Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Feel Your Pain, Mayhill Fowler

Mayhill Fowler is a blogger who broke the story about disparaging comments Sen. Barack Obama made about small town folks at a San Francisco fundraiser at the Getty Mansion. Fowler is a 61-year-old, hardcore supporter of Obama's who has contributed the maximum amount allowed under law to his campaign. But when she reported the truth about what Obama said at the fundraiser she attended in San Francisco, none of that mattered to Obama and his supporters. Katharine Seelye of the New York Times takes a closer look at Fowler's predicament:

Ms. Fowler told me in an interview Sunday night that she was initially reluctant to write about what Mr. Obama had said because she actually supports him -- which partly explains why she was at the fund-raiser in the first place and why there was a four-day delay between the event and the publication of her post. Ultimately, she said, she decided that if she didn’t write about it, she wouldn’t be worth her salt as a journalist.

Some Obama supporters in the blogosphere were up in arms at Ms. Fowler. They doubt that she really supports Mr. Obama, have called her a plant for Mrs. Clinton and suggested she was deceptive in getting into the fund-raiser.

The whole episode gives a revealing glimpse into yet even more ways in which the Internet is changing the coverage of politics. And Ms. Fowler says she is surprised that she is playing a role in this revolution . . .

Ms. Fowler has spent a lot of time (and her own money) following the presidential campaign-- and participating in it. She has maxed out at $2,300 to Mr. Obama, starting in increments last fall. She said she has also given money ($100) to Mrs. Clinton, because she is roughly Mrs. Clinton’s age and liked the idea of a woman president and she attended two Clinton fund-raisers with her sister, a devoted Clinton supporter. And she also gave $500 to Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, even though he is a Republican, because that’s where she is from and her family has been steeped in Tennessee politics since the 1790s (that’s not a typo).

As a supporter who had made donations, Ms. Fowler had been invited before to Obama fund-raisers -- and written about them on O.T.B. After the Ohio and Texas primaries, she was back home in the Bay Area and heard that Mr. Obama would be holding four fund-raisers there on April 6. She had not been invited but asked a friend if she could go. She was put on the list for the last of four events, this one at a mansion in Pacific Heights.

There’s a bit of a brush fire in California about how Ms. Fowler got in, and Ms. Fowler is protecting the person who secured her a ticket. That person has since called her and said that fund-raisers are always off the record.

“This was never conveyed to me,” Ms. Fowler said. “I was invited to the event, I had written on fund-raisers in the past, why wouldn’t I this time?” She said the Obama campaign had never objected before to her having written about fund-raisers (though admittedly, nothing much of interest had happened). And the invitations said nothing about being closed to the press. Besides, she said, several guests brought people and children and who had not been invited.

“We had a fundamental misunderstanding of my priorities,” Ms. Fowler told me. “Mine were as a reporter, not as a supporter. They thought I would put the role of supporter first.”

So it turns out that Ms. Fowler is a partisan blogger with a conscience. This is a concept foreign to many of the people who blog. Their partisanship completely blinds them. Any blogger who dares think for himself or herself is castigated immediately. Fowler explains why she decided to write about what Obama said at the fundraiser:

Ms. Fowler said she found his response "professorial" and judgmental toward blue-collar voters and that even though she supports him, she was "taken aback" by them.

“I’m a religious person, and I grew up poor in a very wealthy family -- sometimes we didn’t have enough to eat, but my larger family was rich,” she said. Her father was a hunter.

“Immediately, the remarks just really bothered me. For the first time, I realized he is an elitist.” . . .

Then she stewed for several days over whether to write about the comments about small-town voters. “There are no standards of journalism on the Internet,” she said. “I’m always second-guessing myself. Is this the right thing to do? Am I being fair?”

She said she initially decided not to write about them. “I thought I wouldn’t put it out there, this really might damage his campaign,” she said. “I talked it over with my husband, and like many people, he didn’t see anything wrong with the remarks. He didn’t think it was newsworthy.”

Then she told her editor in New York that she had some interesting material but didn’t tell her exactly what it was. “Initially I resisted what she was telling me, which was that if you’re going to cover the campaign, you have to not be partial or your coverage isn’t worth as much as it could be,” she said.

Seelye explains how the Obama campaign and the other usual suspects in the liberal blogosphere set out to discredit her for speaking with candor:

Soon, the Obama Web posted a counter-description from another person who attended the fund-raiser (without the quotes). The writer gives a sympathetic explanation of Mr. Obama’s comments and writes that Ms. Fowler had an agenda; Ms. Fowler said she had no agenda except to write it as she saw it.

Comments on became so furious that one poster suggested that readers let Ms. Fowler off the hook. “No,” someone else responded, “if we let her go, others will do it... We’ve got to show the ‘journalist’ that they can’t manufacture dissent. This isn’t about Obama, this could easily be a story about Iraq or Iran. This is the type of disingenuous reporting that we have to stop. We need to make an example of her.”

Hats off to Mayhill Fowler. We could use more bloggers like her who put principle ahead of partisanship.


FiniFinito said...

I feel her pain too. As a recovering journalist turned partisan blogger I know the conflict she must have been faced with was a tough call to make, doubly so if she is an Obama supporter.

And maybe I am an elitist too (I don't consider myself one) but I honestly did not have a problem with his remarks. One of the reasons I sort of like Obama is the fact he will occasionally commit random acts of truthtelling that make the Democratic Party leaderships' heads collectively explode. That's not a bad thing you know.

Unknown said...

Instead of attacking the messenger, maybe Obama should be kicking himself for making the stupid, elitist comment in the first place?

Bart Lies said...

I don't understand the outrage at his remarks. I am myself an embittered small-town American who's angry at Washington. I imagine most people are these days - those who work for a living, anyway.

FiniFinito said...

Holy crap I agree with bart lies? In other news, a freak snowstorm blasted the southern regions of Hades and Hell this afternoon...

Bart Lies said...

Well, let me whack you upside the head again (if I am to believe your profile), I'm leaning (significantly) towards your guy Myers for the 7th District seat.

Five more apocalyptic signs are all that stand between now and the End Time.

FiniFinito said...

Well we appreciate your support for Dr. Myers most definitely. However, I thought you were Republican, are you one of the cross over voters we keep hearing about so much or were you a cross over last year for Ballard because of Bart Peterson?

MissouriDemocrat said...

I am not an Obama supporter that also agrees with his remarks. Taken in context many small town voters do cling to those things they are comfortable with, do have distrust in Washington and I see nothing wrong with saying it upfront as it is. On the other hand, those that have responded to Mr. Fowler and those remarks I see daily here our people have grown mean and hateful. When we disagree anymore the logical response is not respect for others viewpoints, but downright nastiness. It makes me no longer enjoy reading here sometimes. A shame in that I thought inside I understood our citizenry very well. We have changes and not for the better, but I am not down on the American concept, just those that practice their own ideas of it.

Bart Lies said...

I've never been 'of a party' always 'of a belief.' My opposition to Bart was never on the basis of his party affiliation in any way. My support of Ballard, likewise was not because of his party, but was on the basis of the man and his principles.

And that also explains my opposition of Andre 'Kid' Carson.