Tag Archives: Anson Tebbetts


A major tectonic shift in the Vermont political world seems to be underway. If you listen closely, you can hear the rumblings.

According to the very active political grapevine, Sen. Patrick Leahy will not seek re-election, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch will run for his Senate seat, and at least three prominent Democrats are rushing to fundraise and assemble a team to run for Welch’s seat.

I’ve also heard from one good source that Gov. Phil Scott won’t run for re-election either. I’m not sure if I believe that; there’s no way he’d lose in 2022 unless the pandemic goes hog-wild (which is at least a possibility after the last two days’ case counts). But then, Scott isn’t your typical politico and isn’t motivated by the usual political impulses. Could be he’s feeling the strain of managing the pandemic for the better part of two years.

We’ll leave that aside for the moment and go back to Leahy. I’d expected him to run for another term for several reasons: He’d set the all-time record for Senate seniority in his next term, he’s at the pinnacle of power, and as chair of Senate Appropriations he can ensure a steady supply of federal dollars to Vermont.

Also, cynically, an elderly Senator can be propped up by a reliable staff, which Leahy has. But I don’t know his personal situation; looming health issues for him or wife Marcelle could easily lead him to step aside. Or maybe he just wants to enjoy some retirement time. Or maybe he thinks the Republicans will take control of the Senate in 2022. That’d make another term a lot less appealing.

After the jump: Jockeying for position.

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I’m Sure Vermont Democrats Think They’re Trying. They’re not.

On the surface, the Vermont Democratic Party did just fine this election. Sure, Phil Scott cruised to re-election and they lost a few legislative seats. But Scott was virtually unbeatable thanks to his patient, measured response to the pandemic. Besides, it wasn’t one of their own who took the bullet, it was David Zuckerman, a Prog/Dem with the emphasis on Prog. And they elected a bright new hope, Molly Gray, to the lieutenant governorship, held onto the other statewide offices, and held on to lopsided majorities in the House and Senate.

But when you take a closer look, this was a sneaky bad year for the Dems. They once again let Scott steal their lunch money. This was a bad year to take him on, but they’ve barely tried to beat Scott in the last several cycles. Since the 2010 race for lieutenant governor, they’ve put up a parade of under-resourced first-timers against Scott, and he’s barely had to break a sweat.

Gray’s victory is nice, but she was up against a terrible Republican candidate. As for the Legislature, if this wasn’t the year to rack up gains, I don’t know what is. They had the benefit of widespread anti-Trump animus to drive support for down-ballot races, and failed to capitalize.

I didn’t realize how much the Vermont Dems were resting on their structural advantages until I listened to a pair of podcast interviews from the fine folks at Crooked Media. The first featured Ben Wikler, head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, the second was with Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, founder of of Project Fair Fight. Both have taken state parties that faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and both have turned those states into Democratic success stories.

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A picture is worse than a thousand words, I guess

Where do you draw the line between journalism and exploitation?

I know where the Burlington Free Press draws it, after reading its downright grisly, torture-porny article on yesterday’s testimony in the Allen Prue murder trial. The article colorfully entitled:

Medical examiner: Jenkins looked ‘beat up’

The Freeploid was happy to report WCAX’s mistaken broadcast of a crime scene photo that showed the murder victim’s body. (Or, as the ever-sensitive Mike Donoghue put it in a Tweet, “naked body of slain teacher.”) Which was wrong, and WCAX News Director Anson Tebbetts fell all over himself apologizing for it.

So, it’s wrong to show a picture. But apparently it’s all right to publish every detail of Medical Examiner Stephen Shapiro’s testimony, including the following phrases:

“Jenkins’ bruised and marked body”

Shapiro “…told the jury about the marks left by different types of strangulation. Shapiro said he determined Jenkins’ official cause of death to be manual strangulation, meaning done by hand.”

Gee, thanks for that clarification. I wouldn’t have guessed.

‘She looked beat up,’ Shapiro said, later adding. ‘She did not do this to herself.’

“Shapiro used a laser pointer to highlight different scrapes and bruises… including six circular marks.”

This was followed by a thorough retelling of the effects of a stun gun on a human body:

Shapiro said the effect of a stun gun is not quite the same as a Taser, since the Taser almost instantaneously incapacitates the person. The stun gun, on the other hand, causes pain but does not incapacitate.

“A stun gun that’s pressed up against your body is more of a compliance weapon,” Shapiro said.

You can almost feel the burn, can’t you?

The first sentence of the story began with “Several loved ones of Melissa Jenkins inhaled sharply and covered their eyes…”

If they happen to read today’s Free Press, I think they’ll be inhaling sharply and covering their eyes all over again.

I know how the Free Press would defend itself. It’s a high-profile murder case, the trial is open, the testimony is fair game, and The People Have A Right To Know.

But do we have to know every detail? Or is this another case of Clickbait Uber Alles?

To me, this story crossed a line. And it makes the Freeploid’s sanctimony over WCAX seem downright hypocritical.


A double standard at the Free Press? I am shocked! Shocked!

Ah, the Burlington Free Press: Champion of transparency everywhere outside its own doors.

The Gannett property steadfastly refuses to explain — or often even confirm — the organizational changes, comings and goings, mostly the latter, that affect the quality of its product and the ability of its readers — or should I say multiplatform consumers? — to depend on the Free Press for reliable, comprehensive journalism.

I’m sure the response from Michael Townsend would be, “Well, we’re a business! We have to protect our trade secrets and business strategy. Besides, we’re not bound to the same accountability standards as the public sector.”

Or, as he more succinctly put it to Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz earlier this week,

“I don’t talk to you guys,” he said. “I’m old-fashioned when it comes to competition.”

Oh, really? Well then, riddle me this, Batman: How come your reporters felt free to question WCAX-TV News Director Anson Tebbetts about the station’s mistaken broadcast of a photo of a murder victim?

And how come Tebbetts answered those questions?

“We’ve spent the last 24 hours apologizing for our terrible mistake,” Tebbetts told the Burlington Free Press. “We apologize to the family, her friends, the community and everyone that surrounded this case. It was a terrible mistake, and we’re deeply, deeply sorry.”

If the two men were in each other’s shoes, would Townsend have told Free Press reporters “I don’t talk to you guys”?

The Freeploid has plastered a thorough exploration of the WCAX incident in the prime spot on its webpage, seizing the opportunity to besmirch its’ competitor’s reputation.  And yet, it refuses to answer Heintz’ perfectly reasonable questions about newsroom cutbacks that will affect the quality of the Free Press’ product.

Anson Tebbetts feels a responsibility to his audience. Michael Townsend, apparently, does not.

The Burlington Free Press, transparency hypocrite.