Following the lead of hackish lefty bloggers, the Washington Post has published a shoddy report on an alleged scandal involving John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin. In a nutshell, Palin faces allegations that she pressured a political appointee, public safety commissioner Walt Monegan, to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a messy divorce and child custody fight with Palin's sister. Last month, Palin fired public safety commissioner Monegan. She has said the firing wasn't about trooper Wooten, but Palin's foes in the legislature appointed an investigator to determine if any wrongdoing occurred. A report is due in October. The Wooten controversy began before Palin announced her candidacy for governor in 2005, when she and her family pushed for an investigation of Wooten's criminal and abusive activities. The Post reports:
The domestic dispute entered the public arena when the governor's sister filed for divorce from Wooten on April 11, 2005. The same day, the governor's father, Chuck Heath, contacted state police with several allegations against Wooten: using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson; shooting a moose without a permit; and drinking beer while driving a patrol car.
While the Post refers to mere "allegations" made by Palin's father, it fails to note the state troopers' investigation and 482-page report--released to the Anchorage Daily News--that found Wooten guilty of these charges:
Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both: • Wooten used a Taser on his stepson. • He illegally shot a moose. • He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion. • He told others his father-in-law would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.
The Post's failure to report that Wooten was found guilty naturally leads to its failure to report Wooten's scandalously light punishment for issuing a death threat and Tasering a 10 year-old:
"The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession," Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days. After the union protested it, the suspension was reduced to five days(emphasis mine).
The second half of the Post article is comprised entirely of unchallenged assertions made by Monegan and the troopers' union boss John Cyr--who includes this blatant lie among his tendentious statements:
Cyr said Wooten has "a spotless record" and no allegations in his file other than those filed by the governor's family.
According to the Anchorage Daily News that's not true:
Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force
So where do things currently stand with the controversy? The Anchorage Daily News reported on August 14 that although Palin "has previously said her administration didn't exert pressure to get rid of trooper Mike Wooten," the governor said she had recently become aware that her staffers had made two dozen calls to the public safety department about Wooten. "Many of these inquiries were completely appropriate. However, the serial nature of the contacts could be perceived as some kind of pressure, presumably at my direction," Palin said. In one of the supposedly inappropriate phone calls, a Palin staffer--who has since been placed on leave--tells a staffer at the public safety department that "‘Todd and Sarah [Palin] are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?'" So: Is there really much of a scandal here? In my view, the only way this story can hurt Palin is if the media continue to ignore or downplay exactly what Wooten did. Any normal American would want to knock Wooten's teeth in for Tasering a 10 year-old and threatening to kill Palin's father. If anything, this "scandal" reinforces Palin's record of being a reformer who stands up to thugs and bureaucrats content with the status quo.
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