Tag Archives: WCAX

Big Ol’ Cop Whines Like a Baby

Oh noes, Northfield Police Chief John Helfant has a bad case of the hurt fee-fees. Helfant, who has somehow kept his job despite being labeled as an unreliable witness by the Washington County State’s Attorney, claims he’s a victim of retaliation for his bigoted comments about transgender athletes.

Let’s back up a minute. Helfant felt it necessary to wade into the controversy triggered by a disgrace-to-journalism report by WCAX-TV, since taken down and banished to purgatory, about the situation with the Randolph High School girls’ volleyball team. WCAX’s original report, for which it has failed to apologize and devoutly wishes would go away forever, featured one interview with an athlete who, at the bidding of her mother, went public with a complaint about a transgender team member. By all other accounts, she made up some shit about being harassed by the trans girl.

Helfant, who previously made a fuss about a Black Lives Matter flag at the high school, wrote a letter to school officials complaining about the equal accommodation offered to the trans girl and accusing the district of abetting criminal activity. Just to be sure it went public, he offered it up for publication by the Vermont Daily Chronicle. In it, Helfant repeatedly referred to trans girls as “biological males” or even as “male students” and called for them to be segregated in locker rooms and bathrooms. He wrote that the district might be criminal accessories to voyeurism for allowing the trans girl — oh, pardon me, “male student” — to use the gender-appropriate locker room.

The district has temporarily removed him as a volunteer coach for the girls’ soccer team, citing unfinished paperwork related to the customary background check for school coaches. You know, because there have been so many instances of youth coaches sexually abusing their charges, background checks seem like a good idea, no exceptions, even if you’re a police chief. Or, say, a Catholic priest.

Maybe it’s retaliation, I don’t know. But if I were running the district, Helfant would be kicked to the curb for good.

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Not Good Enough, WCAX. Nowhere Near Good Enough.

WCAX-TV is still in the doghouse, if not the outhouse, for its handling of the situation at Randolph High School. The station aired, and later took down, a story based on one single interview with a volleyball player who claimed to have been harassed by a transgender teammate. The reporter made no effort to fact-check or even talk to anyone else. WCAX aired the inflammatory accusation. Or, as the trans girl’s mother put it, they set a bomb and lit the fuse.

The station’s handling of the situation has been a disgrace. The original decision to run the story, the initial denials that the station was in any way at fault, the cowardly removal of the story from its website without saying a word about it, station manager Jay Barton’s belated blame-everbody-else statement, and the station’s refusal to take part in a “Vermont Edition” show about the story and the damage it has caused. (As of this writing, early afternoon on October 19, the show has not been archived online. It will be later this evening.)

Extra bonus: Barton’s non-apology aired during the news on October 13, and as far as I can tell, it is not accessible anywhere online. By its actions, it’s clear that WCAX is embarrassed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t conceal the story and Barton’s statement.

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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.

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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.

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Does Anybody Else Find It Interesting That Phil Scott is Under 50%?

So, the poll.

The headlines blare “Scott and Zuckerman have double-digit leads.” True enough. But I find my eye drawn to Gov. Phil Scott’s 48% support in the WCAX-commissioned survey. That seems low for a guy who got 69% of the vote two years ago. Has he really lost that many people?

(The same poll has 63% of respondents approving of his job performance. Why do 15% like his performance but don’t plan to vote for him? Bad breath?)

This is not to avoid the core fact, which is that Scott has a 17-point lead on Democrat Brenda Siegel. He remains the heavy favorite, and the poll contains a fair bit of bad news for Siegel. She has fought and clawed her way up to 31% from basically nothing and nearly doubled her name recognition despite a TV-free campaign. The electoral arc is bending in her direction, but Election Day is coming fast. And many voters will cast their ballots long before November 8. She’ll have to sweep the undecideds plus convince more than a few Scott voters to change sides, and do it in a real hurry.

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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.”

“It’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.

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“Undecided” Polling Strong in Lite-Gov Race

I suppose it’s only befitting that the race for Vermont’s Warm Bucket of Piss has produced a lot of voters who don’t have a preference or even know who’s running.

The UNH Survey Center Poll Sponsored by WCAX-TV dropped its final piece on Friday, covering the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Nothing new in the gubernatorial; Scott has a commanding lead and he gets substantially better job approval ratings from Democrats than Republicans. (The Democratic voters professed to care more about climate change than anything else, which shows either how little they’re paying attention to the policy debate or how much they’re lying about caring.) Democrat Brenda Siegel remains a heavy underdog, but I think she’s used to being underestimated.

The LG headlines were all about the leaders, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and Sen. Joe Benning, but the real news was the number of undecideds. Both races remain in doubt with the primary just around the corner. The front-runners have the edge, but not as much of an edge as expected.

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What We’ve Lost

“Why doesn’t the press cover __________?” is a question I’m often asked. There are a few answers, depending on context. Sometimes the press has covered it, but not as extensively or impactfully as you’d like. Sometimes there’s no coverage because it’s not that much of a story. But the most accurate answer is, “WHAT press?”

We all know the media business has shrunk, but I don’t think we realize exactly how far the shrinkage has gone or how deeply it affects the quality and quantity of news.

Go back, say, ten years. Not that long ago. The Associated Press had three reporters. The Burlington Free Press had at least two reporters at the Statehouse and covering state politics. The Times Argus and Rutland Herald had a three-person Statehouse bureau. Seven Days had three, and they’d deploy more if the need arose. VPR had two. WCAX and WPTZ each had a deeply experienced Statehouse/politics reporter full-time, and WVNY/WFFF usually had a young reporter on the beat most of the time.

On the other hand, VTDigger was barely more than a glimmer in Anne Galloway’s eye.

Well, actually, it was Galloway by herself, working her ass off. No time for glimmering.

Now, Digger has three Statehouse reporters plus issue specialists who frequent the Statehouse when their beats are involved. So that’s an improvement over the good old days. But look at the rest of the landscape.

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When Dr. Astroturf Comes Calling

The person pictured above, who bears a striking resemblance to a morality crusader in a TV detective show who’s eventually revealed as the killer, is Michael Shively, PhD.

Shively is a researcher on sex trafficking for the benignly-named National Center on Sexual Exploitation. In the past two weeks, he has appeared before the Montpelier and Burlington City Councils to speak against proposals to decriminalize prostitution. Proposals that, in his words, “would allow any home, any apartment, any nail salon to become a brothel.”

His appearances and affiliation have been duly parroted in media accounts of his “testimony,” which in each case amounted to two minutes during public comment time.

Well, let me fill you in. But first, in case you thought I was unfair in my description of Shively, here’s Levi Beecher, morality crusader slash murderer from an episode of the CBC series “Murdoch Mysteries.”

Yes, that’s him, officer. Now, about the NCOSE…

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On the handling of unsavory candidates

Preface: This post was written before Paul Heintz posted his story on this subject. My questions are still valid; my thoughts about the extent and consistency of media coverage are tempered somewhat by his article.

Looks like the Vermont Republican Party’s candidate-vetting system has a few holes in it. Turns out that one of VTGOP’s candidates for House has a little revenge-porn problem. WCAX: 

He’s running to represent Colchester in the Legislature, but the divorced businessman is also now facing revenge porn charges.

The alleged victim went to police back in July telling investigators Patrick Liebrecht was posting sexually explicit images of her on social media without her permission.

The alleged scumbag, Pat Liebrecht, has denied the charges… and in the process, he pretty much admiited they’re true.

According to the affidavit, the woman told police once she broke up with him this summer he began posting them on her family and friends’ Facebook pages and threatening her saying, “I will make plenty of trouble for you.”

When police interviewed Liebrecht they say he admitted to posting the nude photos and comments. …

Police say he then denied that the woman was nude in the photo and told them that he could “go onto National Geographic and see that stuff.”

Meaning what, exactly? He only showed boobies?

The VTGOP quickly distanced itself from Liebrecht, although they can’t do anything to get him off the ballot. He will remain a standard-bearer for Republicanism and a potential state officeholder. An ironically apropos one, in the Year of the Trump.

But the case of Mr. Liebrecht, along with those of social-media sulliers Michael McGarghan and Bill Lawrence, raise some questions regarding the party and the media.

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