Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hudak used birther code name for Obama

Republican congressional candidate William Hudak has apologized to Sen.-elect Scott Brown for incorrectly claiming that Brown had endorsed his campaign. But questions remain about Hudak who, in the face of evidence to the contrary, continues to insist that he’s not a birther. A statement issued by the Hudak campaign includes this:

“What is most distressing is the extent to which left-wing bloggers continue to use smear tactics, including trying to portray me as a ‘birther’ and falsely denigrate and accuse Senator-elect Brown of being of that belief,” Hudak said. “Let me make clear that while I don’t agree with everything he does, President Obama is our President and I believe he was born in the United States, and accusations that he was not are unsupported nonsense and non-issues to the business of our country,” Hudak remarked.

Hudak is right — claims that Obama was not born in the United States are indeed “unsupported nonsense.” But in a Web video sent to me by a reader, Hudak refers to Obama as “Barry Soetoro.” Obama was known as Barry Soetoro (his stepfather’s last name) when he attended school in Indonesia. According to Snopes.com, some elements of the birther movement have seized on that fact in the hopes of proving either that Obama was not born in the U.S., or that he gave up his American citizenship at some point.

The video interview, which Hudak did with a woman who calls herself the Ultimate First Amendment Patriot, is devoted to the various stickers Hudak has plastered on his truck. Following a discussion of Thomas Jefferson, Hudak says (around the 2:09 mark):

The way that this is being handled is by the folks in Washington, such as Miss Pelosi, who I quite frankly characterize with a caricature as Porky Pelosi. In this commonwealth of Massachusetts, another gentleman by the name of Mr. Patrick, who I characterize as Tax Patrick on the back, as well as the king honcho, Mr. Obama, who is also known, or not so widely known, as Barry Soetoro. These are the gentlemen and the ladies who are the inspirational leaders for turning America into more of a socialistic country than the American democracy that we are designed and founded on and our traditions.

Toward the end of the video, we are treated to some shots of his truck, including his “NOBAMA” license plate and a huge message on the back that plays on Obama’s name with “One Big Ass Mistake America.”

Recall, too, that before yesterday, the only two newspapers that had ever reported Hudak believed Obama was not a native-born American were the Tri-Town Transcript and the Salem News. Editors at both papers have told Media Nation that Hudak never sought a correction.

Finally, a clarification. I’ve been a little hazy on the sequence by which the Transcript and the News first reported that Hudak held birther views, and that he’d put up a sign in his yard depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden.

As I have noted, the Transcript reported it first, in November 2008. But Nelson Benton’s column in the Salem News came nearly a year later, in September 2009. The reason the Transcript did not identify Hudak as a congressional candidate is that he was not running at that point. Hudak announced his candidacy in August 2009.

Good for speech, bad for democracy?

My heart is telling me one thing and my head another following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remove political-speech restrictions on corporations and, by implication, labor unions.

On the one hand, I had been looking forward to this. I am close to being a First Amendment absolutist, and I gag instinctively at the idea that any form of political speech should be restricted, theories about corporate personhood aside.

On the other hand, we know what’s going to happen, don’t we? It’s bad enough that Congress can’t get health care right thanks to the doleful effects of corporate lobbying. And I do wonder why the Court had to overturn restrictions on corporations that extended back a century.

For the time being, I’m going to punt, and link to an article I wrote for the Boston Phoenix in 2003 on a corporate-speech case involving Nike.

Brown and Hudak speak

(Breaking, 2:30 p.m.: Hudak apologizes to Brown. See Tony Schinella’s comment for details.)

Three new developments in the matter of whether U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown endorsed congressional candidate William Hudak, who reportedly has denied that President Obama was born in the United States (he now denies the denial), and who offended his Boxford neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign by putting a sign on his property comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden.

1. Brown tells the Boston Globe that Hudak put out a press release touting Brown’s endorsement without his knowledge or permission. “I haven’t spoken to Bill at all,’’ Brown said. “I understand he made a press release of some sort. But I wasn’t aware of it, and we’ve asked him to retract it.”

But Brown also reportedly “dodged” on the matter of whether he would endorse Hudak. Wrong question. Brown should have been asked whether he’d said anything to Hudak that would lead him to believe he already had Brown’s endorsement.

Still, Brown’s comments are in accord with a statement put out yesterday by his spokesman, Felix Browne. The most likely scenario remains that Brown said something Hudak wrongly interpreted as an endorsement.

2. Hudak, in an interview with the Salem News, says, “There’s no question that he [Brown] gave me his endorsement,” citing a “private conversation” the two men had. He also says he did not see the press release his own campaign put out touting the alleged endorsement, but that it’s OK with him: “I trust my campaign staff to do what they need to do.”

So now we have a press release filled with direct quotes from both Brown and Hudak, and both men say they were unaware of it before it went out. It reminds me of the time that David Wells claimed he’d been misquoted in his own autobiography.

Neither the Globe nor the News credits Media Nation for bringing this story to light yesterday. No big deal, but the News allows Hudak to blame it on “Democrats,” and to refer to the whole matter as “very clearly politically motivated.”

The implication left hanging is that political operatives put this out there. The reality is that I have a memory like an elephant for certain things. I’m not a Democrat. As for being partisan, I’ve been complimentary toward Brown and his staff for the way they’ve handled this.

3. As Hudak’s spokesman did yesterday in The Hill, Hudak, in his interview with the News, denies that he believes Obama was born outside the United States. News reporter Stacie Galang writes, “Hudak said he has clarified his stance, but it continues to be repeated, wrongfully, in the press. It’s ‘not even an issue.'”

Hudak’s alleged birther views have been reported in two papers: the Tri-Town Transcript, which published the original story in November 2008, and in a column by Nelson Benton in the Salem News, which pointed out, as the Transcript had not, that Hudak was a Republican candidate for Congress.

In an e-mail to Media Nation, Benton says Hudak has “never asked for a correction.” An editor for GateHouse Media, which owns the Transcript, told me last night that he hopes to provide some information to me later today.

Update: Hudak never asked the Transcript for a correction, either, according to Peter Chianca, managing editor of GateHouse Media New England’s North Unit. Chianca e-mails: “David Rogers, the Transcript’s editor at the time, says that Hudak did not ask for a correction after the story ran.”

Earlier coverage.

Thinking through the Brown-Hudak matter

I plucked this Google ad off National Review a little while ago. A trusted source tells me it’s been in rotation on Rasmussen Reports, too, though I couldn’t get it to pop up.

Now, even though this requires some speculation, it seems pretty clear what happened.

Republican congressional candidate William Hudak got involved in Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s campaign, even to the point of letting Brown’s folks use his Danvers headquarters.

They came to like each other. And in the giddiness of the Tuesday-night victory party, Brown said some nice things to Hudak about his campaign — nice things that Hudak interpreted as an endorsement. Hudak put out the word, and the press, having no reason to doubt him, reported that Brown had endorsed Hudak without bothering to check with Brown’s people.

Then, this morning, Media Nation broke the news that Hudak had told a reporter for the Tri-Town Transcript in November 2008 that he believed President Obama had been born in Kenya. Hudak also put a sign on his Boxford property depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden. The Salem News confirmed that it was the same Hudak who was running for Congress.

Next: The Brown folks, appalled, issued a statement that they had neither seen nor approved of Hudak’s press release claiming Brown had endorsed him. (I suspect they’ve hedged on the question of whether Brown had, in fact, endorsed Hudak because they don’t know exactly what Brown may have said.)

That all makes sense, although if Hudak actually put words in Brown’s mouth (his press release quotes Brown directly), then this goes beyond a simple misunderstanding. And, of course, there is the matter of Hudak’s spokesman now claiming Hudak is not a birther, and that he was misunderstood when he was interviewed by the Transcript some 15 months ago.

Needless to say, it has been a bizarre little interlude. It looks like the Brown people have handled this about as well as could be expected. But it may not be quite played out yet.

I have asked for comment from the Transcript and the Salem News as to whether Hudak ever asked for a correction. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Hudak now says he’s not a birther

Congressional candidate William Hudak’s spokesman now says Hudak believes President Obama was born in the United States. He tells The Hill that his comments about Obama being born in Kenya were mischaracterized.

Leaving aside the fact that this is a guy who put a sign in his yard depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden, here, again, is what the Tri-Town Transcript reported in November 2008: “Hudak asserts that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, according to affidavits that he made available to the Tri-Town Transcript.”

So the reporter, Brendan Lewis, looked at some sort of affidavits Hudak provided to him and somehow managed to “mischaracterize” Hudak’s view? I have no idea what these affidavits are, but I sure hope someone digs them up.

Hudak campaign tweets about Brown

Birther congressional candidate William Hudak’s Twitter feed (4:44 update: looks like it’s been disabled) is loaded with happy tweets about the endorsement he claims to have received from Sen.-elect Scott Brown. A few examples:

Thanks, @hubpolitics, for picking up our story about Brown’s endorsement! http://snurl.com/u508a #masen #nrcc #tcot #41stsvote from web

@Time picked up our story about Scott Brown’s first endorsement – Bill Hudak! #masen #tcot

FYI: @RedMassGroup @hubpolitics: Scott Brown endorses Bill Hudak! Let’s keep the momentum going! http://snurl.com/u4xd6 #masen #the41stvote 11:25 AM Jan 20th from web

Scott Brown endorses Bill Hudak for Congress! Let’s keep the momentum going! http://snurl.com/u4xd6 #masen #the41stvote #tcot 11:17 AM Jan 20th from web

(Thanks to sharp-eyed commenter Scutch.)

Was birther candidate Hudak going rogue?

U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown neither saw nor approved of the statement issued under his name by birther congressional candidate William Hudak, according to an e-mail I received a short time ago from Brown spokesman Felix Browne.

As I wrote earlier today, both the Salem News and the Boston Globe reported that Brown had endorsed Hudak, who has said President Obama was born outside the United States and who got in trouble with his neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign for putting up a sign in his yard comparing Obama to Osama bin Laden. Browne’s statement:

Neither Scott Brown or anyone connected with his campaign approved that press release before its release or the quote that was attributed to Scott. Bill Hudak is an energetic candidate who has been working hard as a candidate for Congress. Right now, Scott Brown is focused on the job that people elected him to do. That’s his number one priority.

Needless to say, Browne’s statement raises some questions. Does Brown endorse Hudak’s candidacy or not? Is Brown (or Browne) accusing Hudak of making up words and putting them in the senator-elect’s mouth?

I’ve asked Browne to clarify. From the context of the e-mail, though, my guess is the answers to those questions are “no” and “yes,” but that Team Brown is trying to hold back from saying anything quite that damaging.

Politically, it would make no sense for Brown to endorse a Republican candidate this early. Brown’s stunning victory on Tuesday is likely to bring more-prominent Republican candidates out of the woodwork to challenge U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat. Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins and state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester come immediately to mind.

I’d have liked to see a stronger statement from Brown, but that’s nitpicking. I’m encouraged that he’s distancing himself from piece of work like Hudak.

Update: But wait! The Hudak camp says Brown did too endorse their man. From The Hill:

“Scott Brown gave his endorsement to Bill Hudak and it’s unfortunate that the people Scott Brown surrounds himself with are backing down from a commitment that their boss already made,” said Tyler Harber, a spokesman for Hudak.

Harber added that Hudak and Brown are friends and that Hudak worked tirelessly for Brown during his Senate bid.

“If you went to Bill’s office right now you’d probably still find Brown’s people packing their stuff up,” he said.

What is not to love about this story?

Did Brown endorse a birther for Congress? (revised)

Hudak reportedly put up this sign on his property.

Sen.-elect Scott Brown has endorsed a candidate for Congress who has asserted that President Obama was born in Kenya rather than the United States, and who drew complaints from his neighbors during the 2008 presidential campaign for putting up signs on his property depicting Obama as Osama bin Laden.

The Salem News reports that the Brown campaign has issued a statement endorsing Republican lawyer William Hudak of Boxford, who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, this fall. Here’s the key passage:

“Bill was with us from the beginning and is the representative the people of the 6th District need,” Brown said in a press release.

“We’re going to take advantage of this endorsement,” Hudak said. “We’re going to capitalize on this momentum and add it to [our] campaign.”

(Update, Thursday, 3 p.m.: Brown spokesman Felix Browne says the senator-elect neither saw nor approved of the press release Hudak put out claiming Brown’s support.)

But on Nov. 3, 2008, the Tri-Town Transcript reported that Hudak and another person who lives on his street had festooned their properties with signs their neighbors found offensive. Reporter Brendan Lewis tells the tale:

Down the road at 165 Herrick Road, William and Angela Hudak have more of the same anti-Obama signs lined along the front of their property. One large, roughly 6-foot-by-4-foot sign stands back from the road, up against their house, with words — such as socialist, Marxist, and lazy — surrounding the same picture of Obama dressed as Osama Bin Laden….

[Hudak] said he decided to put up to signs to spread the message that Obama was not the person that the American public thinks he is.

“I was looking to wake people up and it worked,” Hudak said….

Hudak asserts that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, according to affidavits that he made available to the Tri-Town Transcript. He said that Obama has ties to the Muslim faith through an extremist cousin that is from Kenya.

“There is a lot more going on here than anyone knows,” Hudak said.

Police asked Hudak and his neighbor to remove the signs, and Hudak said he agreed to do so in order to spare the police from the barrage of complaints they had received.

Now, it’s unlikely that Brown knew about Hudak’s birther beliefs before he endorsed him. The Boston Globe didn’t note it in reporting Brown’s endorsement; neither did the Salem News, though columnist Nelson Benton has mentioned it in the past.

But Brown has already been caught expressing falsehoods about Obama. As Blue Mass Group discovered last week, Brown once raised the possibility that Obama had been born out of wedlock, an assertion for which there is zero evidence.

The question now is whether Brown has the guts and integrity to admit he made a mistake and withdraw his endorsement of Hudak.

Not only would Brown’s repudiation of Hudak be the right thing to do, but it would be for the good of the Republican Party as well. Brown won overwhelmingly in Tierney’s district, which you’d think would make the Democrat vulnerable this fall. But if the Republicans can’t come up with a candidate more credible than Hudak, Tierney will likely roll to re-election.

Update: I should point out that the importance of Benton’s column, linked above, was that he confirmed it was that William Hudak, something the original Transcript article did not do.

Update II: I’ve asked Brown spokesman Felix Browne if the senator-elect has anything to say about the Hudak endorsement. Browne replied that he (that is, the spokesman) is “looking into it.”

Photo (cc) by Brendan Lewis. The Tri-Town Transcript makes its content available under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Quick thoughts on the Times’ pay-wall plan

The New York Times today made an important announcement that we will no doubt pick over closely in the weeks and months ahead. According to a memo from Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and president Janet Robinson, the paper will start charging for Web content in 2011.

Over the past year or two, it has become increasingly clear that advertising may never fully support the infrastructure of large newspaper Web sites. With huge chunks of classified advertising lost to Craigslist and with display advertising undermined by the decline of once-vibrant downtowns, newspaper executives have been struggling with ideas to persuade readers to pick up a larger share of the tab.

The Times’ plan is fairly nuanced, and parallels proposals being discussed by Steven Brill, the founder of Journalism Online. You would be allowed to access a certain number of articles per month (perhaps five or 10) for free. After that, you would have to pay. Access to the Web site would remain free for subscribers to the print edition.

Charging for Web-site access undermines the sharing culture of the Web, which is what gives it its value. Still, the Times’ plan is relatively benign. Bloggers who regularly link to and excerpt Times content will have the choice of paying up or going elsewhere. Blog readers will be able to click on a modest number of Times links for free.

Several years ago the Times tried charging for its opinion columnists and certain online-only features. The experiment was not a failure, but Sulzberger and company concluded they could earn more advertising revenue by returning to free access. The wheel turns, and it keeps turning.

My early prediction is that the Times’ metered-access plan will be no more than a limited success, and not easily emulated by other papers. The Times remains the gold standard of mainstream journalism, and a lot of people will be willing to pay for it. By contrast, a good regional paper like the Boston Globe must compete with a wide array of other local media. If the Web sites of local newspapers and radio and television stations remain free, readers may find that they’re not willing to pay for the Globe’s admittedly superior content.

The most promising route for newspapers to take is to charge for convenience (print, e-readers and smartphone editions) and community (special premium online content, member discounts, discussion forums and the like). Charging for basic Web access has proved to be a losing proposition in the past, and that’s likely to continue.

But it’s been clear for some months now that we were about to embark on another experiment in charging for Web content. At least it sounds like the Times is going about it the right way.