Porngate Part 3

Journalistic integrity thrown out the window when it comes to Kane

Over a year ago, a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News obtained emails showing “that state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin used a fake name on a Yahoo email account to receive emails with explicit and racist images in 2010.” The reporter described one such racist email as follows: “‘Prom Night at Camden High School!!’ – 13 images of African-Americans who appear to be attending a prom, with captions mocking their clothes, physical appearances and the presence of police vehicles.” To make matters worse, Justice Eakin “did not deny that he uses the Yahoo email account that has a nom de guerre of ‘John Smith.’”

“‘I’m not going to deny it, but I don’t think I should comment at all until I see what we’re talking about,’ Eakin said when asked about the emails.”

So the journalistic world knew that a Supreme Court Justice had a private email account with a racist email and the story just stopped. Today, one year later, Justice Eakin’s emails have undergone a second special counsel review (which called then “of serious concern”) and currently, a second review by the Judicial Conduct Board with its chief counsel recusing himself for being busted as Eakin’s campaign spokesman. This only happened because Attorney General Kathleen Kane forced Eakin and the Supreme Court to confront his offensive emails.

We know now that the JCB and the Supreme Court’s special counsel Robert Byer each reviewed these emails and found that they warranted no discipline despite the fact that they were both sent and received by Eakin; that they are not simply racist, but misogynistic, homophobic, and religiously offensive; and that Eakin sent around a joke about a battered woman with the punchline, “see what happens when you keep your mouth shut.” What remains equally disturbing is why the press dropped the ball on this story. Why did it take Kathleen Kane to re-focus writers on this story a year after it broke?

Last week, we told a story of journalistic malfeasance: what happens when a reporter and his editors at the Philadelphia Inquirer conspire with their sources to make up one story while covering up another. This week we shine a light on journalistic misfeasance: the alarmingly widespread turning away from the real stories generated by the Eakin emails in favor of the witch hunt for Kathleen Kane.

Misfeasance number one: When special counsel Byer released his report concluding that Eakin’s emails were “unremarkable,” why did no member of the press ask Byer about Prom Night at Camden High School? After all, Eakin did not deny this email. Didn’t anyone with a notepad and pencil want to ask Byer why Camden Prom Night was “not remarkable?” Apparently, not.

Misfeasance number two: It has now been two months since William Bender of the Daily News told the world exactly what was in Eakin’s emails; not simply the content but the circulation network. Bender told of a network that included several assistant U.S. attorneys. Just a few years ago, Senator Grassley asked the U.S. Department of Justice why an assistant U.S. attorney was spending hours on his government computer watching porn. Why hasn’t one reporter asked Peter Smith, U.S. attorney for Pennsylvania’s Middle District, for answers about his assistant U.S. attorneys on this email chain?

Misfeasance number three: What the heck is the problem with the Harrisburg Patriot News? Bender’s story tells us that “among those who received a 2010 email from defense lawyer Terry McGowan with a video called ‘Craziest white man ever’ were: Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, his first assistant, a Common Pleas judge, the county’s chief public defender, at least four assistant U.S. attorneys, a senior deputy attorney general and a police chief .” And most on their public email accounts.

Wouldn’t you think that the paper of record for Dauphin County would find it newsworthy that everyone in a Dauphin County criminal courtroom except the criminal defendant was exchanging hate-filled emails? Exactly what is not newsworthy about that?

The Patriot news says they will not print the names while they review the context of the emails.  Have they lost their journalistic minds? How about just asking those in the email chain for a comment and let your readers figure out the context?

As we have seen over the past three issues, when it comes to Kathleen Kane the rulebook of journalistic integrity and ethics (if there ever was one) gets tossed in the fire that is about to be lit under the attorney general’s feet.