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

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.

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Hudak now says he’s not a birther


Brown and Hudak speak


  1. lkcape

    Big scoop, Dan…

    Your journalism students will be proud of you.

  2. Steve Stein

    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.)

    Well, don’t ask the Brown folks, ask Brown! He’s available, isn’t he? Are the “Brown folks” keeping him away from the press now?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: As I wrote, I got one somewhat ambiguous statement out of the Brown operation, have asked for clarification and have heard nothing.

  3. Michael Pahre

    Politics 101: when you screw up by wrongly stating publicly that an elected official endorsed you, then it is time to: apologize; fall on your sword; recall any and all media or mailing materials; and shut up. Unless you do all of these things, the bridges are burned.

    Why Hudak’s people continue to claim that Hudak really has Brown’s endorsement is beyond me.

    You missed another possibility: that Brown was fine with endorsing Hudak, but ran away from it this morning when his staff realized (from your piece) that he was a birther. Could this have worked from a timing perspective based on the response you got from the Brown campaign/staff?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Michael Pahre: Brown may be new to politics at this level, but he’s been in politics for a long time. I’m going to assume that he knows you don’t endorse in your party’s primary. That could be a mistaken assumption, but it’s what I’m going with for now.

  4. Joey

    1) Welcome to the big leagues, Senator Brown;

    2) Yet again, the Republicans overplay their hand by letting one of the kooks sneak into the mainstream. The biggest menace to GOP success is still its own ideological battles with the purists and the outright fringe, such as Hudak.

    3) Can we move on to Gail Huff? I can’t even believe there’s a question of whether she should resign her job at WCVB, let alone that she believes there’s nothing wrong in keeping it. Welcome to being married to the big leagues, Mrs. Senator Brown. Please show some respect for your profession and take a leave of absence until Mike Capuano puts your husband on the unemployment line in 2012.

  5. O-FISH-L

    @Dan Kennedy: Your aggressive attempt to destroy Hudak reminds me of lyrics from the old Genesis song:

    “Is anybody listening – oh oh,
    No reply at all…”

    Give it a rest, Dan. The PEOPLE will decide this one, like they did on Tuesday. Not you or the Globe editorial board.

  6. Stella


    Please do not expect any high wattage with SB. It is not there. Folks did not vote for intellect. The election was Vicky, Cristine, Barcelona. The voters did not know what they wanted but were certain about what they didn’t want.

  7. Dot

    Calling attention to a candidate’s extremist beliefs, beliefs he felt so strongly about he festooned his property with signs proclaiming them, is hardly trying to destroy a candidate. Furthermore, someone is lying about the endorsement, which speaks to character. My guess is that Small Time Scott Brown gave a verbal endorsement of some kind and that Hudak doesn’t know enough about campaigning to realize both sides have to hammer out and agree upon the ultimate language for a press release.

    And of course the people will decide fish, but they need information and nothing Dan has said is false. Then again a substantial number of people believe Obama is a socialist, so we know the electorate isn’t that concerned with facts.

  8. Tunder

    Dan, for the sake of Fish and lskape, give this Hudak story a rest.

    Stop using YOUR blog to write about stories/ideas that interest YOU and then forming opinions about them.

    Both are desperately trying to get a life and it is impossible for them if they have to keep checking YOUR blog and then taking the time to post comments. Jeez!

    Michael Pahre – well said.

  9. Jack Sullivan

    @Joey, why is it that Gail Huff should resign? A woman can’t do a job because of what her “man’s” job is? Intentional or not, you damn near border mysogyny on that statement. At the least, your ideological glasses are fogging your view. Did you have a problem with Huff reporting on local issues while her husband was one of six GOP state senators or 20-odd Republican representatives? Ever raise an eyebrow about Andrea Mitchell’s reporting even though she was married to the then-Fed chair? Think former Times columnists Anthony Lewis should have stopped writing when his wife, Margaret Marshall, was appointed chief justice of the SJC?
    Huff’s been doing what she’s doing for far longer than her husband has been in politics. It should be — and is — her decision, not some sexist ideologue’s, whether to keep working or go with her husband but I hope it’s because she wants to keep the family intact, not because she’s subjugating her career for his. I trust her and Channel 5’s judgment. They did a pretty damn good job of maintainng the firewall during the election and I see no reason not to expect the same.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jack Sullivan: I agree with you. As long as Huff isn’t covering politics, I don’t see what the problem is.

  10. Joey

    No, Jack– a reporter can’t do her OR HIS job when she OR HE is married to one of the most important politicians in the state and in the Senate. I never said her gender was relevant at all to the possible conflict of interest, and the definite *appearance* of a conflict of interest.

    I’m sorry you missed that; I’ll try to use smaller words next time.

    Yes, I do believe Andrea Mitchell should have stopped covering national politics because of her marriage to Alan Greenspan, just like I believe ABC should part ways with that financial reporter who’s now engaged to Peter Orszag.

    Dan, you seriously don’t see this could be an issue? You seriously think if Scott Brown is the pivotal vote at some key moment, Huff won’t feel pressured to slip some insights to her coworkers? That she could simply be kept off politics, when news budgets are being slashed all the time and fewer reporters cover more things?

    It just doesn’t pass the smell test with me. There’s an appearance of a conflict, and that’s enough to do the damage. Certainly if Brown were a Democrat, the Hudak wing of the GOP would be all over the idea that the media is in bed with yet another liberal politician, both figuratively and literally.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Joey: People need to be judged as individuals. If Huff does something unethical, Channel 5 ought to deal with it. If she is assigned to cover something in which she has a conflict of interest, she should refuse, and her supervisor should have his or her head examined. But she and Channel 5 have handled this well up to now, and I see no reason why that won’t continue. Surely you know that local news these days is mostly about shootings and the weather.

  11. Harrybosch

    Makes what Maria Shriver did seem all the more noble.

  12. mike_b1

    @Dan: Well put. If anything, we should be congratulating Channel 5 on having the guts to put people on the air for something other than looks.

  13. Jack Sullivan

    @Joey, Don’t even begin to try to insult me or be condescending. That’s not a war you’d win but I’ll not get into here out of respect for Dan’s comment policy. But in your spiel, I noticed that once again you only point out three WOMEN in the media, again not addressing Tony Lewis. Perhaps you need to explore this latent sexism you’re beginning to exhibit. And to say the left would be excoriated if Brown was a Dem is revealing a bit of liberal paranoia on par with many on the other end of the spectrum.
    And where would you draw the line? LA Times columnist and CNN analyst Ron Brownstein is married to McCain’s communications director. Should he have taken a sabbatical? Should Christiana Amanpour cease her international reporting because her husband James Rubin was at the State Department under Bill Clinton and was an advisor to Hillary’s presidential campaign? Ever have a problem with NPR’s Nina Totenberg when her husband, a former congressman, was still alive? What about a local reporter marred to a cop or fireman? Clearly, you’re not in the business nor have a true grasp of what constitutes a conflict. Or understand what makes a professional. It is not a lack of connections or ideology. It is in doing a professional job despite those. My list of people I know in this business who are married to officials whose work is subject to media coverage would rival your big-word dictionary in thickness.

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