A report which was baldly dishonest: Is the state of Virginia still being forced to pay for Bob McDonnell’s body wash?
Having read Laura Vozzella’s report in the Washington Post, we have no idea. Vozzella made no attempt to raise her concerns about body wash and nasal spray with Dennis Johnson, the state official in charge of this matter. And that was strange, because late in her article, she quoted Johnson giving McDonnell a clean bill of health:
VOZZELLA (6/17/13): Like all new governors and their families, the McDonnells were told the expense rules at the outset of the administration but needed some time for them to sink in, Johnson said in an interview. Energy drinks aside, Johnson said that ever since he gave the McDonnells their refresher on what the state will and won't pay for, their spending has been in line with state policy.Despite that statement by Johnson, Vozzella claims that McDonnell still seems to be getting free body wash. Weirdly, there is no sign that she ever asked Johnson to comment on this allegation.
“Typically when an administration comes in, we do discuss things," he said. "There are growing pains, and early on in the administration, there will be some things we have to review and discuss."
According to Virginia procedures, McDonnell is supposed to get his mouthwash for free. Vozzella is concerned about his body wash and his nasal spray, but she doesn’t seem to have run these specific concerns past Johnson.
Because we aren’t completely nuts, we can’t say we care a great deal about these pissant concerns. This is especially true when Vozzella presents her claims in such a bungled fashion.
But on Monday night, Rachel Maddow took Vozzella’s peculiar report and journeyed around the moon. You see, Maddow doesn’t approve of McDonnell—and her standards of accuracy are remarkably low when she pretends to report on such pols.
On Monday evening, Maddow staged a 17-minute hoedown for her opening segment. She showed old tape of Richard Nixon and staged a pair of nervous breakdowns about the governor’s use of a digestive system detox cleanse—about his troubling colonics.
The sheer stupidity of this conduct was the focus of Thursday’s post. Today, we thought you might want to see the way Maddow conned her viewers concerning some very basic facts.
In a word, her conduct was egregious. It may be that her work was just careless. But this is the sort of thing ought to get journalists fired.
To watch the whole segment, click here.
Can we talk? Maddow just isn’t obsessively honest, as we have told you for years. Her standards really tend to slip when she’s misleading us liberal rubes about pols like McDonnell.
The work which follows may remind you of an unfortunate fact—you have to be extremely careful about Maddow’s factual claims. In a more general sense, it may help you see the way the public can be misled when journalists withhold basic facts.
Make no mistake—Maddow advanced some inaccurate or unfounded claims in her endless report. Most strikingly, she said we “now know” that McDonnell has continued to make the state pay for his personal items, although Vozzella’s report plainly doesn’t establish that claim.
Beyond that, Maddow advanced several claims against McDonnell which Vozzella didn’t even allege. For example, is the state of Virginia still paying for McDonnell’s detox cleanse?
Vozzella never alleges that. But so what? Obsessed with this topic, Maddow rather plainly seems to state that as an established fact.
Maddow did advance some invented facts in her clownish report. More disgraceful was the range of facts she choose to withhold.
A skilled dissembler can greatly deceive you just by withholding certain facts. On Monday night, these are some of the basic facts Maddow withheld:
Johnson, the relevant state official, said McDonnell has observed state policy for the past three years. Maddow forgot to report that.
In Vozzella’s report, a McDonnell aide explains that the state is paying for McDonnell’s energy drinks because they constitute his breakfast and, as such, should be paid for under state rules. Maddow railed about the energy drinks, withheld the explanation.
Other explanations were withheld from Maddow’s report. But for a textbook case of deception by withholding, you have to consider what Maddow said about the Virginia state mansion chef.
At this point, you may want the children to step from the room. You may not want them to learn too much about the world when they’re still this young.
As part of her rant, Maddow went on at some length about accusations made by the mansion chef—the person employed by the state of Virginia to prepare its governor’s meals. Pretty much everything Maddow said was accurate. But good lord, the things she withheld!
You’re about to read work so slippery and so deceptive that it is truly qualifies as egregious:
MADDOW (6/17/13): Both of those probes follow accusations from the executive chef at the governor’s mansion. Accusations that the governor’s grown children were hauling off from the governor’s mansion kitchen with bottled water and cups and Gatorade and protein powder, flats of eggs, liquor for a private party taken out of the liquor cabinet at the governor’s mansion, also pots and pan, kitchen equipment, allegedly taken out of the governor’s mansion kitchen by the first lady and given to other people, given away.In that passage, you see Maddow emoting about the energy drinks while withholding the (perfectly sensible) explanation why they’re paid for. But what she says about the mansion chef is a journalistic disgrace.
“Take it! It’s yours! By which I mean it’s public, and therefore mine, and therefore–”
Those allegations from the chef are just allegations. They’re asserted by the executive chef in legal proceedings. They have not been proven in court.
But the chef has asked for records related to that alleged petty theft by the governor and his family, which if nothing else is a good reminder—if you are elected governor of Virginia, you do get your own personal chef. I mean, you get to be governor, which is cool enough, should be a good job, right? You also get a free mansion with free food, you get a free personal chef to cook it. You get free maids. You get one of the nation’s few state-funded butlers to serve you.
But free Ferrari rides and dog vitamin, those aren’t part of the deal, too?
Bob McDonnell sought to make those part of the deal. After he got the initial letter six months into his administration telling him that the state was not going to pay for the dog vitamins and the breath freshening strips and the body wash and all that stuff, the governor’s chief of staff fought back and demanded that the governor was going to get those free energy drinks.
So they paid up on the dog vitamins but the energy drinks, they fought that one. They’re keeping those. They fought to make sure that the taxpayers kept paying for the governor`s energy drinks.
In fact, the accusations Maddow lists are not being made by the mansion chef. They are being made by Todd Schneider, the former mansion chef.
Here’s why that distinction matters:
Schneider, the former mansion chef, left his job in February 2012 “amid an unspecified police inquiry,” as the Washington Post explained in real time. In 2000, Schneider had been “charged with felony embezzlement and found guilty of petty larceny embezzlement,” the Post also reported.
In March of this year, the glaze hit the fan. Schneider was indicted on four counts of felony embezzlement in connection with his work as mansion chef.
The “legal proceedings” to which Maddow so slickly referred is Schneider's impending trial on these felony charges.
It’s astonishing that Maddow pimped Schneider’s charges with so much high drama without explaining these facts. (Have we ever mentioned the fact that Maddow just isn’t real honest?) And Maddow understood these facts. This Monday, the following passage appeared near the top of Vozzella’s report:
VOZZELLA (6/17/13): Emerging as the former mansion chef faces charges of stealing food from the kitchen, the McDonnells' expense records provide some insight into how the executive home has been managed. The chef has alleged that the McDonnells—already entitled to a free mansion, food, personal chef, maids and one of nation's few state-funded butlers—have engaged in petty pilfering.Obviously, we have no way of knowing if Schneider’s charges are true. That said:
In court filings submitted as part of his defense, chef Todd Schneider has said that the McDonnells' five children raided the mansion kitchen and liquor cabinet, taking large quantities of food and alcohol to their own homes or college dorm rooms. He also said that Maureen McDonnell had given away mansion pots and pans to her three daughters. McDonnell has declined to respond to those accusations, noting the ongoing criminal case against the chef.
In our view, Vozzella underplayed the fact that these claims against the McDonnell family are being made as part of a defense in a criminal proceeding. But in an astounding act of deception, Maddow simply withheld that fact, working rather skillfully to do so.
(It’s a very talented staff.)
Maddow let you picture a bold whistle-blower blowing the whistle on the governor. She never even told her viewers that this was in fact the former chef, the one who has been indicted.
Maddow just isn’t real honest. We’ve told you this again and again—but we rubes just keep asking for more.
One last thought before we go. Did you hear about how dumb that stupid Miss Utah is? We certainly hope that she’ll start taking advice from Alex Wagner.
Skills straight outta Pravda: If you learned how to read by reading Pravda, you might have gleaned a few tiny glimmers from the brief interview which closed Maddow’s 17-minute segment.
She threw two questions at Mark Seagraves, a local reporter who is familiar with the McDonnell story. In his second statement, Seagraves offered this:
MADDOW: Bob McDonnell’s brand, I think the appeal of him, the idea of him as a national figure, really depended on this idea of him being so efficient, being about sound fiscal stewardship, being that kind of a conservative. Now we see him charging taxpayers for dog vitamins, insisting that taxpayers should pay for his energy drinks. What does that do to the Bob McDonnell brand long term?“Thank you for helping us understand this tonight!” Was that really the goal?
SEAGRAVES: You’re right. Governor McDonnell has been seen as that squeaky clean politician. That you may disagree with him about policies and about issues and whatnot, but people never really question his integrity.
And I think you even see in the recent polling data, while his approval rating is slipping to a two-year low, when you look at the numbers just about his ethics and his moral charter, he still gets high marks in Virginia for that. You know, his staff has been busy trying to explain that the energy drinks actually qualify as his breakfast and the governor and first lady are entitled to their breakfast and many of these receipts that the Washington Post got go back to 2011 and the gentleman who you spoke of who does actually all the bookkeeping acknowledged to the Post that he has this problem with every new governor when they come in.
But the timing of this is just all wrong. For not just Bob McDonnell for Ken Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket as they head into November.
MADDOW: Mark Seagraves, reporter for the NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. Mark, thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight.
Murkily, right at the end, Seagraves explained the energy drinks. He alluded to Johnson’s statement that every governor has some confusion with these rules when they first come in.
Seagraves didn’t explain that the chef is actually the former chef, and that he has been indicted for stealing from the mansion. He didn’t note that Johnson has given McDonnell a clean bill of health.
None of that was Seagraves’ fault. The fault here lied with Maddow, who was histrionically upset about high colonics and who just isn’t real honest.
Is this how we liberals want to be played? Can such conduct end well?