"Nothing in my 50-year career prepared me for the thousands of flaming e-mails I got last week over my last column, e-mails so abusive and many so obscene that part of The Post's Web site was shut down."
Was she upset because they told her she was wrong? Or were the emails genuinely abusive. Can we trust Howell's reporting? Let's hear how she tells the rest of the story.....
The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican
Howell's original column scrupulously avoided mentioning that fact, calling Abramoff a "top dog lobbyist." In fact, it contorted itself to avoid that statement. Post reporter's used him as a source for stories, she wrote, saying he was often quoted in stories about a long list of topics - "Republican politics, fundraising, Jewish causes, the Capital Athletic foundation...and his two restaurants." He was "influential" among conservative lawmakers. But was he a Republican? Howell never says...
The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican and dealt mainly with Republicans
Her column reported (incorrectly) that Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." And when it noted conservative readers' disappointment that no Democrats had appeared in the first tier of the scandal investigations, Howell couldn't resist adding "stay tuned!"
The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican and dealt mainly with Republicans, most prominently former House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas.
Nowhere does her column say anything even approaching the statement that Abramoff "dealt mainly" with Tom Delay. Ironically, what it did contain was complaints from readers that the Post was ignoring Abramoff's closeness with DeLay. Maybe what Howell is remembering is brushing off those complaints with a shrug of "Whatever the degree of closeness," lauding the Post's reporters for "tying the two together".
I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
Actually, what you should have said is he directed his client Indian tribes to reduce their contributions to Democrats.
I should give her points for saying this:
...it's a Republican scandal...
Except it's preceded by a sentence where she writes off every legitimate criticism as a laughable straw man.
I heard that I was lying, that Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money, that I was trying to say it was a bipartisan scandal, as some Republicans claim. I didn't say that. It's not a bipartisan scandal; it's a Republican scandal.Lie!
Well, half-lie. Howell did everything she could to imply this was a bipartisan scandal. (Saying Abramoff contributed "substantial amounts" to both parties.) Even what she meant to say would still have been misleading. The Post itself reported on June 2 that "Abramoff lobbyists channeled most of their clients' giving to GOP legislators."
Even stranger, Howell cited that very article last Sunday. And here's something important. That same June 2 article included the Democrats' statement that the tribes would have given this money anyways.
- Kennedy co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus two years earlier, and he's personal friends with one of the tribe's chiefs.
- South Dakota's Daschle pointed out he also received money from 59 non- Abramoff tribes.
- Harry Reid is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
So let's see, the Democrats got money from Indian tribes which had been giving them money in larger amounts before Abramoff became their advisor. Howell's actually brushing off a true statement. The Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money. (Abramoff didn't like Democrats. He once said that "It's not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently.")
The Post's defenders (including Howell) are hanging a lot of their arguments on this. If you squint, you can see a $2000 donation recommended for Democrat Jean Carnahan of Missouri, and there's also a $2000 donation recommendation for Georgia Democrat Max Cleland. The rest of the list is composed entirely of Republicans. (There's an entry for Tom Daschle on the list too, but it looks like it's been whited out.)
Again, Howell falls back on the formulation that allows her to claim
that Democrats are somehow involved - and, that she wasn't wrong.
"Abramoff's Indian clients contributed money to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats
She seems to have forgotten all about that June article in which Democrats said they would have received that money anyways - the article she was so proud of just 7 days ago.
Credit where credit is due. I applaud Deborah Howell for saying this.
There is no more fervent believer in the First Amendment than I am, and I will fight for those e-mailers' right to call me a liar and Republican shill with salt for brains.
But just when you're starting to agree with Howell...
But I am none of those.
Then she goes on to whine that she was the victim of "a public
stoning." And why?
"I don't know."
Oh, come on. Now she's just playing naive....
But it is profoundly distressing if political discourse has sunk to a level where abusive name-calling and the crudest of sexual language are the norm, where facts have no place in an argument.
Ah, facts. There were a few pesky facts which seem to have eluded Howell as well.
Okay, now that we've got it out of our system, I have to applaud Howell again. She cites a thoughtful email that she received, and quotes a whole paragraph of it. Okay, granted, it was an email from someone saying he'd decided that she did have integrity after all, and he was sorry he'd attacked her. But at least it showed her readers that not every one of the emails she got was abusive, obscene, or full of the "crudest sexual language."
And Howell does seem aware that she messed up. She at least alludes to
that again, writing...
Going forward, here's my plan. I'll watch every word. I'll read every e-mail and answer as many legitimate complaints as I can.
I imagine next time she goes to write that Abramoff gave a bunch of money to Democrats, she will, in fact, be much more likely to double-check whether or not that's actually true.
And so it goes....