Tag Archives: St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record

A Covid Denier Gets an Editorial Rug Pulled From Under Her

The Giants of Journalism over at VTDigger got themselves in a spot of bother last Friday, when they posted a commentary by one Aimee Stephenson making a dubious connection between Covid vaccines and GMOs. The piece was quickly removed, and replaced with a note saying that the essay “did not meet VTDigger’s editorial standards.”

The note raises some questions, such as what exactly are VTDigger’s editorial standards when it comes to commentaries? And how did the piece get published in the first place?

I think I know. Digger follows the pattern of print newspapers in publishing commentaries. It’s a way to give the people a voice occupy space at no cost to the publisher. The editorial touch ranges from light to nonexistent. I imagine the process is something like, “Hey, we got a commentary. Next time we need some filler, let’s run it.”

Example: The Times Argus recently published a lengthy commentary by one David Spaulding, fiercely critical of the T-A and all those “liberal” news outlets like the Associated Press. Their offense? Failing to doggedly pursue the alleged scandal of Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Seriously. “Editorial standards,” indeed.

While Stephenson’s piece no longer graces the VTDigger website, the St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record has a more… forgiving… editorial standard. It published Stephenson’s piece without blinking an eye, and it’s still there. So let’s take a look at what Digger retroactively decided to kill.

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Janssen Willhoit: a correction and amplification

In my previous post, I reported the criminal past of Janssen Willhoit, Republican candidate for the legislature in St. Johnsbury. He served time in a Kentucky prison for running an investment scam, and failing to make restitution to his victims.

In my post, I wrote the following:

… he has not revealed his troubles; his campaign bio carefully omits any hint of his criminal offense and incarceration, even as it trumpets his advocacy for inmates’ rights.

My conclusion: His offense doesn’t disqualify him from public service, but the voters deserve to know and have the opportunity to make their own judgments. It appears to me that the candidate could tell a powerful and believable story of redemption. But he needs to explain why he deserves the public’s trust.

I’ve been informed by a keen observer in St. J that this is not true: he has been openly speaking of his experiences. From the May 14 Caledonian-Record:

… His path to St. Johnsbury includes being a financial broker, an independent investment advisor, going to prison, and being raped in prison. Being raped earned him time in the “hole” which meant he missed his parole hearing. During his time in prison Janssen committed himself to helping people in need. He started by helping prisoners learn to read, while he was still in prison, and being sent back to the hole for starting a “reading gang.”

Janssen eventually received an executive pardon from the Kentucky governor, and then became instrumental in getting many changes to the Kentucky prison system — including making same-sex rapes a crime. There is a connection between Kentucky and Vermont — Vermont houses inmates in Kentucky and Janssen learned of Vermont’s work with prisoner rights.

Unfortunately for me and for the truth, the Caledonian-Record’s content is behind a paywall, and is not referenced on Internet search engines.

In my searches about Willhoit, I could find no hint that he had revealed his past. His website contains no clue of it. I tried to be thorough, I tried to be factual, and I tried to be fair.

And I failed. For that, I apologize to Mr. Willhoit.

At the end of my post, I wrote the following:

… the people of St. Johnsbury should know about it, and he should fully explain the circumstances of his offense, whether he has repaid his victims, and if not, why not. After that, the voters can make an informed choice.

In fact, he had already done that. He has been forthcoming about his past, and the voters can make an informed choice.

Which leaves me with one unanswered question: did the person who gave me the tip about Willhoit know that he’d been honest about his past? If not, then no harm, no foul. If so, then I’ve been the victim of a dirty political trick. In the future, I’ll try to be more careful about such things.