If you read the description of our blog, you’ll find a simple mission. News and Commentary aimed at breaking the Helena Bubble.
Anyone who follows politics in Montana knows that a core component of breaking the “Helena Bubble” is an independent environment of journalism that searches for truth. We rely on quality journalism in Montana to get a better understanding of what people with power are doing in their elected capacities. We agree with other “famous” mtpol followers like Don Pogreba that journalists should not be in the business of simply copying opposition research from the major political parties.
That is why we are very disappointed in the article that came out of The Billings Gazette today that seems to compile every accusation the left in Montana has made for the last year and a half with little to no proof.
Here is our beef with the story and why it flies in the face of quality journalism. Our hope is that the author, Jayme Fraser, sees this as some constructive criticism because we consider her to usually be one of the best reporters in the state. It is our opinion that she is above this kind of reporting.
Our first contention is that the article doesn’t bring any new information to the public. These are all old stories with old lines already drawn and no new information about Taylor Rose, Greg Gianforte or Ryan Zinke. Essentially this story is a compilation of all the articles covering Rose in the 2016 election. The compilation pushes a narrative that the left has been screaming since 2016: “Taylor Rose is a racist, but he denies it. Greg Gianforte donated to every Republican candidate in Montana and Taylor Rose was one of them. Thereby dog-whistling to the left, “is Greg Gianforte a secret racist? We don’t have any evidence but here’s a narrative.”
Secondly, the entire story relies on the Democrat party attack blog the Montana Cowgirl. Ironically, the Cowgirl blog was taken down after it was exposed as a website run by the Rob Quist Campaign or at least Quist communications director Tina Olechowski! Jayme Frasier just falls short of linking to the blog’s resources. Perhaps the Gazette didn’t want to bring to light that the blog is dead in the water since the revelation that it was a Democrat party run blog.
It’s on this point we find the Gazette’s actions particularly egregious. Where are the news articles asking Rob Quist how he feels about running a website that attacks the children of politicians for disagreeing with their policy stances? Or declaring legislators as misogynists, “obsessed with women’s bodies” because they disagree with the Democrat party about abortion.
But then again, the Billings Gazette has been relying on the Democrats— er— the Cowgirl blog for years. Readers might remember that the Cowgirl Blog broke the stream access story in the 2016 governor’s race. Only for Jayme Fraser and Holly Michaels to essentially copy the blog post in a Missoulian story. Thereby doing exactly what Don Pogreba claims Lee newspapers is doing today in the 2017 Special Election; running the opposition research files from the opposing party as though it were a news story.
Our third issue with today’s story is that it relies heavily on the testimony of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC is not a credible organization and has fallen out of favor as an effective watchdog organization. Why? Because in 2014 even the Obama-run FBI could no longer stand the blowback pressure from the victims of SPLC hate-mongering and removed them from their list of organizations who track hate crime and groups. The SPLC has garnered, by those who actually care about discrimination, a reputation of using that language to shame critics of the left out of the public sphere. Their behavior as an organization has been very well documented. Any serious reporter should reconsider using them as an authoritative source. Assuming they actually want to tell the truth. (For curious readers we wanted to provide additional resources: Source to consider. Source to Consider.)
The truth is, we don’t know what Taylor Rose secretly believes about the world, because when the Gazette asks him about his views he says;
“I am not affiliated with white supremacist groups or leaders,” Rose told the Flathead Beacon in October. “To say otherwise is slanderous. Youth for Western Civilization was a cultural group, not a racist group. We defined Western civilization by the classic definition of ancient Greeks and Romans, and we were pro-Christian. We did not say it was exclusively white. We were also very critical of Islam, but that is an ideological issue, not a racial issue. I can promise you that Liberty University would not have tolerated a white power group on its campus.”
Then in the same story the Gazette quotes the accusation a democratic campaign contributor named Laurie Franklin that accused Taylor of using “Racist words” and Gianforte should have condemned them:
“Mr. Gianforte never spoke against these two men to whom he had donated money, never denounced their racist words and actions,” Franklin wrote. “It’s not normal to support white supremacists. White Supremacy is not a Montana Value.”
Once again the Gazette fails to actually tell the reader what racist words Taylor used. Whatever happened to a standard of evidence for journalism? Running an opinion letter from an obviously biased Democrat is one thing, pretending that letter is authoritative is another.
All of this narrative only follows logically if you believe that western civilization is inherently racist. Or that racism was somehow important to what folks like Rose believe about the world. But if that’s true, make your case! Prove it with reasoned argumentation and evidence. Or just write an opinion piece! But don’t pretend this is news reporting. Don’t pretend you are adding to the collective consciousness of Montana by piecing together innuendo and narrative in the absence of any evidence.
If Taylor Rose said something racist, then quote it, get proof. Otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time and perhaps misrepresenting a non-racist with a word that should be reserved for the worst kind of people. Our primary contention is not about Rose, it’s about journalism and professional integrity. Why write this summary of old news stories now with no new news to cover?
Jayme, is this why you became a journalist?