In a Sunday Review-Journal interview story about “defrocked” Sun columnist Jon Ralston’s efforts to launch a profitable political website, there was this exchange:
Question: About those sarcastic quote marks you put around “newspaper” when citing the Review-Journal: Do we really not print anything newsworthy?
Answer: If I’m being honest, to some extent, that’s a relic of being horrified at how (former Publisher) Sherm Frederick and (former Editor) Tom Mitchell conducted themselves during the Reid-Angle Senate race. I think they were way out of control, and I think it trickled into coverage. People thought the quote marks were funny, so I kept them. I guess I need to get over it, but that was the genesis of it. I do not hate the R-J.
I defy Ralston or anyone else to find a single sentence that I wrote prior to the election that was “way out of control.” (After the election is another story.) And I especially defy anyone to show a scintilla of evidence that the paper’s news coverage was in any way biased.
But since Ralston brought it up, one could do well to look back at Ralston’s writings and television interviews.
Is calling a candidate crazy and dangerous, as Ralston did in one column, way out of control? “But Reid’s serpentine rhetorical peregrinations seem addled; Angle’s seem dangerous. So do we want the dotty guy or the crazy woman?”
Perhaps saying a candidate is pathological is objective reporting. “I am beginning to wonder about this seemingly pathological habit Angle has of saying she never said something when it is on tape and so easily retrieved.”
I would say calling a candidate schizophrenic might be a bit out of control. “I am not sure who that was I interviewed on ‘Face to Face’ Tuesday evening, but it was not Sharron Angle.” Ralston wrote after the primary in 2010. “At least not the Sharron Angle who existed before she was catapulted from relatively unknown former assemblywoman to perhaps the most famous Republican Senate nominee in the country …”
Later in that column he said, “So if Angle is indeed dealing with her new schizophrenia, making her a prime target, why won’t Reid debate her? My guess is he will, but only under the most favorable circumstances.”
I suppose penning a column with a fictional dialogue between a candidate and God, is fair and balanced rather than an attempt at ridicule.
“Has Sharron Angle, who makes stuff up, changes her positions and revises history, gotten away with it?” Ralston asked in another screed.
He answered his own question later by writing that “she was doing what she has done the entire campaign, with her ‘Second Amendment remedies’ lunacy and her ‘domestic enemies’ echo of a deluded radio host: Play to the worst fears and visceral beliefs of voters despondent about the economy, alienated from government and looking for someone to be a repository for their bilious unease.”
Speaking of bilious, take a look at a few of his diatribes face-to-face, so to speak, with candidate Angle:
Angle is right and Ralston is wrong, as I so noted at the time. There is an Establishment Clause and a Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, but no Wall of Separation Clause. That phrase was first used by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, who feared Connecticut might establish a state sanctioned religion. The First Amendement at the time restrained Congress but not the states — until the passage of the 14th Amendment.