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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 
the facebook scandal and the hostettler blog
turns out that the "facebook scandal" (or "facebookgate" if you want to be really lame about it) got more media attention than i realized last week. i knew about the original article in the evansville courier & press that started the whole thing, all the pertinent blogs talking about it, etc. but how did i miss the AP story?:

The Bloody Eighth could live up to its nickname sooner than expected.

The race for the 8th Congressional District got off to a rough start for Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth this week when a supporter of U.S. Rep John Hostettler found Internet pictures of Ellsworth's 19-year-old daughter drinking alcohol at Indiana University, where she is a sophomore.

IU law student Joshua Claybourn alerted the Evansville Courier & Press, which published a front-page story about the photographs Friday that set off a buzz in the district.

the article gets back to claybourn for the last two paragraphs:

Claybourn said that even though he told the newspaper about the photographs, he did not intend for them to draw so much attention.

"I suspect and hope that this becomes a footnote," he said. "The actions of the sheriff's family matter much less than the issues and ideas behind the campaign."

he didn't "intend for them to draw so much attention"? how does this make sense? the whole reason you tell the newspaper about something is because you want to draw attention to it.

anyway, go ahead and read the full article. you can find it at the websites of the fort wayne news-sentinel, the louisville courier-journal, the reporter times (martinsville), and the princeton daily clarion, and a much shorter version on WTHR (the website. i have no idea if this saw air in indy). it probably appeared in at least a couple other regional newspapers, but probably not too far outside the region.

it was on evansville tv, too, on WFIE if not on other networks as well. (link has video, which doesn't work in firefox, but i got to work in IE. (wtf IE? wtf WFIE?) the end of that story gives me another bit of info i'd been unaware of:

Late Friday afternoon, the Indiana Democratic Party called on Congressman Hostettler to publicly condemn the actions of the supporter who forwarded the pictures of Ellsworth's daughter to the media.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker called what happened a 'cheap attack,' and said Hostettler owes it to the people of the 8th district to set a campaign standard that doesn't include going after an opponent's family.

So far, there's been no reaction from the Congressman to the call that he issued a public apology.

sure enough here's the press release from the indiana democratic party. i seriously doubt that hostettler has issued any such apology. there's no mention of it in the much-trumpeted hostettler blog about it, and i see no mention of it in my searches.

come to think of it, do you think it's a coincidence that there is a story in the press on feb 3 that makes hostettler look like a mudslinger, and then on the 4th-5th, there are stories in the c&p (the same outlet that first printed the mudslinging) and the AP (here, here, here, and here) about how 1337 hostettler is because he has a blog and podcast? is it a coincidence that he launched his podcast back in november and yet there is suddenly all this discussion about his podcast in february? i mean, the fact that he has a podcast isn't exactly news if he's had it for a couple months now, right? so why now?

is it cynical to think that the timing of the podcast story reeks of a PR damage control operation orchestrated by a hostettler campaign that is now desperately trying to distance itself from the ellsworth smear? is it especially cynical to think that maybe the "hostettler blog" story was specifically released to distract bloggers who might otherwise be following the facebook story, by subconsciously appealing to bloggers' vanity about the importance of blogging?

maybe i am cynical, but the timing sure smells suspicious to me.

update: TDW alerts us to two pieces in today's courier & press about the issue.

the first is joshua claybourn's defense/apology (as one of the commenters there points out, it's mostly a defense and doesn't turn into an apology until the last two paragraphs), which you might have already seen because claybourn posted it as an editor's note on ITA (in the thread where my comments were deleted, leading to my banning). the second piece is today's letters to the editor, which 5-to-1 think the whole story is scummy, though some reserve their ire for hostettler and others for claybourn. the one letter that doesn't excoriate one of those two republicans is in response to a letter from monday demanding hostettler apologize for the whole deal because "you have a responsibility to control the actions of your obvious political allies."

2nd update: joshua claybourn emailed me, and after a brief correspondence, i have been un-banned from ITA. in his emails, claybourn asserted that ITA policy is to only ban those who make obscene comments (which mine surely were not), and suggested that that either A) someone else on my network/with my IP left obscene comments, or B) ITA "mistakenly banned the wrong one."

this is possible, though when you consider that two of my comments were deleted prior to my banning, and also factor in that the original ITA post had been heavily edited, along with ITA's "no caching" policy, the whole thing looks rather suspicious.

i have no idea who at ITA deleted my comments or banned me, nor do i know why. judging from the chain of events that we know to be true, i can think of two very different scenarios:

1) claybourn made a mistake by passing on andrea ellsworth's facebook info to the c&p. then, embarrassed by his role in an unfolding scandal, claybourn and/or his co-authors tried to downplay the scandal, resulting in a series of further mistakes that make them appear to be more guilty than they are. in this scenario, claybourn and ITA made a few mistakes and responded poorly from a PR standpoint, but their intentions were basically good.

2) claybourn, perhaps at the request of the hostettler campaign, deliberately tried to smear ellsworth. when this backfired, claybourn (and possibly his co-authors) tried to suppress dissent by revising the post at ITA, deleting comments that got too close to the truth, and banning dissenting commenters. then, after my previous post called attention to their malfeasance, they tried to do damage control by (finally) responding to the maggie daniels question, making up excuses for why the post had been edited, and eventually un-banning me—but only because my criticisms had become impossible to ignore. in this scenario, claybourn and ITA are cold partisan mudslingers whose intentions are anything but noble.

i'd like to believe #1—i really would—but there is enough weird stuff going on that i feel obligated to at least acknowledge possibility #2.

It's the cover up that gets you, every time. You'd think they'd know that by now, considering how often they screw that up.

Congratulations on being Atrios'ed BTW. That's one of my goals in life. ¶

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