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The Montana Standard: If You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong, Why Lie?

The editor of the Montana Standard seems to be digging a deeper hole for himself and his newspaper. Through outright lies and omissions, he has called into question the integrity of not only his paper, but Lee Enterprises as a whole. Today, Mr. O’Brien tried to deflect criticism for his own actions by blaming the Tester campaign, in a statement that somehow seems to lack editorial discretion:

“Quite frankly, it is just Tester’s campaign grasping at straws here.”

Despite my complaint (one that he responded to) and the complaints of other Montana bloggers, Mr. O’Brien told the AP today at 3:00 p.m. that no one other than a member of the Tester campaign had complained about the sponsorship:

O’Brien said the only complaints the paper has received about the seating came from the Tester campaign. No member of the public has complained, he said.

According to an AP report in the IR this evening, Mr. O’Brien said:

O’Brien said the newspaper had received a few complaints from the public, via e-mail, about the issue.

Mr O’Brien, acting as editor of the Standard, lied to another reporter, falsely suggesting that he had not received complaints from the public, despite having received them.

How do I know? Mr. O’Brien responded to my letter of complaint at 7:20 a.m., raising more questions than he answered:

His answers in the colored text below.

Rental of the theater was $500, Resodyn contributed $200. Because of the flap, we may not accept their donation now. More on that later.

So the integrity of a newspaper covering the most important political event of the year is worth $200 freaking dollars? I know Conrad Burns sells his integrity cheaply, but he’s at least working in the thousands of dollars. The $200 co-sponsorship makes this stink even more–clearly there was no need for it, and given the close connection between Resodyn and Burns, especially so.

Notably, O’Brien ignored another question I asked–“I’ve also heard that there was another sponsor before Resodyn. Did the Standard terminate that relationship, or the other sponsor?” That seems like a significant omission–if Resodyn replaced another, more impartial sponsor with Resodyn, it’s certainly worth knowing why.

O’Brien continues:

At worst, there may be an appearance of bias, but we also noted at the start of the debate that one of our co-sponsors was a contributor to the Burns campaign, so it was out front from the start. They have contributed $4,000 to the Burns campaign, a drop in the bucket consindering his war chest if about $6 million.

This is a rationalization of epic proportions. Not only does it ignore the thousands given by corporate officers to the Montana GOP within the last year, the size of the contributions is irrelevant. For the unbiased editor of the Standard to offer this excuse calls into question his ability to fairly edit and write about this race.

He continues:

Resodyn was a co-sponsor of the debate, as was Rhodia Chemical. They helped rent the venue. As a co sponsor they got to reserve 30 seats, out of the 1,200 available, in the middle, not the front of the theater.

Numerous accounts suggest that this is an inaccurate characterization of events. While the seats may not have been front row, they were within 3-4 rows of the front, in camera and Burns friendly areas.

It’s time for the Montana Standard to issue an apology and reveal their full agreement with Resodyn. It’s not too late to start acting like journalists.

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 would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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  • Pogie –

    I don’t know if you noticed, but this was on page 7A of the IR. Could the placement have something to do with the fact that Lee Enterprises owns the IR, oh yeah, and the Montana Standard.

    I am still riled up.

  • I’m just a poor white woman, but I would gladly buy you a subscription to my own hometown rag if you would give our resident torture loving fascist Frank Meile some honest grief on occasion.

    Really, how can we have a decent responsible society if the kingmakers build it all on lies?

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