Reputation and Consequence


Reputations are a funny thing.  They take lifetimes to build and just minutes to destroy, which is why when Willie Deutsch posted on rumors that Governor Bob McDonnell was on his way out over corruption charges tonight, it did what most Bearing Drift readers recognize as a risk — the reputation of an entire blog, built assiduously over the course of years, was literally pushed onto a limb.

 Of course, most folks did what any number of normal people would do.  The text messages went out, Twitter went berserk, and within moments we had repudiations from the Governor’s Office stating that the rumors — at least, as presented by Mr. Deutsch — were false.  From McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin himself this evening:

False — and that’s on the record.

Now just to be clear, any longtime reader of Bearing Drift knows that we are no fans of disgraced former RPV chairman Jeff Frederick.  In fact, allow me to be explicitly clear on this — Jeff Frederick was a train wreck, so the very idea that Governor McDonnell’s current mess is somehow “comeuppance” for what Frederick did to himself is ludicrous to the extreme.

However, all of this having been said, it is no secret whatsoever that the FBI are indeed asking questions, that lawyers are talking, and that rumors of resignations and indictments are running rife in Richmond and elsewhere.

…which is why the Bearing Drift community — editors, contributors, and readers — owe it to ourselves to do far better than merely tossing out rumors.  As UVA Professor Larry Sabato so artfully explained:

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For those unfamiliar with blogging, Bearing Drift operates under a similar rubric to that of RedState with one minor exception — while at RedState anyone can indeed post, only select posts are promoted.  Here at Bearing Drift, we have a unspoken code of ethics.  “A gentleman (or lady) does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor do we associate with those who do.”  Every post, for good or ill, makes it to the front page without the filter of an editor.

Bearing Drift editors and contributors spend a great deal of talent and time ensuring that when we do post stories and opinions, we do so with integrity.  That is a tradition begun here by Jim Hoeft and Brian Kirwin, and upheld by the likes of Norm Leahy, Scott Lee, Brian Schoeneman, and myself.  We take a great deal of pride in this, and rarely are we burned by exhibiting trust in our contributors.

For the record, Mr. Deutsch stands by his sources and stands by his post.  Should his post prove erroneous, Mr. Deutsch understands that he may very well be removed as a contributor here at Bearing Drift.

Those are consequences Mr. Deutsch has accepted.

The man (sic) who pushed out the RPV chairman (sic)  over trumped up corruption charges while running for governor is currently in the middle of finalizing a plea agreement which includes his resignation as governor.  More to come soon.

Whether or not this is true is known to about three or four parties: the Governor himself, the FBI, any mediators that may or may not be involved, and assorted staff.  No grand jury has met, no indictments have been offered, and there isn’t — at the moment — a scintilla of evidence that the Governor himself has been embroiled in any illegal activity.  To the contrary, evidence points towards the fact that the Governor has acted within the law, however distasteful this might be to others who, perhaps rightfully, wish that Virginia had better ethics and higher standards when it comes to gifts, trips, and so forth.

The bottom line is always muddied by politics.  Democrats would love nothing more than to take down McDonnell — and with him, the public perception that the GOP can govern the Commonwealth — and drag this into the general election in a Cuccinelli/McAuliffe context.  A quick and safe end to the drama would be painful to their political ambitions, regardless as to whether the ethics are resolved.  Likewise, it isn’t as if Governor McDonnell hasn’t made enemies within the Republican Party as well, not only among those few remaining Frederick loyalists (whose number could be counted on a three-toed sloth) but among those upset about the transportation bill passed this year.

Bearing Drift owes it’s readers two things: (1) an unvarnished and truthful opinion about the facts of the day that (2) does not create context that does not exist.  When Bearing Drift’s reputation — and that of its editors and contributors — is borrowed or stolen to that end, Bearing Drift as a community has been swift to punish and preserve.  Count on it.

So to everyone — big deep breath.  There are no Americans in Baghdad.

In the battle between shifting facts and changing narratives, the truth has a funny way of winning out at the end of the day.

UPDATE:  JHPolitics is confirming the story as well, but is keeping tabs on events.  Stay tuned…

  • Al Alborn

    “A gentleman (or lady) does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor do we associate with those who do.” No find your code of ethics laudable, but a bit ironic in the context of the subject matter.

  • Scout

    Rumours swirl. Blogs love rumours. But why would anyone in their right mind link the McDonnell issues to the Jeff Frederick mess? One has to be a bit off to see any kind of connection, I would think.

  • Bearing Drift (Version 2) can rebuild its credibility in time with accuracy.
    Willie Deutsch can’t. He’s now lowered himself to a Lowell Feld-like writing style.

  • A useless banal non-sequitur photo of a tree in Staunton would have helped deflect today’s criticism. This is when you realized that you should have protected Lynn Mitchell in the Bearing Drift Expansion Draft.

  • Anonymous Is A Woman

    It was linking the rumor to Jeff Frederick that raised the red flag of skepticism for me. It made it look like a disgruntled Frederick supporter indulging in payback years after the fact rather than a credible story. In retrospect, Willie Deutsch could have still posted what he was hearing with more careful language, admitted it was what he was hearing from some sources who had to remain anonymous, stated clearly that it was not yet verified, and said the story was still developing. That way, he could still have conveyed what he thought was a scoop and done so in a more responsible manner that didn’t mislead people. It also would not have hurt to try to verify or get a statement directly from McDonnell’s people to round out the story and give it more credibility.

    Almost no blogger goes to the other side to get their quotes – ore or even a refusal to speak, which in itself can speak volumes – but that’s one custom from real journalism that bloggers on both sides of the aisle should adapt if they are going to break actual news.

    • D.j. Spiker

      Anon, I’ve emailed the other side, including on my most recent post on Herring. Received no response.

      • Anonymous Is A Woman

        If you’ve emailed me, I haven’t gotten it yet. I won’t ignore it.

      • Anonymous Is A Woman

        I just realized that you meant that you emailed McDonnell’s side. Sorry for my obtuseness. As long as you sought them out, if they don’t respond, you’ve still covered yourself and been fair.

        It’s perfectly legitimate to say, even in a published article, that you received no response to your emails. It’s legitimate to state that they declined to answer questions if you phoned or asked in person too.

        As long as you have reached out and tried to get their side of a story, you have met your responsibility.

  • Scout

    Perhaps that Bob Wilson feller of a week or so ago could explain this. He just kind of went poof when Brian deduced that he might be sharing life, temporal, or other space with Mrs. Frederick.

  • Let’s get real. Deutsch is going to have to stick to his story because if he bails on it now, he loses everything. His only hope is that he gets lucky and McDonnell does resign in the next few months. If he stumbles into the truth like that, I’m not giving him a free pass. His vitriolic and bombastic writing style just turn me off.

    And I know what its like to blow a story… over Christmas, I had to retract a big story that I had sourced rather decently. That’s the difference, though. I’m not hiding behind a cone of silence. I actively went out and accepted responsibility for my wrong infomation.

  • Alexis Rose Bank

    “A gentleman (or lady) does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor do we associate with those who do.”

    the preceeding does not apply to compulsively slinging hearsay rumors
    for months straight when trying to affect the outcome of a GOP
    nomination contest.

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