Given the underlying story, the following headline to a Thursday story at the Detroit Free Press is either a big mistake or a deliberate attempt to focus blame where it absolutely does not belong: “Man on probation, fined for role in tea party scam.” Excuse me while I question whether the Freep deserves the benefit of the doubt.
L.L. Brasler’s story is really about how the second of two Democratic Party operatives has been sentenced for running an electoral scam with sham candidates to hurt Republican and conservatives and to blunt the impact of the Tea Party movement:
A former Oakland County Democratic Party operative was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay more than $2,500 in fines and court costs for his role in creating fake tea party candidates during the 2010 election in an effort to siphon off support for Republican candidates.
Jason Bauer, 31, of Waterford said nothing Wednesday as Oakland County Circuit Judge James Alexander, a former official with the county’s Republican Party, told Bauer: “This is as heinous as someone who tries to kill somebody else.”
In November, Bauer pleaded no contest to five felony counts of perjury and falsifying notarized documents.
He and fellow Democratic official Michael McGuinness were indicted by a one-man grand jury in March for attempting to put unknowing residents on the ballot as tea party candidates.
Investigators said the ruse was an attempt to dilute the votes of legitimate Republican candidates.
McGuinness also pleaded no contest; he was sentenced to probation in December.
Alexander’s reaction is overheated but somewhat understandable, and no one got hurt. If the pair of Democrats had been successful, voters in the affected areas would definitely have been hurt by a serious breach of electoral integrity. If it had only been discovered after the fact, faith in the electoral system, which is already shaky in the Wolverine State (see Detroit, and its larger roster of registered voters than adult residents), would have been further undermined.
The Freep’s “clever” headline writer knows that many news consumers on electronic devices (computers, smart phones, tablets, etc.) go through lists of headlines and don’t actually visit most listed stories. In this case, unless they do, they’ll believe that Tea Party members conducted a scam.
L.L. Brasler should be vehemently objecting to the story’s headline. If not, the reporter is as bit a part of the problem as the person who wrote the headline and the editors who waved it through.
The Freep in this instance is conducting a scam on the public. How shameful.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.