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Why Are the Lee Reporters So Afraid to Cover Greg Gianforte?

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Visiting D.C. this week, I wandered by the Newseum, a half museum, half shrine to the promise of journalism in a democratic society. On its facade, the museum proudly displays the entirety of the First Amendment just blocks from the US Capitol, a reminder that it is the press that has the power to check government abuses and inform the public.

It’s an important mission. A vital mission. And, unfortunately, for too many in Montana’s political press, a failing mission. Instead of in-depth coverage of issues, voters are subjected to trumped up campaign opposition research camouflaged as news reporting. Instead of a look at the demographic trends that are shaping votes, voters are subjected to real-time reporting of the horse race of politics whether the polls being cited have any validity or are even vetted. And instead of critical coverage of candidates, we actually have the state’s largest newspaper running cover for some candidates, criticizing other newspapers outside the state for practicing journalism, and ignoring relevant stories about the positions taken by our political class.

Worse yet, we’re treated to a false equivalency where a story about the tone of a meeting is treated with BREAKING NEWS coverage while substantive concerns about a candidate’s professional past are brushed aside. Lacking the context to report accurately on the history of bonding infrastructure in Montana, for example, readers are being sold a narrative that suggests Democrats and Republicans are equally responsible for the failure to pass critical infrastructure when it’s incontrovertibly true that it’s the Republicans who are acting (and have acted for three sessions) outside the bounds of precedent and logic.

This week, the national press broke two stories about Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte: that he settled a lawsuit filed against him after he fired a man with MS and that he has personally profited from association with Oracle, a company building the kinds of gun registry he rails against in his dishonest ads. The response from the MT press? Silence. Deafening silence. Deafening, “did you not attend journalism school?” silence.

Meanwhile, a reporter at the Billings Gazette felt it was newsworthy enough to report how many hunting licenses the two candidates for Congress have had in the past 14 years. The story, garbled as its syntax and structure were, struggled to make any point other than promoting the agenda of a candidate so out of touch with Montana voters that this is the only kind of news that can help him.

One is tempted to ask the Billings Gazette why this hasn’t been a story in every race for political office in Montana? Will we soon see a hunting license scorecard for every candidate for every office, or was this a one-off for the fragile masculinity and deep pockets of Greg Gianforte?

Bizarrely, as evidenced by this editorial, the Lee newspapers have done a credible job evaluating and critiquing Mr. Gianforte in opinion pieces. Why doesn’t the news coverage measure up?

We live in complex times when it comes to journalism. The Republican Party’s leader and our current President openly jokes about violence against the press. Montana’s Republican candidate jokingly embraced the idea when a member of the crowd mimed violence against reporters, telling the crowd “there are more of us than them.” At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, that’s dangerous talk, the kind of talk one sees in societies where the press is not just threatened by its economic difficulties.

Maybe those strategies are working. So afraid of being called biased by the angry, fake news consuming conservative crowd, perhaps the press has become too afraid to do their job, too afraid to rely on reporting the truth. How else can we explain not only the failure to cover the Republican candidate for Congress but the active effort to aid his campaign?

It’s a dark time for journalism in our state, and a dark time for voters who rely on the press to keep them informed. And it’s getting more difficult every day to see the light. All the shrines to journalism in the world can’t change that.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

52 Comments

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  • When I read the line, ” …a reporter at the Billings Gazette felt it was newsworthy enough to report how many hunting licenses the two candidates for Congress have had…, ” I had an inkling of who that reporter might be. Sure enough, Tom Lutey. I didn’t realize that the number of hunting and fishing licenses obtained over the years dictates a candidate’s qualifications to hold federal elected office.

  • But you have to admit Pogie, that Quist was talking about harvesting many Elk, and being an avid Sportsman, and now it’s proven that he’s either a poacher, or a liar, take your pick. Not cool.

    Going to the topic of your post, nobody is talking enough about this race – were it not for the TV ads, and drive-time radio ads nobody would know their names. I’m a little embarrassed – two of my three kids didn’t know there was a special election coming up when I asked them about it last weekend.

    • They only went back to 2002, at that time Quist was 54 years old. I know many of my friends who used to be fairly avid hunters do not do it anymore. Real hunting is hard work, elk, sheep and goat hunting requires you to be physically healthy and in pretty good shape. My own days as an elk hunter are dwindling with the deterioration of my knees. Quist had health problems that probably prevented him from being able to hike and walk very far. Now Bill or is it Tin, driving around drinking Bud Light with a gun hanging out your window is not hunting, it is just killing something. Be careful though Bill, a few years ago a lazy slackass road warrior shot a deer and when he tried to drag it the 25 yards to his truck he had a heart attack and died just saying.

    • More Lee Inc. ink for GG!

      There you have it, pure and simple. Montana favors wealth care, not affordable health care. Montana wants tax breaks for hedge fund ops, the 1%, and corporate officers. Montana likes the Trump Administration roll out. President Trump may be more unpopular than any President in my 3/4 century. But Montana is peculiar.

      For it does not matter to us that FWP funds are witheld. Does not matter to us that Public Lands, National Parks and Reservations are being re-defined.

      Does not matter to us that EPA gets cut. What’s the EPA ever done in Montana? Asbestos around Libby and Copperhead toxins are nothing but words on paper.

      Does not matter to us that our Counties impacted by our drying climate have needed State/Federal resources and dollars.

      Does not matter to us when politician lobbyists promote that male seed has more prior rights than does female seed.

      Does not matter to us when politician lobbyists re-position private education to acquire rights to public money streams.

      We are comparatively less educated and we will vote against our interests, families, friends, air and water.

      We will blindly, stupidly forget what we learned about “citizen legislators” as a key ingredient in the American form of Government.

      We in Montana want to remain ignorant of how Trump agents conspired with Putin agents to successfully tip our 2016 Presidential Election.

      Montana read how Mike Smith/Montana Standard; Rob Chaney/Missoulian and Lee Inc. ink has got you pegged, on the front page!

      http://missoulian.com/news/government-and-politics/timing-factors-are-key-in-montana-s-compressed-congressional-contest/article_5a5ae48f-f562-54f6-a38b-17b397146f31.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share

      Montana remember, the purpose of Lee Inc. is to protect the rich and powerful from we the people.

  • Partisan.
    Noun.
    An adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, especially a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance.
    I can honestly say that I haven’t seen that type of bias on this blog. Nope.
    Not from either persuasion.
    If you buy that……..

  • I thought the Gianforte and Trump Jr. prairie dog safari offered insight into what they enjoy doing in their downtime. They’re not ranchers or farmers dealing with varmints. They do it for the photo op. Apparently, the Gianforte campaign thought it might be bad PR, though. It issued pictures of the them (and Daines) posing by some creek in virgin waders, possibly fly-fishing instead of blasting away at prairie dogs. Definitely made for a nicer image. But I have to ask, Pogo, do you consider shooting prairie dogs good sport, fair chase, “a lot of fun” (to quote Gianforte)?

    As to Quist’s “petty attacks… ” I’ve never subscribed to the “New Jersey millionaire” meme and have said so often. It’s lame and cooked up by the “consultants,” not the candidate. Keep in mind, it was Gianforte first out of the gate with negative, dark money, out-of-state PAC attack ads before he was even nominated. Quist will “confiscate your guns,” he’s “Nancy Pelosi in a cowboy hat” and “a liberal socialist.” Those spots set the tone.

    Looks like you’ve taken the high road, too, Pogo: “Idaho nudist camp … daughter … young naked children.” And you brought up the manly fishing and hunting license issue, and something about a brother’s Ponzi scheme — great gossip and supermarket tabloid fodder. Gianforte’s opposition research team is working overtime dishing dirt and passing it along to various mouthpieces.

    I’d prefer a dignified campaign that focused on policy and goals, but we’re way past that, thanks to Gianforte.

  • Science is the opposite of partisanship. It is the pursuit of the truth without regard to expectation of, or desire for any
    particular set of results. I have seen both sides of the political spectrum site science to bolster their particular cause
    or argument. Without fail, both groups have not held to the standard of the scientific method. Rather, they have all
    held to the standard of personal bias. Which of course, will not hold up under long term scrutiny. Witness Gianforte’s
    insistence on the 5,000 year old earth. Or, Al Gore’s declaration that the polar regions would be devoid of ice by now.
    Check my math, but at last check, neither one of these turned out to be true. Although both proved to be politically
    advantages to each author.

    • Science is not the opposite of partisan ship. Many many scientists expect desired results either consciously or unconsciously. That’s why they use blind studies and repeat results to test for error. They expect error. And sometimes they err until they don’t.

      Gore’s prediction is borne out by the considerably raising seas caused by melting ice. The world wide net loss of glaciers is important evidence. . Your math doesn’t account for variation. Which means your math is a faulty construct. You have to understand that Gore’s theory can be true while all natural ice hasn’t yet melted. from all locations. The raise in sea level is all from formerly frozen ice on land which has melted due to raising temperatures and run into the sea.

      The Earth is magnitudes older than 5000 years yet I fail to see how this superstitious non-sense is beneficial to GG. Your claim that him believing dogmatic fantasy is beneficial to him is unsupported. It’s hurting him and us.

      Your math is baloney, in my opinion. But I think you for the opportunity to express myself.

  • You’re quite the snowflake if you’re concerned about Mr. Quist performing where he did. Of course, you’re an apologist for a party that believes its moral vision should be imposed on everyone. You also need better sources if you believe that right wing rag you’re referencing is a “paper.”

    Could you explain to me when Quist every said he “was too sick to work even one day”?

    And I don’t recall you having such strong feelings about Ponzi schemes before? Something change your mind?
    https://themontanapost.com/2016/10/01/ryan-zinke-and-paul-vallely-lied-about-their-ponzi-scheming-friend-to-the-missoulian/

  • Or is it really just all about Quist and Gianforte?
    That is, trying to elect the dubious leader of you’re
    chosen tribe.

  • I wrote a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette about Gianforte. I have written many letters to the editor in the past. Never did I experience what happened with this letter. They published it but it was as if my letter had been put in a blender and resembled. It was incoherent garbage… When I submitted a letter to the Bozeman Chronicle they would not accept it because they said there was a 200 hundred word limit for political letters. I have submitted political letters in the past to the Chronicle and they always accepted 300 words… very fishy

  • Yes Don, Gore’s claims are a world of difference from those of Mr. Gianforte’s.
    The problem is, they both turned out to be wrong. Here’s the thing. You’ve chosen
    to align with Gore and that whole ideology. I’ve chosen to point out the short falls
    of both.

  • Lutey/Gazette update: The bogus hunting and fishing license story made Page One of the Missoulian today. Another Lutey story talked about the lack of polling places available for the upcoming special election. There was no mention in the article about Montana House Republicans shooting down the mail-in ballot bill (which would have alleviated much of the need for polling locations and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars).

    A decent story in the paper today, although buried, by the Billings Gazette’s Brett French. Zinke is apparently holding up federal funding for Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks. This will hamstring a number of programs offered by FW&P, such as hunter education and wild land purchases, and curtail operations and staff.

    Since leaving Montana, Zinke hasn’t missed an opportunity to piss on our state.

    • Zinke is all about Numero Uno, Commando Zinke, the United States of Zinke, who all by himself shoveled all of the snow in DC recently!

  • Gents, the answer is probably very simple about the story of the guy with MS. Lee does not have the tools or resources to determine if this is fake news.

  • Pete, I see someone deleted my post on this page. I assume it wasn’t you. Looks like some one else can dish it out but can’t take it when others discuss topics critical of his candidate.

    FYI, I only commented on Quist and his daughter being regular performers at the Idaho nudist colony after I discovered it on James Connor’s FlatheadMemo site. I am curious to see if James’ comments get deleted if he references it on IntelligentDiscontent.

  • Bill said today: “Pete, I seen this. But has it been validated?”
    As I stated previously, folks posting should proof read their
    comments before hitting send. “I seen this” is improper grammar.
    However, I doubt Bill would even know he made a mistake.
    Isn’t the name of this site INTELLlGENT discontent?

  • I’ve been reading through a lot of you’re author’s articles.
    One of them really stood out to me. Faith Scow’s “More Than 160 Characters”
    article got my attention. It’s about abortion. Specifically about reasons for justifying
    abortion. Of course I agree with her position in the case of rape. However,
    I have to say that her citing the extra cost of vitamins to support a pregnancy
    as a contributing factor is embarrassing. At least. Or in reality it’s sick. Why would
    you support such a position? Another point that caught my eye was the statement
    that adoption is not a very good alternative because it’s very difficult to find a good
    family to adopt a child. That’s bullshit. There are great folks all over over this country
    who wold love to adopt a child. I know this from personal experience as I myself am an
    adopted child. Believe me, my parents were wonderfull!!!!! My birth mother was a college
    student at Sacramento State. I’m just thankfull she wasn’t a student at Caroll College
    by the name of Faith Scow.

    • Jeff,

      You may also want to look through this comment before criticizing anyone else’s writing. The usage is more incoherent than your argument, which is remarkable.

  • This is an insult to Montana Ranchers, 20 acres is a hobby farm. All hat, no cattle.

    The date of the work is important because it’s 10 years before the health episode Quist said kept him from paying his property taxes earlier this decade. That tax debt crept to nearly $15,000 before the Department of Revenue filed liens for three years of unpaid taxes on Quist’s 20-acre ranch.

  • Our ranch was just under 10,000 acres of small grains and cattle. Yes, I hauled semi loads of wheat. Cleaned semi cattle trailers, fixed cattle waters at 20 below, overhauled engines and transmissions, etc. Most of the gents in our neighborhood talked in sections not acres.

  • Pete,
    You are correct that proofread is one word. I actually researched that today as I was unsure.
    Thanks for pointing that out.
    Don,
    I’m not quite sure how to take you’re comment.

  • I have come to not expect much from the local newspapers. 2 years ago when I wrote a letter to the editor of the Belgrade News and the Bozeman Chronicle demanding that the Belgrade Schools Superintendent, Leland Stocker, show proof that the MT legislature had passed a bill giving property owners a tax credit for all the oil drilling in eastern MT, they posted the letters but refused to write any type of story disputing Mr. Stocker’s claims.
    I had even spoken to someone at the News who told me that a bill had been introduced but had died in committee. I called both newspapers several times, posted on their FB pages and they refused to follow up on Mr. Stocker’s claims. I believe that because of his lies, the school bond was passed. I have written numerous emails to Mr. Stocker and he refused to answer. The Belgrade School District even blocked me from posting Mr. Stocker’s lies on their FB page.
    This should have been a huge issue. Mr. Stocker sent out a false letter to the voters in the Belgrade School District claiming we should vote for the bond because we were going to get a credit on our property taxes. He flat out lied and the bond passed. Why did both newspapers refuse to run a story about this??

    • I’m not familiar with Mr. Stoker or his claims of a credit for property taxes. I do have two grandchildren in the Belgrade public school system, and that bond was sorely needed. Belgrade is one of the fastest growing communities in Montana, and K-12 schools were bursting at the seams.

      It would be nice if the state supplied more funding for education so the burden didn’t fall so heavily of on local property owners, but with the reprobates holding a majority in the legislature, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

  • My earlier post appears to have disappeared. I am reposting it again:

    Then again, some reporters and bloggers felt it was a newsworthy story in a Congressional campaign to report on the major issue of hunting prairie dogs.

    Quist and Montana Democrats have thrown their fair share of petty attacks at Gianforte (e.g., New Jersey Millionaire). Fortunately, journalists have a wealth of topics on Rob Quist to explore. Just a few examples:
    – Quist’s regular performances at a self described “family values” Idaho nudist camp with his daughter entertaining naked attendees and their young naked children. Note he performed there in 2011 when he told the bank he was too sick to work even one day. One paper pointed out his campaign staff had no comment on the question about whether he was clothed or unclothed.

    – Quist proving his Montana values by talking about him hunting and fishing to put meat on the table to feed his family because he was too sick to work only to find out he hasn’t purchased a hunting or fishing license for at least 16 years which was the same period of time he said he was too sick to work and had to hunt and fish to put food on the table.

    – A reporter could even ask Rob Quist if he is even healthy enough to run for office. He told one reporter he was too sick even as recently as 2016 to get a hunting or fishing license.

    – An ambitious reporter might even find the time to inquire about Rob Quist’s links with his brother’s Ponzi scheme years ago. The state of Montana issued a cease and desist order against his brother in 2004 and the state of Arizona issued a similar order in 1986. In 1992 Arizona ordered Quist’s brother and others to pay victims restitution of more than $7 million. Maybe someone could dig into Rob Quist’s testimony about his and his brother’s involvement in this multimillion dollar international scheme.

  • I had the opportunity to ask Rob’s brothers what this was all about, but I could not find it when I was with them-making calls for Rob last Friday evening. Do you have any verification of your claim Pogo?
    “– An ambitious reporter might even find the time to inquire about Rob Quist’s links with his brother’s Ponzi scheme years ago. The state of Montana issued a cease and desist order against his brother in 2004 and the state of Arizona issued a similar order in 1986. In 1992 Arizona ordered Quist’s brother and others to pay victims restitution of more than $7 million. Maybe someone could dig into Rob Quist’s testimony about his and his brother’s involvement in this multimillion dollar international scheme.”

    • Carla,

      Here are a few links:

      http://csimt.gov/wp-content/uploads/SEC-09-22-04-1381-TCD.pdf

      http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/auditor-ceases-flathead-securities-fraud/article_9cf27b67-1fae-566d-ab27-93cde4c68257.html

      “On Monday, Montana State Auditor John Morrison said a “cease and desist” order had been issued to John C. Quist, who authorities said has duped several Flathead investors.
      It is not the first such trouble for Quist, who is not registered to sell securities. In 1986, the Arizona Securities Department issued a similar order, Morrison said, and in 1992 told Quist and others to pay victims restitution of more than $7 million.
      Quist did not answer calls Monday, but a woman’s voice on his answering machine announced: “You have reached the Quist family. Please leave us your Visa card number, oops, I mean, uh, sorry; please leave us a message. Thanks!”
      In Montana, Quist is alleged to have tricked people into investing in The Project and Tri-West Investment Club, neither of which are registered securities.”

      • Since you’re dredging up old family scandals, Pogo, let’s not forget Zinke’s sister getting arrested in the Bakken for drug paraphernalia and child endangerment, or Rehberg’s drunken boating escapade with buddy Greg Barkus that almost killed two people.

        What any of this has to do with the individual candidates escapes me but hey, you brought it up.

  • As I recall, the Montana media and a lot of Democratic operatives and blogs used up a lot of ink blaming Rehberg for the boating accident in which he was the passenger and not the driver. Intelligent Discontent also found felt it was a newsworthy topic for comment.

    Make a few calls to some of your attorney friends in Helena who were around when Morrison issued his cease and desist order back in 2004. You may find Rob gave testimony against his brother in exchange for the state to not press charges against him for his involvement in his brother’s Ponzi scheme. Or ask Tom Lutey at the Billings Gazette to make some inquires. He has a knack for digging up information.

    • Missing the point again, Pogo. Should we talk political gossip or substantive issues? You’re getting good at this misdirection. It’s what Trump, Gianforte and Republicans do best: negative TV, cheap sound bites and dog whistle talking points. Let me know when you’re ready for a serious discussion.

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