Cable news guests say the darnedest things!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2014

Why viewers have to be careful: Cable news guests say the darnedest things. When you listen to such guests, you really do have to be careful.

Consider Nick Acocella, who guested with Lawrence on last Thursday’s Last Word. Lawrence introduced him as “editor and publisher of Politifax New Jersey.”

That's a branch of PolitickerNJ.

Eventually, Acocella spoke. Part of this was right on target. Part of this was weird:
ACOCELLA (1/16/14): [Christie] is a very cautious guy. He’s a trained lawyer, and he’s going to talk lawyer talk. We don’t know what he’s going to do. We don’t—

You know what? We don’t know anything yet. All we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know. Every piece of paper we’ve had came from the papers that, that he submitted to the committee. And I’m assuming the committee didn’t leak them. So everything we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know. And I think a lot of it is him hinting to the U.S. attorney that “I’ve got more on this person if you come to me with an offer.”
We very much agree with one part of the highlighted statement. At this point, we actually don’t know much about this very peculiar set of events. In particular, it’s very unclear why those traffic lanes were closed.

Various motives have been proposed. At this point, it’s very unclear if any of them will turn out to be right.

If we assume a bad motive in the lane closings, the conduct seems especially weird. According to sworn testimony, David Wildstein was directly warned that the closings would cause a great deal of trouble in Fort Lee and that everybody would notice.

This testimony came from Cedrick Fulton, Director of Tunnels, Bridges, and Terminals, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): And what did you say to Mr. Wildstein?

FULTON: One, that it was important for the Executive Director to be advised. Two, that because this would be such a visible event—no one would miss it—that our media relations should be advised; and that three, the town of Fort Lee would be greatly concerned with this test.
According to Fulton, Wildstein was told that the lane closings would be a highly visible event. “No one would miss it.”

Wildstein went ahead with the closings as planned. If you’re doing something as an act of revenge, that’s a peculiar way to proceed.

Normally, people will try to exact revenge in ways that don’t get widely noticed. At least, that’s how it gets done in the movies.

The fact that everyone was bound to notice is what makes the closings so weird. Also weird: Acoccella’s remark about who released all the emails and documents in this case.

On January 8, a sharply limited number of emails and text messages were released to the press. Generally speaking, newspapers didn’t disclose the source of these documents.

Later, the New York Times public editor said these document were released “by a source in New Jersey politics.” According to the public editor, “it’s safe to say that the reporters got the emails the old-fashioned way: Leaked to them by a politically motivated source in New Jersey.”

That was the first batch of documents. On January 10, thousands of pages of emails and text messages were released—but in this case, there was no mystery about the source.

In the next day’s New York Times, Kate Zernike referred to “the release on Friday of roughly 2,000 pages of documents by New Jersey state legislators, which included emails and texts among top officials in the Christie administration and officials at the Port Authority.”

Earlier, Zernike had reported that the documents would be released that day. “Democratic legislators” in New Jersey had “promised to release more documents on” that day, she said, referring to the committee members who were probing the traffic lane closings.

Six days later, Acocella was still saying he assumed that the committee didn’t release the documents. “So everything we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know.”

In one basic way, Acocella was right! In our view, “we [pretty much] don’t know anything yet“ about these extremely strange events. We think it’s important to keep that point in mind as we move forward from here.

You might even say that Acocella was more right than he knew! We were puzzled by the second part of his statement. Lawrence just kept going.

12 comments:

  1. I know everyone makes mistakes and also that most statements are not mistaken, but there is a kind of circularity in first criticizing Zernike's accuracy (previous post) and then using Zernike to fact check Acocella. We know it was the committee that released those documents, but shouldn't there be independent verification when someone is accused of being wrong, not just another reporter's statement? Perhaps a nitpick.

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    1. My take on that is that Bob was merely stating what Zernike reported, not that he was using her to fact check.

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  2. "If you’re doing something as an act of revenge, that’s a peculiar way to proceed."

    Yes, Wildstein went ahead - *without* notifying the PAED or the town of For Lee. Sokolich said the PA police were telling commuters that he, Sokolich, ordered the closing. Wonder how they got that idea....

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    1. The source for this, according to Sokolich, is "many people have told me" that the Port Authority police told them...that makes this hearsay. Since he wrote this in a letter of complaint to Baroni, it is pretty far from evidence of Wildstein or anyone in the PA instructing the police to say something, which is your clear implication. Flimsy evidence, especially if you consider that Sokolich might have his own motives in this situation, beyond being a simple victim responding to an act of revenge (as he has portrayed himself). Note that Sokolich changing his story to enhance his charges against Christie doesn't help that characterization much.

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    2. Right. Let's apply the same rules of evidence required in a court proceeding to a letter from a mayor begging for help from New Jersey's top official on the Port Authority.

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  3. OH DEAR GOD OF ALL THAT IS MERCIFUL. Even the governor has said it was a vendetta, the only one sticking with "it just was a study" story is Bob.

    TDH, just admit you were wrong, Maddow and more importantly the reporters at the Bergen Record were right and move on.

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