Governor John Kitzhaber’s mess is an embarrassment to Oregon and a distraction to governance, but the self-proclaimed newspaper of record’s call for the flawed Governor’s resignation is a sad attempt by the newspaper to mask its own journalistic failures. On the most meaningful stories, the Oregonian is anything but vigilant in its role as the fourth estate.
The Oregonian has a perfect record of intentionally failing, or proving incapable of reporting, on public corruption at the highest levels, despite a reported newsroom of 170 reporters and editors.
Here is a refresher class for The Oregonian Editorial Board as to which news organizations have uncovered misdeeds and corruption at the highest levels in Oregon:
Governor Neil Goldschmidt
1) Governor Neil Goldschmidt's perverse relationship with a 14-year-old girl: The Pulitzer Prize in 2005 was awarded to Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week for his investigation exposing a former governor’s long-concealed sexual misconduct. Not only did the Oregonian news staff not break the story. It is clear there were Oregonian staff who knew and failed to report the story.
2) U.S. Senator Bob Packwood’s sexual misconduct: The powerful chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee was unveiled as a serial sexual harasser of both women on his staff and female lobbyists by The Washington Post in 1992. Again, the Oregonian missed this story about 10 women being harassed.
3) U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield's Trojan Horse: Hatfield and his wife Antoinette came under scrutiny when she was paid a $55,000 interior decorating fee to Greek arms dealer/businessman Basil Tsakos. As the New York Times wrote in an editorial in 1984, “Tsakos had obtained the Senator's enthusiastic endorsement for his proposed $12 billion oil pipeline across Africa.” Again, this was an Oregonian miss, as the original journalism was broken by DC-based journalist Jack Anderson.
4) Sam Adams' affair with an teenage intern: In January of 2009, Adams admitted to the relationship after being confronted by Willamette Week.
The problem with a news organization with the biggest newsroom dropping its head in the sands of Oceanside is that it de facto becomes an endorsement to the politician’s behavior.
In reviewing the Kitzhaber story, Willamette Week was first to report on the initial questions about payments between organizations and Cylvia Hayes, but KOIN, the UK’s DailyMail, GoLocalPDX and even the Oregonian have advanced new aspects of the story. The questions are piling up as the Governor’s behavior and lack of transparency are only raising more questions
The Oregonian’s call for Kitzhaber’s resignation is premature and self-serving. While the Governor’s judgment seems impaired and his answers either failed or appeared misleading, he deserves his proverbial day in court.
The Oregonian, owned by out-of-state powers, should focus on serving their readers, curtail their sanctimony and focus on good journalism. Democracies work better that way.
Related Slideshow: What Governor Kitzhaber Said at His Jan. Cylvia Hayes Press Conference
Governor John Kitzhaber held a press conference on Jan. 30, 2015, where he fielded questions surrounding his fiancé and Oregon’s “First Lady” Cylvia Hayes.
“The government ethics commission has a process and a sanction process. We will embrace that,” Kitzhaber said. “Well the Government ethics commission has a process and has a series of sanctions that it can take and we will obviously and have been complying and cooperating fully with the commission and we will embrace whatever decisions and sanctions they feel is appropriate."
“Cylvia and I have a number of areas of common interest, climate change being one, low carbon fuels being one,” Kitzhaber said. "The fact that we have a convergence of intents does not seem to me to apply that if those issues apply in my administration that influence has been exerted."