President Trump has threatened from time to time to “open up libel laws” and take a look at what political figures can do when media misrepresents their views or statements.
He talked about it as far back as February 2016, then again right after he was elected president, then a few days before he was inaugurated, then again in September after Bob Woodward’s book on supposed chaos in the Trump White House came out.
But these are expressions of his feelings toward the media and have not involved any official actions or even real attempts to examine or change libel laws.
But in Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat incumbent, has called for her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, to conduct a criminal investigation into an undercover sting of her campaign by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, and only conservative media has responded to this real threat to use real state power to curb media activity.
McCaskill is angry with O’Keefe for a series of recent videos in which he had an undercover reporter infiltrate her campaign, who caught staffers talking about how contributions from Planned Parenthood are rerouted to her campaign so pro-life voters do not know of the connection and how the senator wants to ban gun stocks, AR-15s and high-capacity magazines, all measures that would be anathema in her pro-gun state.
The Kansas City Star, which ripped the Project Veritas videos on its editorial page, ran a news story entitled, “Fake intern who recorded McCaskill campaign had access to voter info, campaign says.”
The story quotes from an affidavit McCaskill has delivered to her opponent, in his capacity as state attorney general, saying the reporter, who posed as a volunteer intern on the campaign, “had access to the campaign’s voter information database for a total of 20 hours between May and July.”
A TV station showed McCaskill saying the intern was “building up trust within the campaign organization until he was given access to extremely proprietary information on our campaign. We don’t what he stole … or if he stole anything. But we know he was on our computers for over 20 hours over a period of weeks. We’d sure like to know what he was up to because clearly he wasn’t trying to help me.”
But the only outlets found with stories on McCaskill calling for criminal prosecution of the journalists of Project Veritas came from The Weekly Standard, the Washington Times, the Daily Caller and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which ran a story from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.
Earlier, the Washington Post had run an Associated Press story on the matter entitled “McCaskill-Hawley race turns nasty over sting videos.” The story quoted McCaskill’s campaign manager saying, “We have reason to believe that fraud has been committed against our campaign” and that “there’s no question that the videos were captured under false pretenses and misrepresentations” – a hallmark of undercover journalism the courts have held legal for decades.
He later is quoted accusing Hawley of “perpetrating this fraud by promoting it and encouraging it,” and McCaskill is quoted as saying, “It is startling that Josh Hawley would be part of fraudulently embedding somebody in my campaign.”
And it does quote Hawley’s response: “Senator, accusing people of crimes is a serious thing. If you have evidence of a crime, please come forward with it immediately. Otherwise, please stop politicizing the legal process for your re-election.”
But the story makes no mention of the matter of attempting to prosecute reporters for revealing unpleasant things about your campaign.
Instead, the New Yorker weighed in with a piece entitled, “Claire McCaskill’s Toughest Fight,” which chronicled how she is “strategizing” to hang on, and the New York Times supplied a piece on Sunday entitled, “Josh Hawley, Missouri Senate Candidate, Oversees an Office in Turmoil.”
That piece claimed current and former employees have revealed “a chaotic tenure as attorney general that has been costly for taxpayers” because “judges have criticized the office over its slow pace of discovery, and Mr. Hawley’s staff had to renege on a settlement in a high-profile civil case.”