Good on Ben Hall for standing up to the Houston Chronicle editorial board and refusing to attend their farce of a candidate screening. As I said earlier, Hall had as much chance of getting the e-board’s endorsement as a snowball has of not melting when placed on a sidewalk in Houston’s August heat. Here is the complete statement from the Ben Hall campaign:
Ben Hall Refuses To Participate In Ms. Parker’s Election Scheme
Stands Up For Voters Against The 16-Year Entrenched Incumbent & Her Cronies
(Houston, TX) – Mayoral candidate Ben Hall has canceled a joint screening with the Houston Chronicle editorial staff and Ms. Annise Parker. The cancellation follows after weeks of requests to the Chronicle to open the screening process to the general public or members of the media. No allowance was made for the Hall campaign to film the meeting for distribution. Negotiations with the Chronicle ended in a disrespectful “No” from their executive vice president.
The Chronicle refuses to scrutinize Ms. Parker’s record or to cover her failures. They are all but silent on her corrupt pay-to-play practices, her lies and mismanagement of the drainage fee, her lack of solutions to the pension liabilities, her ethical violations and financial improprieties, and her use of pet projects to fool voters into believing she has solutions to Houston’s real challenges. Voters deserve to know but the Chronicle does not feel that it is in their interest to tell them.
“The Chronicle has failed to provide unfiltered information or to inform the Houston electorate, instead serving as a megaphone for the interests of Ms. Parker and her cronies,” said Julia Smekalina, press secretary for the Ben Hall campaign. “This final refusal to accommodate increased transparency and access is further evidence of their loyalty to only a select few at City Hall.”
In light of this week’s mayoral debate, it became even more evident that voters deserve more opportunities to hear their top candidates challenge one another’s record, positions, and visions for Houston. The editorial screening was a perfect opportunity to increase access but the Chronicle’s refusal to go against the demands of the Mayor once again showed the true intentions of the newspaper – to spew propaganda for the entrenched and desperate incumbent.
“Ms. Parker’s vindictive campaign turned on voters directly when she forcefully shut down all negotiations for further televised, formal, debate opportunities,” continued Smekalina. “Since the Chronicle failed to place the interests of voters above the selfish agenda of an entrenched incumbent, the Hall campaign has refused to participate in further discussions or events with the newspaper.”
Attached are emails and original requests to Jeff Cohen and the Chronicle staff from the Ben Hall campaign.
Every word of that press release is true. It is noteworthy that in their article about Hall’s refusal, Mr. Cohen does not refute Hall’s reasoning.
My support for Hall’s refusal has nothing to do with partisan politics or the perception among many, if not most, Houstonians that the Houston Chronicle editorial board is biased toward the left side of politics. In this case, both candidates are Democrats, so that takes the partisan angle out. Instead we are left with the Chronicle’s clear bias in favor of Mayor Parker for whatever reason. Negative article after negative article and negative editorial after negative editorial towards Mr. Hall cannot be overlooked.
One clear example of this bias is contained in a recent combination of an editorial on 9/13, a feature article on the premium Houston Chronicle site on 9/15 by reporter Mike Morris, and a blog post also by reporter Mike Morris on 9/26.
The editorial claims this:
Hall finally lends a voice to those who want to nix future pensions entirely.
That statement is blatantly false. I’ve been to several meetings where Mr. Hall has talked about pensions and he has never advocated “nixing” them entirely.
Mr. Morris then wrote a very balanced report that was featured on the premium website – the type that we expect from reporters of his caliber, especially when we pay for them.
But then eleven days later Mr. Morris wrote the blog post:
What is Hall’s pension reform proposal, exactly?
We noted a while ago that pensions could require a balancing act from Hall
It appears the tightrope has gotten a little wobbly
So we have a blatantly false editorial, a balanced report from a real reporter, then what amounts to an attack blog from the same reporter. And Morris gets to direct his readers to a specific attack on an anti-Hall website, with a nod to a generic website against Parker. But the interesting thing to me is that all three of these reports resulted from Mr. Hall appearing before the Houston Chronicle editorial board – complete with audio. You know, the meetings that are supposed to be secret and which Jeff Cohen refused to allow the Ben Hall to record? When you are the only one allowed to record a meeting, you control the information coming out of it.
Those are just tips on the iceberg of the Houston Chronicle’s negativity towards Ben Hall this election cycle. Does his refusal to talk to them come with some risk? Surely. Already, the typical left wing bloggers, all of whom support Parker, are attacking Hall on this issue. But their readers would have voted for Parker anyway, so the risk is small.
The reward for future elections in Harris County is that perhaps, just maybe, the Houston Chronicle under its new editor will try to be what newspapers should be – unbiased in their reporting and balanced in their editorials. Which is what any “leading information source” should strive for in my opinion For that, I say thank you Mr. Hall.