May 6, 2008

In McGreevey Divorce Story, AP Omits Party Label, Errs on Background

In a remarkable example of “Name that Party,” the Associated Press, in an unbylined report about the beginning of his divorce trial appearing in USA Today, failed to name the party of former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who resigned in 2005, or of his former “male staffer.”

Beyond that, AP did not accurately describe the circumstances that triggered McGreevey’s resignation.

Here’s how the report began (bold is mine; HT to an e-mailer):

After two tell-all books, tawdry sex claims and 3½ years of living apart, New Jersey’s gay ex-governor and his estranged wife showed up for court Tuesday morning to begin the process of ending their marriage.

….. The issues to be decided in the divorce settlement involve custody, alimony and child support, and whether McGreevey, now openly gay, committed fraud by marrying a woman.

Matos McGreevey, 41, is seeking $600,000 for time she would have spent at the governor’s mansion had her husband not resigned in disgrace. McGreevey stepped down during his first term after a nationally televised speech in which he acknowledged being “a gay American” and having an affair with a male staffer. The staffer has denied the affair and said he was sexually harassed by McGreevey.

Since his resignation in the fall of 2004, both he and his soon-to-be-ex wrote books about their time together, including their sex lives. She claims she never knew he was gay until just before he told the rest of the world. He claims their marriage was “a contrivance on both our parts,” but that he fulfilled the marriage contract by providing companionship and a child.

The AP report gives the reader the impression that the only reason McGreevey resigned was because of the affair (or harassment) and his sexual “preference”/”orientation.”

But AP left out other details behind McGreevey’s resignation that would have informed readers that it was not “all about sex.”

The former “male staffer” AP refered to is Golan Cipel, whom AP inexplicably chose not to name. Cipel’s Wikipedia entry, which on balance appears to correctly represent events that occurred during the time involved, says this (New York Times link within excerpt added by me):

McGreevey eventually appointed Cipel as a Counselor to the Governor. Investigations by the news media into Cipel’s history revealed few notable qualifications related to intelligence or security. Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would not grant him the necessary security clearances for the job because he was a foreign national. He was retained on the government payroll as a “counselor” at the same salary and with undefined job responsibilities. Documents show that he helped plan foreign trips for the governor, and that he continued his liaison role with the Jewish community. He ultimately resigned in August 2002, taking a position at the Trenton lobbying firm State Street Partners.

Reports that Cipel would file a sexual harassment suit against McGreevey in Mercer County Court led to McGreevey’s decision to out himself as “a gay American” on August 12, 2004, and announce that he had engaged in an adulterous relationship with Cipel and would be resigning as governor.

Golan Cipel dropped the suit after McGreevey resigned, stating that justice had been served.

(in 2004) Cipel claims he was one of many victims of McGreevey’s sexual harassment, that he had “no romantic affair” with the governor, but rather was taken advantage of. He also describes the former governor’s behavior as egotistical, unprofessional, immoral and immature, as well as having received threats from McGreevey’s “friends” should he come forward and speak.

The resignation thus was strongly related to McGreevey’s laxness in assigning properly qualified Homeland Security personnel, as well as to the (take your pick) the affair the former Governor claims he had, or the sexual harassment Cipel claims to have endured.

AP’s failure to name to party of a scandal-plagued Democrat is typical. Its failure to accurately recount the history is indefensible.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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