On October 1, the Washington Post published a story by reporter Stephanie McCrummen in which she noted that early in his political career, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry hosted lawmakers at a family hunting camp labeled near its entrance as "Niggerhead." Castle Rock attorney Mike Robinson found the report full of dubious innuendo -- so he decided to "use the same methodology she did" by investigating McCrummen and framing his findings in the most damning way possible.
The result was "Washington Post Staff Writer Who Wrote Rick Perry Attack Piece Has Criminal Past," published on the conservative site RedState.com. (It's also available via Examiner.com, which includes the Post photo of McCrummen seen here.) In the piece, he argues that while "a careful read of the story shows that there is no substantiation for the allegations of racism, Ms. McCrummen, the Post, and MSNBC have held a non-stop witch hunt, accusing Mr. Perry of everything under the sun. So, let's examine the author using the same journalistic standards practiced by the Washington Post."
Shortly thereafter, Robinson announces that "Ms. McCrummen has a rather interesting criminal history herself, as public criminal records in multiple states stretching across 4 time zones." The first violation took place almost twenty years ago in North Carolina -- writing a "hot check." Then, circa 2005, "the apparently unrepentant Ms. McCrummen" was found guilty in Virginia of failing to obey a highway sign. The next year, also in Virginia, she was caught driving 46 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone. And finally, in August 2010, while in Arizona, she sped again and paid her fine two months late after being tracked down as part of a collection-review program. Thus, McCrummen is "a four-time loser in the states' criminal courts."
Does Robinson believe these infractions make McCrummen unsuitable to work as a reporter for a major national news organization. "Gosh, no," he says from his Castle Rock office. "That's normal stuff anybody would have on their record. I'll bet I could go through your record, or anybody's, and do guilt-by-association things just like that."
Of course, Perry is running for president, which invites a higher level of scrutiny. But Robinson feels the approach taken toward such candidates today has become increasingly coarse.
"Stronger and stronger language is used, and that bleeds through to everybody," he maintains. "Old-style newspapers like the Washington Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer hold onto the pretense of journalistic purity, but they have to compete... That's why it keeps going further and further into some of these directions that tear people apart without any reason at all. And I don't approve of it."
To help send this message, he decided to look up McCrummen's criminal history, "and it was very simple to do," he notes. "There are a number of commercial sites that will do it, and I used one of them. It cost me $19, and it took me all of about an hour and a half. And then I wrote it up with the same kind of strong innuendo that I've seen from the Washington Post in this circumstance, and other papers as well."
Robinson insists that his article isn't meant to single out McCrummen, the Washington Post or any particular party or individual. As for the possibility that his investigation might inspire political organizations to attempt to discredit other reporters or journalists who write something they don't like using similar tactics, he can see it happening, and admits that it might add to the volume of "everybody making so much noise throughout the land." But he still believes it was a point worth making. "When somebody announces they're running for office, they're open game," he says.
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Unsurprisingly, Robinson's essay has provoked derision in the journalism community. Take New York magazine, where Dan Amira wrote, "I've written a lot of nasty things about Rick Perry these past few months, so for all I know, I could be next on Red State's intimidation list. So allow me to beat them to the punch: In kindergarten, I was found guilty of throwing a ball in class. I was given a time-out and forced to trace the numbers from 1 to 100 as penance."
Don't expect such criticism to bother Robinson. He's just happy his opinion is getting out there. "If I write things and our law firm is listed, it's good for our law firm," he says. "It lets people know that if they hire us, we'll fight for them."
If Rick Perry's looking for representation, he could do worse.
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