By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Push comes to shove

Since yesterday, we have received a thorough airing of the shoving (tripping?) incident involving John McCormack, a reporter with the conservative Weekly Standard, and Democratic operative Michael Meehan, who’s working for Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley. As we should. Even allowing for exaggeration, Coakley’s reaction was oddly passive. (Boston Globe coverage here; Boston Herald coverage here.)

But there are also a few stories floating around that we haven’t heard much about, and that political reporters might want to look into today:

  • Supporters of Republican candidate Scott Brown are mocking Coakley’s claim that Brown groupies have been “stalking” her. But independent candidate Joe Kennedy has posted a message on his Facebook page alleging the same thing, saying that he’s gone so far as to report threats of violence to local police. Obviously the Brown campaign is not involved. But what exactly is going on?
  • Brown has been caught telling a blatant untruth with regard to his claim that he was “unfamiliar” with the tea-party movement. Talking Points Memo has posted pictures and videos. (Correction: Talking Points now says the Brown campaign has provided evidence that Brown did not say he was “unfamiliar” with the tea-partiers.)
  • Despite claims by Brown supporters that the Coakley campaign has engaged in anti-Brown push-polling, I have yet to see a single account by a person with a name. On the other hand, there are numerous credible accounts of people receiving vicious anti-Coakley calls; here are a few. Again, I doubt very much the Brown campaign is actually involved. But why has there been no coverage of this sleazy tactic? And why has Brown said so little?

One of Brown’s attempts to hide from his record is getting a thorough airing: his claim that he had nothing to do with his own bill that would have allowed hospital workers to refuse to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. Yvonne Abraham and Joan Vennochi let him have it with both barrels in today’s Globe.

Update: In the comments, Scutch points to this story from the Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York. Apparently the aforementioned John McCormack creeped out congressional candidate Dierdre Scozzafava sufficiently that her husband notified police.

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  1. Steve Stein

    I think John McCormack has been taking flopping lesson from Bill Laimbeer. And McCormack is a serial flopper – he pulled the same thing on the Scozzafava campaign in NY-23 a couple of months ago.

    Interesting that Jon Keller this morning labeled this a “non-story”, yet WBZ TV ran with it last night and WBZ radio has been running it every half hour.

  2. Michael Ryle

    If Martha Coakley loses this election—and I hope to God she doesn’t—she certainly will have earned it. Has she been taking lessons from John Kerry? Her op-ed in today’s Globe is so stunningly lackluster, just like her whole campaign, I hardly know what to say. As Ruth Marcus, or maybe it was Gail Collins, said, we have to remember that the same state that produced Ted Kennedy also produced Michael Dukakis (and, much as I hate to say it, Deval Patrick). Aside from prosecuting Neil Entwhistle (an open-and-shut case) and that poor English nanny (a railroad job in my opinion), what the hell has MC done? I know, she has perfect hair and great makeup, and she knows how to get in front of a TV camera. At least the weather forecast for next Tuesday is somewhat favorable, rain and high thirties, thus turnout may not be too low. So I’ll put a clothespin on my nose and go vote against Mr. Teabag and keep my fingers crossed.

  3. Scutch

    Here’s the story about McCormack during the NY-23 campiagn:

    Scozzafava’s husband called cops on pressing reporter

  4. hithimagain

    He was before it before he was against it.

  5. Dunque

    I love the smell of desperation in the morning.

    So much for outlier polls and simplistic media narratives.

  6. Harrybosch

    The vituperative and hateful comments from Brown supporters (and Teabag nutjobs) as seen at #masen on Twitter are enough for me to determine which of the two sides has sunk lower.

    That being said, that Watertown news article is laughable. “You scared the candidate, but aren’t in any trouble.”

    Wonder if she ever did say which side of the CardCheck debate she was on . . . not that it mattered in the end.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Harrybosch: Neither incident seems like a big deal, but it makes you wonder whether McCormack has problems recognizing people’s personal space begins.

  7. Harrybosch

    Agreed, Dan, though maybe he’s just a close-talker.

    More likely he’s just an AW trying to make a name for himself.

    But that both incidents occured after candidates were asked perhaps uncomfortable questions gives me pause.

  8. Nial Liszt

    Kennedy being “stalked” but would vote for Brown? Interviewed by Jim Braude on NECN Tuesday (01:33 in the clip).

    Braude: “Who would you vote for if you were not in this race?”

    Kennedy: “I would vote for Scott because I’m concerned with the health care bill.”

  9. O-FISH-L

    Dan, that’s it? One inert paragraph on a Coakley thug assaulting a credentialed reporter, in Coakley’s presence, caught on video, then six blistering paragraphs against Scott Brown? Even if you believe the reporter tripped, the video clearly shows Meehan continually bumping him and blocking his free passage on the public way, tantamount to assault or A&B in all jurisdictions.

    Your fealty to Coakley is within your rights but don’t you have a moral and professional obligation as a reporter and professor of the craft to speak out forcefully against assaults on journalists, even if they work for the “conservative” Weekly Standard?

    God only knows if a reporter was assaulted by a presidential aide in China or the Middle East, or by a Brown aide in Wrentham, you’d be blogging and tweeting in outrage to no end, and certainly doing so within minutes, not 36 hours later like in this case. Your blind-eye on this one is very disappointing and sets a terrible precedent.

  10. Treg

    Regardless of whatever history McCormack has, I think it’s clear that this Meehan guy was completely out of line and did a grave disservice to Coakley. The video posted at yesterday clearly shows him continuing to assault McCormack after “helping him up.” He body blocks McCormack toward a store front, then continues pushing him while demanding to see his press pass. On a public street.

    Since when do you need credentials to ask a political candidate a question on a street in Washington? What does it say about Coakley, that her campaign is that worried about letting a conservative reporter get near her and ask questions? Was she unaware that running for US Senate might entail that sort of unpleasantness?

    And Coakley completely mishandled the situation. Asked about it the next day at a campaign event in Boston, she said she wasn’t “privy to the facts,” and mumbled something about stalkers from the Brown campaign (and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there really are people stalking her on behalf of Brown). But by then, she should have been privy to the facts. Either her staff failed her, or she showed very bad judgement. She should care about what happened and how it will look. It’s just another indication that she has no idea how to run a campaign.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Treg: This isn’t in defense of Coakley — quite the opposite. But it often seems that she needs two or three tries to get it right. Remember, she recently tried to deflect questions about waterboarding before strongly coming out against it the next day.

  11. Treg

    As a Democrat, I find that pretty embarrassing. Do you think Capuano would need three tries?

    This I find embarrassing as well:

    Talk about playing right into their hands.

  12. Melissa

    Dan, when you say “Obviously the Brown campaign is not involved. But what exactly is going on?”, I’m wondering why that is obvious? I’m not arguing that his campaign IS involved (I really have no idea), but I was wondering if there was additional info you didn’t link to that supports the idea that this assertion is “obvious.” Thanks for clarifying.

  13. Peter Porcupine

    DK – I’m not looking to dredge up the past (as opposed to the Democrats with 20 year old Cosmo photos), but I AM tired of their ‘Capt. Renard’ imitation, being SHOCKED at the horrible violence of Republican stalkers.

    HERE – – are photos of some union thugs in Falmouth when somebody had the temerity to run against Sen. Murray. I can vouch for the fact they aren’t photoshopped. Reminded me of when the Boston Police had to provide me a safe escort to my car from Fanieul Hall through the Carmen’s Union crowds after the Weld-Kerrry debate.

  14. lkcape

    Hmmm… Coakley needs two or three tries to get it right?

    Is she going to get two or three tries on each of her votes in the Senate?

    That’s not a reassuring statement about your candidate!

  15. Derek B

    I’m surprised that nobody (as far as I can tell) has brought up that infamous Mitt Romney/Eric Fehrnstrom incident from 2008 where Fehrnstrom went all Teddy Brewski on someone’s arse at a Staples press op.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Derek B: It’s a great clip that has lost none of its entertainment value. But Fehrnstrom neither raised his voice nor made physical contact with the reporter, the AP’s Glen Johnson.

  16. Derek B

    Haha you got me fair and square Dan – I was just looking for any excuse to dust off that hoary old chestnut 😉

  17. LFNeilson

    Ya gotta love how these campaigns keep everything positive and on track.

  18. Jerry

    “Obviously the Brown campaign is not involved.” Obviously? Not so fast, Dan. Sound editorial judgment always leaves the door open for the unexpected.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jerry: Oh, come, now. There are certain unlikelihoods we have to rule out or we’d go insane. Of course, if someone wants to step forward with evidence …

  19. Treg

    “You should act a little bit more professionally instead of being argumentative with the candidate.”

    I can’t decide if it would be more disturbing if Eric Fehrnstrom actually believed all the things he says, or if he’s just role playing.

  20. Mike

    Dan: Drudge is proud to report that Brown wants Obama to “stay home” and not aid Coakley. However, when Senator MCain appears on Brown’s radio and TV ads, it seems like a double-standard. I say bring on all endorsements for both candidates. They can create excitement. But you can’t have it both ways, Sen. Brown.

  21. Rick in Duxbury

    So far, IMHO, one of the more pathetic verbal tics of the campaign has been the Janeanism of spelling “tea party”
    T-E-A-B-A-G. Sort of like a 9 year old who just learned the “F-word” yelling it repeatedly. We got your point, guys. Not funny.)I must say, however, that even I was taken aback by the phony UPS man with Brown’s head Photoshopped on that arrived in my mailbox yesterday, courtesy of the State Committee.(Photoshop? What is this, “SPY Magazine”?) I counted at least three violations of UPS’s trademarks. I’m sure that those on this board concerned with protection of their copyrights will be equally outraged at this last minute tactic, right? (Ironic that while the Teamsters are attempting to unionize Fedex, brother Teamsters are being mocked as “what can Brown do TO you?” in an ad by alleged unionists at the Dem State Committee).

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Rick: The UPS flier is one of the most amateurish efforts I’ve seen. But the UPS guide to trademarks to which you link describes trademark law as UPS wishes it were, not as it really is — which is typical of such corporate efforts. The Democratic State Committee is engaging in political commentary, which receives broad protection under the First Amendment. If you want to enter the shipping business, you may not violate UPS’s trademarks. Anything else is fair game, as Fox News learned when it went after Al Franken.

  22. Steve Stein

    Rick – that usage was coined by the originators of the Teabag protest last March with appeals like this and this long before the coinage was taken up by their critics.

    Why shouldn’t they be stuck with it?

  23. Rick in Duxbury

    @Steve:so the Tea Party organizers were the ones who “coined that usage” in an attempt to inject sexual innuendo into a tax protest? Thank you, Captain Renault!
    Dan, I’ll let you file the amicus brief on behalf of those noble “political commentators”. After what has clogged my mailbox this week, I’ll be busy taking a long shower. (I notice the mailing went out late enough that the UPS “cease and desist” letter will be moot. This from our chief “law enforcement” officer.) As to what is “fair game”, be careful what you wish for.

  24. Steve Stein

    The Tea Party organizers coined the usage. That’s a documented fact. The mockery was the inevitable result. Sort of like naming a car “Nova” and trying to market it in Spanish-speaking countries. Too bad.

    “As to what is “fair game”, be careful what you wish for.”

    Huh? Care to elaborate?

  25. Rick in Duxbury

    Delighted to elaborate, Steve. If Coakley loses, prepare for the whining about the “coarsening” of the campaign by those paragons of ethics, the Democratic State Committee. (And spare me any “beanbag” references). I’m not saying the Republicans are any less guilty of hypocrisy. It’s just that there are so few of them around here that it’s harder to notice. Coakley had a chance to run a decent campaign, if she and the DNC hadn’t been so arrogant. She could have beaten Brown on the issues in a state loaded with Progressive media. Instead, she decided to make the issues an afterthought. She may yet win but if she does, she will “win ugly”, IMHO. I’m still naive enough to believe that the end doesn’t always justify the means.

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