NYT's 'Woe Is Us' Report on Ohio Dems Woefully Short on Fact Checking

September 30th, 2014 8:53 PM

On Sunday, Trip Gabriel at the New York Times had the thankless task of concocting a report which would somehow make Ohio Democrats feel positive about winning at least one statewide office in November instead of getting skunked, which appears pretty likely at this point.

That's because the campaign of the Dems' gubernatorial candidate, affectionately known as the Wreck That Is Edward FitzGerald, has imploded over the fact that FitzGerald, a former FBI agent, somehow managed to drive without a valid permanent license for ten years. In the course of carrying out her mission — one she should have chosen not to accept — Gabriel made three errors. Two of them involve failing to check out two not-credible claims by Democrats. A third involves a basic fact about Ohio's electoral offices. Two of the three really require Times corrections. We'll see if they are forthcoming.

The first questionable claim was made by Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. In the course of throwing FitzGerald under the bus and then backing up for another run-over to make sure that the destruction was complete, Redfern made a typical "it's not my fault" claim that doesn't pass the smell test:

Just five weeks before Election Day, Ohio Democrats have descended into recriminations, with many angry and frustrated that the state party did not do a better job vetting the little-known Mr. FitzGerald, handing him the nomination without a primary that could have aired his past. “It was incredibly foolish; Ed had never really been tested,” said Greg Haas, a Democratic operative in Columbus.

The party chairman, Chris Redfern, pointed a finger at Mr. FitzGerald himself. “I’ve never met a former F.B.I. agent who doesn’t have a driver’s license,” he said. “It’s akin to saying, ‘Damn, I should have my umbrella’ after it rains.”

Mr. Redfern, a State House member, said no other major Democrats stepped up to run in a primary. As for vetting Mr. FitzGerald, he blamed an outside group that the campaign hired to research the candidate’s vulnerabilities. Mr. Redfern said he would not hire the company “to clean out my bird cage.”

Now just a minute here, Trip. In referring to "the campaign" — and not to the Democratic Party itself — which hired the negligent research firm, Redfern appears to be telling us that he relied on the FitzGerald campaign to investigate itself. If this is true, no wonder Redfern is rumored to be on the way out as party chairman. What other "campaign" could have been involved?

The second error is all on Gabriel, and is based on an implausible — and untrue — assertion made by State Treasurer candidate Connie Pillich:

At the bar in Dayton, Ms. Pillich urged a group of the city’s experienced Democratic activists to fight for every vote, reminding them she won re-election to the State House in 2010 by just five votes. She raced into the crowd and offered high fives while calling out, “Who’ll get me five votes over here?”

Connie Pillich won reelection in 2010 in House District 28 by 602 votes. The candidate seems to believe that time stopped on Election Night in 2010, "with Pillich leading Wilson by just five votes, triggering an automatic recount of ballots." Pillich was ahead by 600 votes after the recount. Pillich was therefore lying to those in attendance, and Gabriel failed to fact-check her. (Alternative interpretation: Could Pillich, by clinging to the five-vote mythology, be indirectly admitting that her side fabricated another 597 illegitimate votes during the recount?)

The third item comes from an earlier paragraph:

Ignore the contest for governor and concentrate on the down-ballot races for the five other statewide offices, where Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents.

There are only four other statewide offices on the ballot besides the Governor-Lieutenant Governor race, which in Ohio is unified on the ballot. They are for Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. Gabriel can't be thinking of the statewide judicial races, because there are two of them.

I anxiously await Trip Gabriel's follow-up on my email requesting corrections of the second and third items identified here, and for a clarification of the first, either confirming that the "campaign" of Edward FitzGerald was who the Ohio Democratic Party relied on to vet him, or altering the language to indicate that the party itself blew the assignment.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.