USA Today Reporter Covering Scott Walker Once Signed A Petition To Recall Him

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 10, 2015 3:50 PM
USA Today Reporter Covering Scott Walker Once Signed A Petition To Recall Him

Madeleine Behr is a reporter for USA Today and the Appleton Post-Crescent, who covers Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Yet, she signed a petition to recall the 2016 presidential candidate back in 2011. So, is this an egregious form of liberal media bias? Yes and no. It’s a bit odd that a person who wanted to boot Walker is covering his 2016 exploits. According to Mediatrackers, she’s written 35 stories about the governor.

The publication added that in 2012, it was reported that 25 Gannett journalists (Gannett owns USA Today, Post-Crescent, and other newspapers), including nine at the Post-Crescent had signed the recall petition. This behavior was cited as unethical, according to the Crescent’s publisher, Genia Lovett.

“It was wrong,” she said. “And those who signed were in breach of Gannett’s Principles of Ethical Conduct for Newsrooms.”

At the same time, Behr was completely transparent about this fact when she interviewed for the job:

Joel Christopher, vice president of news for Gannett Wisconsin Media, responded to a Media Trackers inquiry about Behr’s assignment to cover Walker, saying, “We indeed are aware that Madeleine signed the Gov. Scott Walker recall election petition in 2011 because Madeleine made it a priority to tell us before she even interviewed for a reporting position with us.”

Christopher further explained that, “With Madeleine and every Gannett Wisconsin journalist whose work we put in front of the public, we invite people to read with a critical eye because we’re confident they will discover strong journalism reported fairly and accurately in a nonpartisan fashion in service of the public interest.”

“Scott Walker had his own email controversy,” blares the headline of Behr’s July 30 story about Walker, which claims that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mail controversy involving classified information and secret personal servers is similar to a private e-mail network established by Walker aides when he was Milwaukee County Executive.

Trackers also mentioned that Behr wrote for the left-wing Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Again, we all know the media has a left-leaning bias. It’s pretty much accepted, even liberals agree that there is a liberal tilt to the news. Maybe at worst Behr forgot to add a full disclosure citation that she signed a Walker recall petition. Don’t get me wrong. This is ethically murky territory, but not nearly as bad as some of the relationships we’ve seen from within the Big Three–ABC, NBC, and CBS. Executives from those networks had relatives working in the Obama White House.

Via WaPo:

The list of prominent news people with close White House relations includes ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist. CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Further, White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice is also married to ABC News executive producer Ian Cameron.

So, in the grand scheme of things, this is relatively small potatoes, especially since conservatives have noted the relationships above contributed to how the Obama presidency has been covered in the media, especially the Benghazi terrorist attack during the 2012 election; that allegation of bias that’s been vociferously denied by the networks of course. All Behr did was sign a petition.

Concerning her latest piece for the Post-Crescent, she noted that the “war on women” attacks lobbed at Walker might be a bit more “nuanced,” as the Wisconsin governor has increased funds for domestic violence services in the state:

In his past four years as governor, while pledging a conservative agenda and fiscal responsibility, Walker has allocated more than $25 million to services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, women's shelters in Madison and Milwaukee, as well as funding to track domestic abusers and those with restraining orders using GPS technology.

A $5 million boost in funding in Walker's most recent biennial budget for domestic violence services was a "transformative investment," said Patti Seger, executive director for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, an organization that advocates for and supports victims.

Walker increased funding for domestic abuse grant programs 74 percent, from $7.1 million to $12.4 million. His predecessor, former Gov. Jim Doyle, increased funding 41 percent, from $5 million to $7.1 million, according to a Gannett Wisconsin analysis of budgets from 2004 to present-day for the Department of Children and Families and the former Department of Health and Family Services.

Walker also signed bills enforcing laws to curtail abusers from having guns, allowing state courts authority to issue restraining orders to out-of-state abusers using the Internet to harass their victims in Wisconsin, among others.

Seger also added that she’s seen many governors come and go, and lawmakers from both sides support domestic abuse services. Yet, funds when times get tough for the state financially, you see a cut in such services. That didn’t happen under Walker’s leadership, something Seger described as “extraordinary.”

Behr did end the piece about Walker repealing the 48-hour waiting period for buying handguns in the state, though there is no evidence that waiting periods decrease gun violence.

So, while the recall petition is ethically shady, it’s nowhere near the egregious forms of bias we’ve seen in years past. One of the worst being MSNBC’s Al Sharpton holding a rally during the chaos of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin debacle in 2012, and then interviewing the parents of Martin on his television show on the same day.  As many already know, On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense in Sanford, Florida.  

The Behr case isn’t a F-5 in liberal media bias, but it is bias nonetheless.