Category Archives: The media

The Saddest October Surprise Ever

Hey, I hadn’t realized that former VTGOP chair Deb Billado had made a comeback. Congratulations!!

But seriously, the above image is from a nasty little political ad created by the Vermont Republican Party. They waited until now because it’s too late for anyone to make a cogent response. On the other hand, it’s also too late for such a message to sink in, especially since the party can’t afford the kind of advertising blitzkrieg that would punch this message through the noise and smoke of the home stretch.

The 30-second spot features a man identified as “Nathan,” said to be a former employee of David Zuckerman’s Full Moon Farm. “Nathan,” last name not given, is dressed just like a farm worker and stands in front of a suitably well-worn farm-type truck as he unrolls a litany of complaints about Zuckerman as a boss. Low pay, no time off, substandard accommodations, etc.

There is no way to verify Nathan’s identity or his story. The VTGOP, as far as I know, has made no attempt to back up his assertions. He might be a former employee with an ax to grind, justifiably or otherwise. (Any employer will eventually rub some people the wrong way.)

He might also be a Young Republican who’s never gotten dirt under his fingernails.

The cherry on top: The person behind the ad appears to be Republican National Committeeman (and lamprey on the underbelly of Vermont Republicanism) Jay Shepard. His business, Junction Consulting, has been paid $14,450 since October 28 for “Media – TV,” according to party filings with the secretary of state*. The party has reported no other expenditures on mass media.

Continue reading

A Child’s Treasury of Questions About Gerald Malloy

Oh hey, who dat?

It’s Gerald Malloy, our very own Republican candidate for Senate, yukkin’ it up with insurrectionist fraudster Steve Bannon!

This is an image from Malloy’s October 17 appearance on Bannon’s “War Room” show, during which Bannon called on his legions of followers to volunteer for, or donate to, Malloy’s campaign.

Hmm… October 17… that date rings a bell… right, right. That was the day federal prosecutors called for Bannon to be locked up for six months for defying a Congressional subpoena.

Well, as old Aesop once said, “A man is known by the company he keeps.”

Speaking of which, do you remember the Mark Coester hullaballoo? The archconservative Senate candidate ‘s logging truck was in Colchester’s Fourth of July Parade, festooned with fascist and alt-right banners.

And Malloy for Senate campaign materials.

“…the company he keeps.”

Malloy has been the Republican nominee for more than two months. For the most part, the media coverage of him has been awfully polite and incurious. (One exception: Kevin McCallum’s deep dive in Seven Days.) This is probably because no one thinks he’s going to win, so why bother going beneath the surface? But still, he is a major party candidate for high office. He ought to get as much scrutiny as any other candidate.

Continue reading

Just 60 Minutes of Darren Perron Clutching His Wallet

WCAX-TV rolled out the carpet for a gubernatorial debate last Thursday, and peppered the two major party candidates with questions that were I think prepared by a Republican consultant somewhere. The theme of the night was “How are you going to pay for ________?”

Housing? Brenda Siegel’s plans “cost money, how does that make Vermont a more affordable place to live?”

Emergency housing? Brenda Siegel, “how will you pay for [your emergency housing plans]?”

Universal primary care? Brenda Siegel, how would you pay for it?

Child care assistance? Brenda Siegel, how would you pay for it?

Do you sense a theme here? Well, I’ve got a couple more.

Continue reading

Did WCAX Get the Holiday Wrong? (Plus, Bonus Racist Comments!!!)

WCAX-TV posted this lovely graphic on its Facebook page today. It’s a nice effort to celebrate Not Columbus Day. But how much time did they spend on it, and did they get it wrong?

Today is not “Day of Indigenous People.” It’s “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

That might seem like a niggle, but two other points. First, there’s a United Nations “International Day of the World’s Indigenous People,” which could easily be shortened to “Day of Indigenous People.” It tracks closer than “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Second, is that a Native American pattern? It looks more like a West African kente cloth. Which would fit in with the UN’s day, but not this holiday. Did a higher-up tell some backroom gofer to grab an Indigenous Peoples’ Day graphic and post it on Facebook without giving it another thought? That’d be my guess. If someone from WCAX can prove this is a graphic produced for this day, I’ll happily post a correction.

Meanwhile, let’s have some fun with the inevitable flood of racist comments below WCAX’s Facebook post.

Continue reading

When Political Journalism Collapses In On Itself

The folks at VTDigger, home of The Best Political Journalists In the State, Bar None*, do a lot of good work. But once in a while, they step on a rake.

*As described by Managing Editor Paul Heintz at last week’s gubernatorial debate. Which begs the question, how many political reporters do we have, actually?

The latest Digger digger concerns extremist Republican candidate John Lyddy, who’s running in the Windham-6 district currently represented by retiring Democrat John Gannon. Lyddy is an election truther and self-described January 6 insurrectionist who was outed by the Vermont Democratic Party in a Sunday press release. Digger picked up the release and did the absolute minimum with it.

The real story here is that the Vermont Republican Party welcomes the likes of Lyddy with open arms. In fact, its legislative ticket is loaded with hard-core Trumpers, bigots, and Covid deniers. An organ with the Best Political Reporters Etc. might be expected to go out and get that story β€” seek out and identify all the extremists on the VTGOP ticket and ask what it indicates about the character and direction of the party and its legislative caucuses. Seems like the “moderates” are being weeded out and replaced with people in the Art Peterson mold.

But Digger didn’t do any of that. Instead, the story was framed as your standard political “he said, he said” story:

Vermont Democratic Party targets GOP over House candidate’s Jan. 6 involvement

See, the real story isn’t that the VTGOP’s door is wide open to the John Lyddys of the world. No, it’s that the Democrats are attacking the VTGOP.

Continue reading

Roger Garrity Doesn’t Get It

Note: After several days of holding fast, WCAX quietly removed the story from its website. News Director Roger Garrity told Seven Days, “We are now working with LGBTQ advocates on a message to the community acknowledging the harm that was caused.” About damn time.

The First Amendment is a powerful tool. It can inspire needed reforms, or uncover wrongdoing at the highest level. It can also wreak havoc on unfortunate bystanders.

Enter Roger Garrity, news director at WCAX-TV, an outlet that seems to be trending in the Fox News direction. On September 28, the station ran an irresponsibly one-sided story about a “locker room dispute” at Randolph High School. It extensively quoted a single member of the volleyball team who’s upset about sharing a locker room with a transgender student. She expressed the usual claptrap about “biological males” and at one point said, curiously, “My mom wants me to do this interview.”

See, in real journalism that’s the beginning of the reporting. But WCAX had some hot video and they ran with it, not giving a good goddamn about the consequences. Which are, as VTDigger’s headline put it, a “wildfire of bigotry.”

β€œIt’s been an absolute nightmare. Horrifying. My family is in constant pain from the lies and harassment,” said the mother of the 14-year-old trans student. The story went viral in the conservative media space, triggering the usual firestorm of outrage.

Garrity, having allowed his news team to toss a metaphorical Molotov cocktail into a crowded room, floated the Tucker Carlson excuse: We were reporting the controversy, not the incident itself.

Continue reading

Before We Discuss the Debate, We Must Have a Word About the Moderator

The trying-too-hard-to-smile fellow pictured above is Lee Kittell, program director at WDEV Radio. Quiet, very hardworking, seemingly pleasant enough fellow.

But my God, he put in a disgraceful performance as moderator of the gubernatorial debate held at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. He did a good job managing the flow, but his questions. They were long-winded, bombastic, and straight outta the QAnon/Trumpiverse.

The two candidates handled the situation as you might expect. Gov. Phil Scott slid past the questions and stuck to his canned talking points. Democrat Brenda Siegel responded strongly, even directly upbraiding Kittell on at least one occasion.

Let’s start with the nadir of this piece of performance art. The issue, you will be shocked to learn, was abortion. Kittell brought up Article 22 and asked if the candidates “approve the right to have an abortion right up to the delivery room?” Which is straight out of the anti-abortion playbook.

His follow-up was even worse. He referred to our current workforce issues and asked if “the 60 million abortions performed in the last 50 years” is a cause of worker shortages.

Continue reading

Well, Digger Has Belatedly Removed That Dwyer Essay

Three days after it posted a thinly-veiled endorsement of Molly Gray by an advisor to the Molly Gray campaign, VTDigger has thought better of it and taken it down.

Not sure why they did it, but to judge from the above Editor’s Note, lawyers may have been involved.

Ouch.

For those just joining us, on August 3 VTDigger posted a commentary by Carolyn Dwyer, longtime Pat Leahy consigliere and advisor to the Gray campaign, that laid out the attributes Dwyer wants to see in our next U.S. Representative. Those attributes closely tracked with Gray’s own biography. Dwyer also tried to posit Becca Balint as an “ideological warrior,” which is laughable considering that Balint has spent the past six years in Senate caucus leadership. In that position her first duty is to keep the caucus united, not impose her own policy vision. And the biographical note accompanying the essay failed to disclose Dwyer’s role in the Gray campaign.

I wrote up this adventure in journalistic carelessness soon after it happened. The next day, Digger rewrote the biographical note to include a reference to the Dwyer/Gray relationship.

Which only made posting the piece look worse, because it was a tacit admission that Dwyer was, in fact, promoting her candidate on Digger’s commentary page. That’s a no-no, and Digger has apparently realized that only three days late.

Continue reading

Molly Gray Has a Friend at the Messenger

Meet Emerson Lynn, editor emeritus (and editorial writer) for the St. Albans Messenger, respected presence in Vermont journalism, and, according to a letter to the Messenger, court stenographer for Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s campaign for Congress.

On Thursday July 14, the Messenger published an editorial written by Lynn endorsing Gray in truly fulsome terms and bashing her main opponent, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. The essay sounds like it was written by the Gray campaign.

Which, maybe it was.

The letter is from Natalie Silver, who was an advisor to the 2020 Gray campaign and is now Balint’s campaign manager. (I was told about the letter and inquired with the Balint campaign, which supplied it to me.)

In the letter, Silver accuses Lynn of being a shill for Molly Gray.

In 2020, during Gray campaign meetings, Silver wrote, “It was discussed openly that you were a Molly supporter and that the campaign would coordinate with you on your editorials, even drafting language for you.” Silver claimed the same thing is happening now on Gray’s behalf. Further, Silver asserts that “you have never spoken to me or [Balint], nor asked us a question about any of the various goings on in the campaign,” and, in fact, rejected the offer of a meeting. (Full text below.)

Silver doesn’t come across as selflessly heroic in this. In 2020 this arrangement helped Silver’s candidate and she was fine with it. Now it hurts her candidate and she’s complaining, so this is a case of situational ethics all around. But hey, situational ethics are standard in politics, are they not?

Continue reading

“Overabundance of Caution” Means Whatever the Hell Tom Evslin Says It Means

The VTDigger commentary space is often a repository for the very best in straw-man punching: setting up an easy target and dispatching it with, if you’re talented enough, a rhetorical flourish.

Well, Tom Evslin, entrepreneur, serial Republican donor, self-appointed technology seer and number-one fan* of Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet service**, went one better in the straw man competition. He threw together a whole bunch of miscellaneous straw men under the rubric of “overabundance of caution” and went straight down the line, punching each of them in turn. All in service of a point that apparently made sense to him but is, in fact, utterly incoherent.

*He has given his own Starlink satellite dish a nickname: “Dishy”

*His occasional musings on the glories of Starlink have found a home on True North Reports, because Musk is the closest thing reality offers to an Ayn Rand hero. Except Musk is a phony; his companies have received literally billions in public sector grant funding.

The overarching point is that Our Political Leaders sometimes overreact to a potential danger, thus putting us all in metaphorical shackles. And by “overreact,” I mean doing something that Tom Evslin disagrees with. Ah, if only we were all as wise as he.

Continue reading