Accuracy in Media

As the Democrats prepared for their national convention, supposedly to accentuate the positive and tone down attacks on President Bush, possible future First Lady and billionaire Teresa Heinz Kerry attacked an editor for a Pittsburgh paper and told him to “shove it.”  That made news, and Heinz Kerry was caught in a blatant lie about what she had said to provoke the comment.  But the story behind the story was that the paper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, had dared to question Heinz-Kerry about her fortune.

The Associated Press captured the irony of the situation with a story that began: “Teresa Heinz Kerry urged her home-state delegates to the Democratic National Convention to restore a more civil tone to American politics, then minutes later told a newspaperman to ‘shove it.'”  Heinz Kerry had said that, “We need to turn back some of the creeping, un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming into some of our politics.”  She then said “I didn’t say that” several times when Colin McNickle of the Tribune-Review asked what she meant by un-American.  When he continued to question her, she replied, “You’re from the Tribune-Review understandable.  You said something I didn’t say.  Now shove it.”

A tape of the encounter recorded by Pittsburgh television station WTAE disproved Heinz Kerry’s denial.  AP said that the encounter “was witnessed by reporters for the Baltimore Sun, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.” Since the denial of saying “un-American” would obviously not stand up, Marla Romash, Teresa Heinz Kerry’s spokeswoman, told WTAE-TV’s Scott Baker that her boss was exhibiting “sheer frustration” in her comments.  She said they were “aimed at a right-wing rag that has consistently and purposely misrepresented the facts in reporting on Mrs. Kerry and her family.”

The Tribune-Review had not only run articles about the use of the Heinz-Kerry fortune, but it had questioned why some large tracts of land in Pennsylvania were designated as farmland and assessed at a lower tax rate.  This included questions about whether Heinz Kerry had enjoyed a reduced property tax bill because her 88-acre estate in Fox Chapel, valued at about $3.1 million, was assessed as farmland.  The Tribune-Review said the 10-building Fox Chapel compound includes a Colonial mansion assessed at $658,000 and a handful of steers and chickens.

A Heinz Kerry spokesman declined to comment to the Tribune-Review on the assessment.  When the controversy continued, a spokesman for Heinz Kerry eventually denied the charges and said higher tax rates were being paid, even though the estate was listed by a county website as farmland.

But Heinz Kerry doesn’t just have problems with the Tribune-Review.  The Boston Herald has reported on the hypocrisy behind the Democratic Party attacks on Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney.  The Herald reported that records show that “Teresa Heinz Kerry liked the Cheney-run Halliburton enough to buy and sell more than a $250,000 in company stock in 1996, netting a tidy profit of up to $15,000…”  The paper called it “the Kerry family’s own Halliburton payday.”

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