Despite the accumulated reportage and commentary available to the Associated Press this morning, the wire service, at 9:58 a.m. Eastern Time (saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes), only reported on one side of the story relating to an altercation that took place between Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices David Prosser, Jr. and Ann Walsh Bradley. In doing so, it ignored the existence of a follow-up story published at least 12 hours earlier at the Milwaukee Journal, the newspaper it cites as the primary source of its original coverage.
In AP-Land, despite contrary assertions, the conservative Prosser is the alleged choking aggressor, and the left-leaning Bradley the supposed innocent victim. Taking all known accounts into consideration, the matter is hardly so clear-cut.
Prosser “just so happens” to have won a hotly contested Supreme Court race in April which was seen as a referendum on the popularity of 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, commonly known as the “Budget Repair Bill,” which imposed out-of-pocket pension and health insurance premium costs on most Badger State public-sector workers while limiting their collective-bargaining rights. On June 14, the Supreme Court reinstated the law, overruling a Dane County judge who the court ruled had usurped her authority in nullifying the law on procedural grounds. Act 10 appears to be set to become law on July 1.
Here are key paragraphs from the unbylined AP report (internal link added by me):
Wisconsin justice accuses colleague of choking her
A Wisconsin Supreme Court justice has accused another justice of choking her during an argument in her office earlier this month – a charge her colleague denied.
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Justice David Prosser put her in a chokehold during the dispute. She contacted the newspaper late Saturday after Prosser denied rumors about the altercation.
“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the newspaper.
Prosser said in a statement the allegations “will be proven false” once a “proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear.”
Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, quoting anonymous sources, reported Saturday that the argument occurred before the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill eliminating most of public employees’ collective bargaining rights.
… AP’s description is at the very least irresponsible, in light of the following item published at the Journal Sentinel yesterday at about 6:30 p.m. Central Time (based on when the first comments appeared; bolds are mine):
Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.
A joint investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first reported on the incident early Saturday, stating that Prosser “allegedly grabbed” Bradley around the neck.
Before Bradley spoke to the Journal Sentinel, Prosser issued a statement that said: “Once there’s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.”
A source who spoke to several justices present during the incident told the Journal Sentinel that the confrontation occurred after 5:30 p.m. June 13, the day before the high court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
… The conversation grew heated, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a source said.
… another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.
“She charged him with fists raised,” the source said.
Prosser “put his hands in a defensive posture,” the source said. “He blocked her.”
In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley’s neck.
When the AP article went up, this was at a minimum a he-said, she-said situation where, depending on the truth, either party may be subject to discipline or other sanctions. By omitting the alternate version of events in the Journal Sentinel’s follow-up report, the AP either negligently or deliberately gave the nation’s readers an incomplete and substantively false version of what has been alleged, creating the impression that only Prosser could be in the wrong.
Madison, Wisconsin blogger Ann Althouse has been following the situation since news about it first appeared, and is none too pleased with how leftists are dishonestly attempting to orchestrate a political hit. Her posts on the topic, as of 3 p.m. this afternoon, are, in chronological order here, here, here and here.
This blogger’s speculation: If this information about an alleged June 13 incident took 11-12 days to surface, it has the distinct aroma of a group of people possibly attempting to coordinate to get their stories straight. But it looks like someone may have busted that plan.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.