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

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
"In mid-August, hundreds of displaced Christians who had fled to Erbil were moved by Kurdish authorities into the concrete shell of a half-built mall. "
Photograph by Sebastian Meyer
Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch
Post
Flying Blind·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“President Obama’s war against the Islamic State will represent, by a rough count, the eighth time the U.S. air-power lobby has promised to crush a foe without setting boot or foot on the ground.”
Article
The Monkey Did It·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Murakami’s fiction, what presents itself as a key reveals itself simultaneously to be a keyhole.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
PBS Self-Destructs·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The present state of PBS, the result of built-in deficiencies and ideological conflicts, was almost an inevitability.”
Illustration by Thomas Allen

Estimated percentage of U.S. gasoline consumption that occurs during traffic jams:

4

In India, 1.8 million female children were estimated to have died between 1985 and 2005 as an indirect result of domestic violence against their mothers; the boys of abused mothers were not at increased risk of death.

Vanilla latte and lemon pound cake continued to be the best-selling items at the Starbucks at CIA headquarters, where baristas do not write customers’ names on their cups.

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