Accuracy in Media


A reporter for a newspaper in Huron, Mich., found herself in the news this week when she failed to hang up her phone, leaving a message highly critical of Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James.

She meant to leave a message to set up an interview with James after the election. But after she thought she hung up the phone, she is heard saying, “Man, if he beats her … Jesus F—ing John James. That would suck. I don’t think it’s going to happen though.”

It didn’t happen – Debbie Stabenow won re-election – but Brenda Battel, the reporter, was fired by the Huron Daily Tribune.

Her explanation: “I was not reporting the news when I made derogatory statements about Mr. James and his campaign.”

But as Michael Ahrens of the Republican National Committee pointed out in a series of tweets, this was hardly the only example of local and regional media being nasty to Republican candidates and operatives at the end of the campaign.

In Tennessee, Garren Shipley, the RNC’s communications director for Virginia and Tennessee, sent a quote to news outlets about the U.S. Senate race. This is common practice and benefits both sides on a harried night. 

Shipley’s email read: “As you cover Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn’s win tonight, please consider the following quote from me:

‘Unfortunately, for Phil Bredesen, he’s not going to be able to just shake it off. Congratulations, Senator-elect Blackburn.”

One of the recipients, Rosetta Miller Perry of the Tennessee Tribune, wrote back: “Racist.”

Perry is not a reporter for the Tribune. She is the publisher and the CEO of a media mini-empire in Nashville geared to the African-American community. She is a former Naval officer and Howard Law School grad who once worked for Clarence Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Tribune, a weekly, has more than 150,000 readers, according to its website.

In West Virginia, Brett Tubbs of the RNC sent a similar quote to news outlets and asked that it be considered for their stories.

“Try as he might, Richard Ojeda wasn’t able to fool voters into thinking he was anything other than a fox desperately trying to get in a hen house. Congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Carol Miller!! – RNC Spokesperson Brett Tubbs.”

Ray Corbin, editor of the Nicholas Chronicle, a small newspaper in Summersville, W.Va., emailed back: “What about Patrick Morrisey? BAHHHAAAAAAHA! At least with Manchin winning, we won’t have to hear right-wing propaganda from Republican-paid political hacks. Thank goodness for that!”

Joe Manchin, a Democrat, defeated the Republican Morrissey in Tuesday’s election.

In Michigan, the RNC’s Michael Joyce sent a quote to news outlets that may be writing about the incident with James and Battel.

“The Huron Daily Paper fired this reporter, but this kind of liberal bias against John James just goes to show that the liberal media will do anything to keep Debbie Stabenow in power,” the email read.

It then offered this quote: “It’s despicable that liberal journalists would have the audacity to call the James campaign asking for an interview but then clearly hold an incredibly slanted bias against him. Unfortunately for bad actors in the press and Debbie Stabenow, John James is surging, and Michiganders are going to elect James tonight.”

Larry Holcombe, managing editor of the Daily Globe in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, responded:

“You’re right. Members of the media should have no opinions about politics. They should just listen to you. Did the person write a story saying it would be bad if John James won? Or did they just express an opinion to a fellow being their opinion?

“Either way, we can’t have that. Just follow you, right? You are an idiot. And by association, so are the people you represent. Go away. Take me off your mailing list. We’ll find information on Republicans running for office from kind, sound-thinking humans instead.”




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