I admit to being surprised on July 7 when I first read the Clarion-Ledger story that all but accused Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves of putting political pressure on the Mississippi Department of Transportation regarded a road project on Lakeland Drive (Hwy 25) that involves the gated community where Reeves and his family live in Flowood. Mississippi Today soon piled on with its own story about the issue. In my opinion the Clarion-Ledger story was clearly shoddy journalism. I was even more surprised the byline on the story was that of Geoff Pender, political editor of the Clarion-Ledger. It was not long after I read Pender’s story when I received a comment about the story, from someone not in the Reeves camp, saying the Clarion-Ledger was “out to get” Reeves. If you want more balanced accounts and more accurate accounts of this very hot issue, I suggest reading the column below by Jim Prince, publisher of the Neshoba County Democrat and the following column by Alan Lange, owner and editor of Y’all Politics.
And what about MDOT? I have known Central District Highway Commissioner Dick Hall for many years. He is a good man, a good public servant and I have a lot of respect for him. However, during the recent Neshoba County Fair, I listened to Hall’s interview on the J.T. Show on Supertalk Radio. I later read reports of his speech at the Fair. Considering both the interview and speech, it would not surprise me if Hall received a thank you note from Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood.
Why is this type of shoddy journalism a problem, and even unfair? The original report in the Clarion-Ledger, was followed by the story in Mississippi Today. Naturally, the story by Pender was picked up by the Associated Press and published in other newspapers and broadcast media across the state. Attorney General Jim Hood said he would investigate the allegations of political pressure. Hood investigating in itself is a joke. But what if Hood’s investigation turns up no proof that Reeves, members of his staff or others applied political pressure? What if all the allegations prove false? Most people won’t remember the subsequent stories. People are quick to believe any allegation against a public official or politician. The damage has already been done.
Commissioners should MDOT executive director
And what about Melinda McGraft, executive director of MDOT? During the current controversy involving MDOT, press reports and Lt. Gov. Reeves, Hall praised McGraft as an outstanding professional engineer. I don’t doubt that for a minute. But McGraft is more than an engineer. She is executive director of MDOT. For her allegations of political pressure and comments to the press, Hall and the other two highway commissioners should have the balls to fire McGraft.
“Media is corrupt. It’s chosen a side.”
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California and chairman of the House Select on Intelligence, recently said this in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: “Today’s media is corrupt. It’s chosen a side.” Of course, Congressman Nunes was talking about the national media. However, the same journalism plant is growing in Mississippi. A few years ago when Haley Barbour was governor of Mississippi, Barbour gave his usual speech before a huge crowd at MEC’s annual Hobnob event. During his speech Barbour commented about the “Clarion liar”. I chuckled to myself as I thought his remark would not be reported in the Clarion-Ledger’s report of his speech. Of course, it was not in the newspaper’s story the next day.