Palin's attorney should know better than to dare the media

Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:40 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mr. Van Flein, please bring me up before the UnPalin Activities Committee. Please.

This last two weeks had enough “stuff” going on that most reporters and commentators could write a book: “It Happened in July 2009.” However, the announcement that Sarah Palin is stepping down from her seat as governess of Alaska is by far the most compelling. Unless, of course, you are a Michael Jackson fan-atic.

For me, it was not the mystery behind Palin’s announcement on July 3, but something The Associated Press reported on Sunday. The AP reported that Thomas Van Flein, the governor’s attorney, would sue “… against bloggers and publications that reprint what he called fraudulent claims.” It brings back memories of former Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Richard Nixon’s disdain for the Fourth Estate and the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Van Flein specifically mentioned commentator Shannyn Moore, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, The Washington Post, the New York Times and any others who “propagate defamatory material.”

Me, me, call me!

Exactly what did Moore say in the Huffington Post that made Palin and Van Flein so upset? Van Flein alleged in his letter that Moore claimed as “fact” that Palin was under federal investigation. In fact, this is what Moore wrote: “For weeks the rumors of a criminal investigation against the governor have been brewing. They are rumors, but are swirling fresh again with Palin's resignation.”

According to another Associated Press article, 16 ethics complaints have been filed against Palin.  The latest, filed Monday, accuses the governor of “collecting per diem when she stays in her Wasilla home instead of the governor's mansion in Juneau.” The Associated Press has published a listing of such complaints that was up-to-date as of June 21. Interesting reading about our former vice presidential candidate.

To Palin’s credit, the Monday article from the Associated Press noted that most of the complaints against her have been dismissed. And the FBI did issue a statement Sunday saying that the agency was not investigating the governor. That does not say that others are not. ABC News and others have reported that the Palin family is more than $500,000 in debt for legal fees. It would not surprise me if she in fact quit her job over a combination of financial and legal problems, and an inability to handle the pressure of the press.

A word of advice, Madam Governess: with the exception of David Letterman, don’t take the media personally.

There are some other facts here. Palin quit the office of “Chief Hockey Mom” 18 months early, giving no solid reason other than that lame-duck governors are ineffective. She really needs to read her Republican history, especially concerning California’s Ronald Reagan. His last two years of state leadership were very successful.

It is most interesting that Van Flein did not threaten the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the conservative Washington Times or Fox News, or Rush, Ann or Dr. Laura, all of whom reported the same story. (Kind of.) Of course, the last three may just find the former governor in their ranks as a conservative-radio shock jock.

Back to Agnew and the press. His disdain was not a secret to the American people and press. On November 13, 1969, he lambasted television news networks for their reporting on President Nixon’s speech on the Vietnam War. Agnew took ABC, CBS and NBC to task, claiming that, “the network reporter who covers a continuing issue — like the ABM (proposed Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the USSR) or civil rights — becomes, in effect, the presiding judge in a national trial by jury.”  Today, that condemnation needs to extend to cable news services, the Internet and other news sources that government officials wish to silence because of their reporting. In truth, it only caused the news media to search harder. The result: Agnew’s resignation in connection with bribery charges and Nixon’s Watergate.

To tell the press to shut up and sit there is like telling a hungry wolf not to eat a raw T-bone. The press has one advantage over the wolf: the First Amendment, something that Mr. Agnew and Mr. Van Flein seemed to forget. Long live the Fourth Estate.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at


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Ron Fugate July 10, 2009 | 8:44 p.m.

You are right on!
Ron Fugate, BJ
Class of '69

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