We all know that the political reporting at our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, consists mostly of rewriting the press releases it receives from the campaigns and maybe contacting the media flak who sent the press release. If it’s a congressional race, the Star somehow feels compelled to contact its former political
reporter hack Daniel Scarpinato, who now works for the RNCC, for a gratuitous quote.
The Star has been engaging in highly selective editorial discretion this week in how it is reporting on the VA scandal in Phoenix, based upon news reports from The Arizona Republic (that’s right, the Star gets its news from other newspapers). The editors are glossing over Sen. John McCain.
On Monday, the Star reported Local angle: Kirkpatrick heard from VA whistleblower in February: “In comments to the Arizona Republic, [Dr.] Foote said a McCain aide responded but Kirkpatrick’s staff never did.” (I’m curious, is Sen. John McCain not the senator for Southern Arizona as well? Is he not a “local angle”?)
The real purpose of this report, no doubt encouraged by Daniel Scarpinato: “One of Kirkpatrick’s political opponents, Arizona House Rep. Adam Kwasman, called for her to resign Sunday. “It’s unforgivable to let something like this go,” he said.
Here is the report from The Arizona Republic. McCain, Kirkpatrick criticized on VA. It turns out this was a bit of sloppy reporting by the Republic that the Star amplified with its summary of reporting from the Republic.
The Republic had to publish a correction to its earlier sloppy reporting today, in two reports. It turns out that taking Dr. Foote at his word without actually checking out the facts is a mistake. Practice tip: when someone has an axe to grind, ask to see the evidence. McCain assails Republic story on VA response:
In a news release, McCain’s chief spokesman, Brian Rogers, reiterated that the office made contact, via e-mail, with Dr. Sam Foote on Feb. 7, two days after logging receipt of a letter Foote sent to the VA’s Office of Inspector General alleging misconduct.
Foote is the retired VA doctor who exposed manipulation of wait-time records that has sparked a national scandal, prompting the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
In the Feb. 7 e-mail to Foote, McCain’s office offered to pursue the allegations as long as Foote either signed a privacy release or submitted the complaint anonymously.
In an interview with The Republic, Rogers said the form is standard Senate practice to comply with rules on confidentiality and the Privacy Act.
According to the McCain timeline, Foote did not respond. They called him six weeks later, on March 21, and, according to Rogers, Foote declined to sign the privacy paperwork and said he was already participating in the inspector general’s probe of the Phoenix VA.
“The Arizona Republic’s article today alleging that Senator McCain’s office was ‘slow to take action’ on a VA whistle-blower complaint by Dr. Sam Foote is totally inaccurate,” Rogers said in his statement.
* * *
Foote said Tom McCanna, McCain’s aide responsible for veterans issues, immediately responded to his e-mail with a Feb. 5 note that said simply, “Thank you, sir.”
On or about that date, Foote said, he had a phone conversation with McCanna, who kept telling him he would have to fill out the privacy form to be served as a constituent, and Foote kept explaining he was not seeking constituent services but urgently was trying to give McCain important information.
* * *
Foote did not recall getting the Feb. 7 e-mail from McCanna, but checked his old messages and found it.
Foote said his phone conversation with McCanna left him with an impression that there would be no help from McCain’s office.
You know what they say about when you assume — you make an ass out of you and — well, just you.
Dr. Foote was wrong about Rep. Kirkpatrick as well. Kirkpatrick: Staffer responded to VA whistle-blower:
A top staffer for U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., provided e-mails Wednesday to show she responded to a Veterans Affairs whistle-blower but didn’t hear back, clarifying an earlier version of events provided to The Republic by the office.
Chief of Staff Carmen Gallus previously said she had no record of responding to retired VA Dr. Sam Foote, but took his allegations seriously and forwarded them to a House Veterans Affairs’ Committee investigator.
[O]n Wednesday, Gallus said she found archived e-mails that showed she contacted Foote.
* * *
On Feb. 24, Foote e-mailed Gallus, describing his allegations and saying he had faxed letters to Kirkpatrick’s office twice during early February without response.
A week later, on March 4, Gallus replied, asking for a phone conference and saying the office could not find copies of his faxed letters.
“Do you have time this week to talk to the member of our team who handles our VA committee work?” Gallus wrote. “The three of us can hop on a call. Thursday would be best on our end.”
Foote corroborated the e-mails on Wednesday, forwarding his copies to The Republic. He never replied to Gallus.
* * *
Kirkpatrick spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said the e-mails show Gallus did take action, responding within a week to Foote and contacting the committee about the allegations.
So whose fault is it, Dr. Foote? You never followed up with either McCain or Kirkpatrick.
“I got no response to my first letter so I resent it,” Foote said by e-mail Wednesday. “When (Kirkpatrick’s) staff contacted me, I was already in contact with Eric Hannel and he assured me that as the ranking member of the committee (Kirkpatrick) would be aware of everything that I would send him. I was set at that point as far as I was concerned.”
So that’s an entirely different story than your original “I never got a response,” Dr. Foote. You did get a response. Like I said, when someone has an axe to grind, ask to see the evidence.
Curiously, the Arizona Daily Star has not posted the correction for Sen. John McCain to its Pueblo Politics blog, but it has posted a correction to its earlier summary of the Republic report about Ann Kirkpatrick to its Pueblo Politics blog, but is sticking with its Daniel Scarpinato inspired RNCC framing. CD1 Watch: Kirkpatrick details VA actions, Kwasman and Tobin call it inaction:
The main VA whistleblower was wrong when he told the Arizona Republic that Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s staff never responded to a letter he sent her about problems at the Phoenix VA, Kirkpatrick’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Whistleblower Sam Foote sent an email to Kirkpatrick in February. It was titled “Deaths at the Phoenix XA.”
Here’s the full statement from Kirkpatrick spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson.
“Recent news stories reported that Congresswoman Kirkpatrick’s office did not respond to Dr. Foote, but this is incorrect and it’s important to set the record straight.”
“On June 4, after reviewing email archives, Kirkpatrick chief of staff Carmen Gallus produced emails confirming that she had responded to Dr. Foote and offered him a conference call with staff to discuss the Phoenix VA allegations. Immediately after responding to Foote, Kirkpatrick’s staff contacted the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and learned that the allegations were under investigation by the Inspector General.”
“Kirkpatrick’s inquiry into the Phoenix allegations was noted by the Inspector General as the first from any member of Congress and it was elevated as a priority. Because of the open investigation, our office recognized that the committee was the appropriate point of contact for Dr. Foote.”
“Our office is grateful to Dr. Foote for his relentless efforts to expose horrific and heartbreaking practices at the Phoenix VA. His commitment to our veterans is unquestionable. Unfortunately, there are others who have politicized the Phoenix VA issues, but now is the time to stop the politics and focus on fixing a broken system, holding people accountable and getting our veterans the care they deserve.”
Of course, the duelling dipshits Andy Tobin and Adam Kwasman who are running for Congress in CD 1, and who sought to exploit veterans by politicizing the VA scandal for political gain in relying on inaccurate media reports, are not apologizing for their earlier hyperbolic remarks, but are sticking with the GOP talking points from the RNCC. This just demonstrates that they lack the moral character and judgment to serve District 1 in Congress.
The Arizona Daily Star owes an apology to its readers and to Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick for its previous inaccurate and misleading reporting, and for its continuing use of RNCC framing from Daniel Scarpinato.