post it. He finally did this morning, and acknowledged that he was the one who did the taping:


Gov. Bev Perdue's off-the-cuff remark about suspending Congressional elections to focus on the economy went viral. Her aides tried to walk it back, calling it "hyperbole" and suggesting she was joking. (So did you, pal. -- Ed.)

... As background, her remarks came during a Q&A at the Cary Rotary Club meeting. A man in the audience asked Perdue what she can do to turn around the economy. (The question is not included on the tape because I didn't flick my recorder on quickly enough.) 

I have posted the audio (BizzyBlog entry; direct mp3 link; each should open in a new tab or window).

The key passage:

“You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It’s a little bit more contentious now but it’s not impossible to try to do what’s right in this state. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

As I noted at my place a couple of hours ago: "There is no chance that North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue was “joking” — not even in a Steven Wright sense."

As for "Frank" -- What a weasel (believe me, there are plenty of less clean words I would prefer to use right about now):

  • He let the world know about what the governor said and assured us that she was joking.
  • He had completely contradictory audio and held it for almost a day.
  • He still won't come clean. His disingenuous headline today is "Was Perdue joking? You decide. Listen here." Matt Drudge's link tease is dead-on: "DESPITE CLAIMS: AUDIO SHOWS NC GOV'S 'SUSPEND ELECTION' -- NO JOKE!..." No kidding.

I suspect that the RN&O reporter was hoping against hope that no one else was taping (a good bet, since that would not be the given audience's first inclination, and it may be that the Governor requested no taping, which the group would have honored), and that no one would see that he was. But (again speculating), someone did. Or (again speculating), others at RN&O either found out that he did or pressured him to admit it.

The actions of "Frank" are no different from those you would expect from a butt-covering aide to the Governor herself. They certain aren't the actions of an objective reporter. It is a mystery why "Frank" remains employed as one.

UPDATE: RN&O reporter John Frank emailed me from jfrank@newsobserver.com shortly after 5 p.m. Here is its content (he communicated no expectation of confidentiality) -- 

Hey Tom,

This is John Frank, a political reporter at the News & Observer. I saw you picked up on Gov. Perdue's remarks. The original headline was "Perdue suggest suspending Congressional elections for two years -- was she serious?" It was updated later in the day to reflect the new information we received from the governor's office, which called it "hyperbole." Joke was used to suggest she wasn't serious in the headline. I didn't put joke in quotes though. I can assure you there is no case of bias -- and folks on the Democratic and Republican side were both up in arms about the story/remarks.

The audio didn't get posted until this morning because we had to edit it from a large file and it took the work of a few folks in the newsroom. Sorry we didn't get it up faster.

I appreciate your interest in the story and thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any more questions.

John
John Frank
Staff Writer
The News & Observer

My reax at BizzyBlog just a bit ago:

Sorry, John. No sale. If there were no bias, "joke" would have been in quotes. It wasn't.

Because it wasn't, a typical reader would take it to mean that it really was a joke. It wasn't.

If you meant to communicate that Perdue or her peeps thought it was a joke, you would have put "joke" in quotes. You didn't.

The excuse about the slow processing time for an obviously hot, time-sensitive audio is either pathetic or deceptive. Pathetic if, as I suspect, the audio involved was at the beginning of your recording of the event (likely, since you said that the audience member's question "is not included on the tape because I didn't flick my recorder on quickly enough"). Still pathetic, if RN&O couldn't round anyone up to process audio pronto if you don't know how to do it yourself. Deceptive, if you deliberately waited until this morning for the purpose of planting the seed that it was a joke (note that a local AP story bit on it last night) so that by the time we all found out that it really wasn't it would be semi-old news.

To experience true nausea, check out Frank's writeup of President Obama's visit to North Carolina two weeks ago.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.