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NYT Drops "Troopergate" Hit Piece on Sarah Palin

5:33 AM, Oct 10, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Here's the opening of the New York Times's report today on the investigation into whether Sarah Palin abused her power when she fired her public safety commissioner:

The 2007 state fair was days away when Alaska's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, took another call about one of his troopers, Michael Wooten. This time, the director of Gov. Sarah Palin's Anchorage office was on the line.

As Mr. Monegan recalls it, the aide said the governor had heard that TrooperWooten was assigned to work the kickoff to the fair in late August. If so, Mr. Monegan should do something about it, because Ms. Palin was also planning to attend and did not want him nearby.

Somewhat bewildered, Mr. Monegan soon determined that Trooper Wooten had indeed volunteered for duty at the fairgrounds - in full costume as "Safety Bear," the troopers' child-friendly mascot.

Two years earlier, the trooper and the governor's sister had been embroiled in a nasty divorce and child-custody battle that had hardened the Palin family against him.

What great fodder for the Colbert Report! Could anything possibly justify Sarah Palin's fear of her ex-brother-in-law dressed as a child-friendly "Safety Bear" mascot?

Well, the facts that Wooten abused his 10 year-old step-son and threatened to kill Palin's father might make the governor seem a tad less paranoid, but the Times buries and then fails to fully report these facts.

About halfway through the 2,100-word story, the Times adds:

In one instance, [Sarah Palin] said [Wooten] made a death threat against her father in 2005, an accusation that the trooper has denied. ...

The family also reported that Trooper Wooten, who was assigned to the wildlife investigations unit, shot a cow, or female, moose without a permit, used a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and drank a beer at a friend's barbecue before taking a second one for the drive home in his patrol car.

In March 2006, after an internal inquiry, Trooper Wooten received a 10-day suspension, which was eventually halved. The suspension letter mentions nothing about threats.

The Times portrays the death threat as a "he said, she said" incident and merely adds that Wooten's "suspension letter mentions nothing about threats." But the internal trooper investigation "sustained" the charge that Wooten threatened that Palin's father would "eat a f---ing lead bullet"--although the report concluded "a statement 'or implied threat to a non-present third party is not a crime." Neglecting the conclusions of the internal trooper investigation is some incredibly shoddy reporting.

The Times's evidence that Palin fired Monegan because he refused to fire Wooten is also quite flimsy:

Ms. Palin has denied that anyone told Mr. Monegan to dismiss Trooper Wooten, or that the commissioner's ouster had anything to do with him. But an examination of the case, based on interviews with Mr. Monegan and several top aides, indicates that, to a far greater degree than was previously known, the governor, her husband and her administration pressed the commissioner and his staff to get Trooper Wooten off the force, though without directly ordering it.

In all, the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten three dozen times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials, interviews and documents show.

The Anchorage Daily News reported two months ago that Palin's husband and staffers had made two dozen calls to the public safety department about Wooten. So the Times's report that maybe an extra dozen calls were placed really doesn't constitute evidence that Palin pushed for Wooten's firing "to a far greater degree than was previously known." As Palin admitted back in August, "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."The Times also reports that Palin "has contended, among other things, that Mr. Monegan arranged two unauthorized lobbying trips to Washington. But according to interviews and records obtained by The New York Times, the governor's office authorized both trips." ABC News first reported that one of Monegan's trips had been authorized, but Allahpundit thoroughly examined this matter, and while Monegan may have been approved for that specific trip, it does not appear he was approved to pursue his own agenda.

More details about this specific matter may emerge today, as the Alaska legislature releases its report on the Monegan firing, but it looks like Times, at least, has produced little more than a work of journalistic malpractice.