23 March 2007

Unsubstantiated claims

If you go back and listen to the House Republicans' press availability from last Monday, you'll hear two rather remarkable claims from House Speaker John Harris:


"Did the public understand about the Ocean Ranger program they voted on? Because quite frankly in the whole debate over cruise ship head tax which is really what the debate was about the Ocean Ranger program was never discussed by anybody. There can be, as far as I can tell, no record at all in any newspaper, no record at all in any media program that I can find where the Ocean Ranger program was part and parcel of the discussion."
I guess the Speaker and I consume different media sources. I can absolutely guarantee that the Ocean Ranger program was mentioned in KNOM's coverage of the the ballot measure. We're regional media, for sure, but I know that APRN devoted at least a full hour on Talk of Alaska to the program and I'm sure it came up there. On top of all that, the Division of Elections sent around a detailed description of the initiative, including the Ocean Ranger program. To state as unequivocally as the Speaker did that the program was never mentioned strikes me as just begging to be contradicted.

"We're trying to figure out exactly what the intent was and if the sponsors themselves had conflicts of interests involving people they represent."
First of all, I'm not sure it's the legislature's job to figure out what the intent of the initiative is. That was the job of the voters and the voters expressed their opinion on the measure last summer. Now lawmakers need to implement it.

But more importantly, the conflict of interest charge is spurious if provided without any back-up or supporting evidence. It's particularly spurious given the contributions of the cruise ship industry to the Republican party. If you want to talk conflict of interest, that's where I would start.

I waited during the press availability for someone to challenge the Speaker on both of these claims, to make him - you know - support his claims with evidence. That never happened. At a minimum, the goal of the media should be not to allow politicians to make claims without being forced to substantiate them. Otherwise, "facts" just enter the public record (e.g. "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction") when they have no right to.

I've been waiting since Monday for some statewide media organization to mention this mendacious approach to the will of the people. There can be, as far as I can tell, no record at all in any newspaper, no record at all in any media program that I can find where the Speaker's comments were part and parcel of the discussion.


First Alaskan Man said...

Well said Jessie

CabinDweller said...

Thank you! There are few things more frustrating to a news junkie than reading/hearing/watching a news story that consists of little more than he said/she said, without the reporter actually checking into whether what one of the parties involved said bears a resemblance to the truth.