Kentucky’s chief prosecutor has delivered, figuratively speaking, an indictment with no evidence.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron sent a fund-raising email Sept. 15 that said, “The media is actively coordinating messaging efforts with Democrats and their Propaganda Machine to destroy the GOP’s chances this November.”
There are several problems with that; the biggest is that Cameron won’t provide evidence to back it up.
Kentucky Fried Politics reported the email Saturday. Monday, I asked Cameron’s campaign to provide “specific evidence General Cameron has of such coordination, which could constitute serious violations of journalistic ethics.”
As I write this, two days have passed, and there has been no response. That’s typical of Cameron’s campaign, say reporters covering it. His official staff refers political inquiries to the campaign, so the only way to ask him questions, other than buttonholing him at some public event, is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have no idea who reads the emails, and we can’t go to his campaign office; the only address listed for it is a mail drop in Lexington.
Such treatment of the news media is becoming more common, especially among Republicans, who have long suspected or believed that reporters are operating with political motives, partly because most national political reporters are registered Democrats. But Cameron isn’t accusing journalists of bias or poor judgment; he’s alleging partisan conspiracy.
Almost all reporters I know have no political allegiance; their allegiance is to the truth, and to the audiences they serve. Those are the first two tenets of The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, which lays out the responsibilities of journalists in a democratic society – and the rights and responsibilities of citizens when it comes to the news. I recommend it; here’s a summary of the tenets.
That book or website are obviously not on the reading list of Donald Trump, who calls the news media “the enemy of the people,” or of Daniel Cameron, whose campaign has an official-looking letterhead that identifies him as attorney general and “Trump-endorsed Republican for Kentucky governor.”
That line isn’t designed for discerning readers, and neither was Cameron’s email. He wrote about this fall’s elections, in which he is not running; he was seeking money for his gubernatorial candidacy, which isn’t on the ballot until May.
Playing on the president’s unpopularity, he wrote, “Biden is counting on KY Dems to win so he can enforce his far-left agenda in the Commonwealth.” That makes no sense, because Democrats have no hope of gaining a majority in either house of the legislature in November.
A few finer points: Saying “The media is” ignores the fact that the media are plural, despite the more common usage of the singular; and Cameron was talking about the news media, a term they need to use more often to differentiate themselves from social media. The third tenet of the Elements of Journalism is, “Its essence is a discipline of verification.” Social media have no discipline and no verification.
When Kentucky journalists are finally able to ask Cameron about his unfounded charge, he might claim he was referring to national news media. However, the email’s subject line was “The KY GOP needs your help.” But the help Cameron sought goes to him.
Perhaps Cameron thinks that the targets of his solicitation aren’t smart enough to see through his obfuscations as he follows Trump’s lead in making unfounded allegations for political gain.
It remains a mystery how Cameron obtained Trump’s endorsement, but more and more, they seem made for each other. Or perhaps Cameron, a protégé of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is trying to remake himself in Trump’s image – and make sure he keeps Trump’s sole endorsement in the governor’s race now that it includes Kelly Craft, who Trump appointed ambassador to Canada and then the United Nations.
On Tuesday, Cameron joined 10 other Republican attorneys general in a “friend of the court” brief to a federal appeals court hearing the Justice Department’s appeal of a Trump-appointed judge’s decision to name a special master to review materials the FBI seized at Trump’s home. The brief is more political screed than legal argument, mentioning the “Biden administration” 30 times in 21 pages.
Cameron had much promise when he got into politics. Now he is devolving, along with many in his party. They have fallen into the Trump trap, fearing what his followers will do to them if they aren’t Trumpist enough. Cameron’s official-looking letterhead suggests formation of a faction – one that needs to fail, for the good of the party and the country.
Maybe that’s why McConnell called “a good idea” the cruel immigration stunt in Massachusetts by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is Republicans’ leading alternative to Trump for 2024. A lesser evil, but not by much.
Al Cross (Twitter @ruralj) is a professor in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media and director of its Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. His opinions are his own, not UK’s. He was the longest-serving political writer for the Louisville Courier Journal (1989-2004) and national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001-02. He joined the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2010.
NKyTribune is the anchor home for Al Cross’ column.