The PJ Tatler

Politico's shame: Anatomy of a smear

Where did the Politico’s ridiculous story about Gov. Rick Perry come from? If you don’t know Texas politics, it looks like it came out of the blue, perhaps from Politico just taking a look at how Democrats in the state have tried and failed to go after Perry over the years. But as I noted in an earlier post, this story didn’t just pop into existence ex nihilo. It has a source, one that Politico’s reporter, Maggie Haberman, and her editors do not acknowledge in their story. Someone pointed them in the direction of these baseless rumors, and based on the evidence, I say that his name is Mike Stark.

I’m not guessing here, I’m pretty sure he’s behind this. The strongest hint concerns the only actual new information that Haberman develops, which is the quote set from Perry adviser Dave Carney. She called him up, and got the truth: That there is nothing to the old rumors that the Texas Democrats have shamelessly peddled for years, from their former chairmen on down to their activists and operatives. That should have been an end to this, but the truth wasn’t the agenda. The agenda was to get the rumors out into the conversation as Perry contemplates running for president. If there is a story in all of this, that should have been the story: That the Texas Democratic Party has repeatedly attacked Gov. Perry on personal matters upon which there is no basis in truth, and that the attack continues despite its lack of factual basis and despite its repeated failure. That’s a story: Why are the supposedly tolerant Texas Democrats slandering the state’s governor? Why isn’t Politico pursuing it? Because it didn’t fit their agenda.

This all came up most recently in 2010, when liberal HuffPo and elsewhere blogger Mike Stark waged a speed dial campaign against Perry shortly before the election. Stark called Texas Republicans on the SREC, county chairs, staff and state Reps. and Senators, knowing that most Texas Republicans have no idea who he is, and knowing that it’s pretty easy to pretend to be objective and get people to say things that they intend to be utterly harmless, but which can be twisted to sound bad. And, by just asking questions, Stark intended to plant seeds of doubt. Call enough people, plant enough seeds, and perhaps one will be fool enough to become a weed. Texas Republicans didn’t fall for it, Perry soundly defeated the Democrat as that party was all but driven from the state, and Stark goes back to hatching schemes. Note to Politico: Stark’s speed dial campaign to smear the governor of a state he doesn’t even live in might also interest you as a bona fide story. What’s up with that?

The fact that Haberman called Carney about these baseless rumors that are periodically stirred up by the Texas Democrats tells me that Stark is behind this. It’s his MO, from 2010. Call, try to get an unfortunate quote that’s easily twisted (which Haberman didn’t get, because Carney is too smart to get taken in), and plant seeds of doubt by publishing a story about unfounded rumors. Stark just got Haberman/Politico to be his front to make the call.

And then Politico writes a story, that is also intended to do nothing but put the words “Rick Perry” and “gay” out there on the web and attached to each other so that Google searches will boost it. It’s clever, aside from the fact that it’s totally dishonest.

I’m calling Politico out. They are participating in a smear of a political leader who they oppose and fear. That’s the story here.