Washington Babylon — October 8, 2008, 2:41 pm

When Challenged on Ethics, Sen. Coleman and Rep. Keller Blame the Bloggers

October 8: In a stellar display of political weaselry, Cullen Sheehan, campaign manager for Senator Norm Coleman, tells reporters that he will not “respond to unnamed sources on a blog,” then refuses to answer direct questions asking him whether another man paid for Senator Coleman’s suits—repeating “the Senator has reported every gift he has ever received” at least eight times.

Two of my stories for this blog have become issues in current congressional campaigns. One story was about Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman and his close relationship with political donors, including a businessman named Nasser Kazeminy. The story raised the possibility, based on two confidential sources, that Kazeminy has helped underwrite Coleman’s wardrobe, specifically with purchases at Neiman Marcus.

The second story, which ran last November, reported that “Family Values” Congressman Ric Keller of Florida had, after winning office,

divorced his wife and married a young woman who worked on his congressional staff. I spoke with four people, each of whom would only speak with me on condition of anonymity, and each of whom told me that Keller’s relationship with the staffer began while he was still married.

I reported then that House disclosure records showed that Keller and his staffer (and future bride) traveled together on his campaign’s dime, during the same month in 2002 that he separated from his wife, and that she was his only staffer that year to receive a year-end bonus. Now Keller’s opponent has apparently sent out my story as a campaign flyer.

Both Coleman and Keller have denounced the stories–apparently because I published them online in this weblog. “There are very awful things that are said about people on the blogs,” Coleman told one reporter. And Keller issued a statement saying that the story I had written was all “innuendo” and that I was a “discredited blogger” who had previously reported that Hillary Clinton was a lesbian. That is, very simply, a lie, as anyone can see if they bother to read postings I wrote earlier this year making fun of the dumb rumors about Hillary’s alleged “Sapphic excursions.”

In other words, neither Coleman nor Keller wants to discuss the issues raised by the stories; both prefer instead to shift the topic and rail against “bloggers.” What’s particularly striking is that I gave both Coleman and Keller ample opportunity to comment before the stories were published. Both posts were based on interviews, public documents, and published accounts, and were reviewed by an editor before publication. Keller’s office refused to comment at all, whereas Coleman’s office refused to provide a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question about his clothing purchases. (I reproduced those emails in my post.)

Politicians do this all the time: instead of answering questions, no matter how specific and direct, they hope a “no comment” or dissembling will kill a story. And it often works. I spent significant time on both the Coleman and Keller stories, and I reported what I knew to be true. I made clear in the specific case of Coleman’s wardrobe that I did not have all the details confirmed, but that the accounts I had were highly detailed and credible. And instead of replying, Coleman was, and remains, evasive. If he ever gives a straight answer, I’ll be happy to report it. But blaming “bloggers” should not be a substitute for elected officials replying to specific, detailed questions.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Evidence of a chill was plain. People in Hailey spoke to me about Bergdahl in low voices, as if about a death.”
Fox & Friends, July 6, 2014
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Post
The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
What the Camera Saw·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They shot him behind the left ear, and he fell.”
Article
Bounty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I’d been one of the unprepared, I’d be desperate, too.”
Illustration (detail) by Simon Pemberton

Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:

19,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today