12 June 2006

Some Ohio Editors and Reporters Criticize
'Rolling Stone' Story on 2004 Alleged Vote Fraud

Joe Strupp - June 12, 2006

NEW YORK - Did the press really miss the story in the 2004 presidential election of massive voter fraud and conspiracies to keep millions from casting ballots that a recent controversial piece in Rolling Stone has alleged? As the article's author, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., believes, did news outlets, both nationally and in the battleground state of Ohio, engage in a "media blackout" that ignored what he claims are "deeply troubling" aspects of the election that returned George W. Bush to the White House?

Bob Herbert added fuel to the fire on Monday in claiming in his New York Times column that, after the Rolling Stone report, "the integrity of the election process needs to be more fiercely defended in the face of outrageous Republican assaults. Democrats, the media, and ordinary voters need to fight back."

But for many in Ohio who covered the presidential race, which was not decided until the following morning after John Kerry gave up any attempt at challenging the Ohio results, the Rolling Stone allegations are unfounded.

"We looked at the Rolling Stone piece and we didn't see anything new in there," says Eva Parziale, Associated Press Ohio bureau chief, who held that post in 2004 when the election occurred. "They were things we already reported on and issues we did not see to have substance."

Carl Weiser, government and public affairs editor for the Cincinnati Enquirer, agreed. "I read it and nothing in there was really new," he said. "The folks who know Ohio elections best checked into it and found there was no conspiracy."

But that hasn't stopped the Kennedy piece from raising interest among others in the newspaper world, particularly on the editorial page, even before the Herbert column.

"In the days since Rolling Stone magazine published a long piece that accused Republicans of widespread and intentional cheating that affected the outcome of the last presidential election, the silence in America's establishment media has been deafening," Ken Bunting, associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a former editor of the paper, wrote Friday. "In terms of bad news judgment, this could turn out to be the 2006 equivalent of the infamous 'Downing Street memo,' the London Times story that was initially greeted by the U.S. Media with a collective yawn."

Kennedy's article, which is heavily footnoted on the magazine's web site, draws much of its sourcing from the very newspapers in Ohio and nationally it appears to criticize. The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Blade of Toledo and the Columbus Dispatch, as well as the Times and The Washington Post, appear frequently throughout his long list of background notes.

The piece declares that incidents ranging from broken voting machines in New Mexico to long lines in Ohio to millions of overseas voters not receiving ballots were not given the national media inquiries they deserved. Kennedy writes that "the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as 'conspiracy theories,' and The New York Times declared that 'there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale'."

[...] But Herbert wrote on Monday: "Kerry almost certainly would have won Ohio if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots....No one has been able to prove that the election in Ohio was hijacked. But whenever it is closely scrutinized, the range of problems and dirty tricks that come to light is shocking. What's not shocking, of course, is that every glitch and every foul-up in Ohio, every arbitrary new rule and regulation, somehow favored Bush."


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