* Greg Hinz on the Mark Kirk campaign’s document dump last week…
In an extraordinary action, his campaign manager, Kevin Artl, leaked a memo to my colleague Rich Miller at Capitol Fax castigating an upcoming Trib story that is said to allege that the senator harshly treated staff members, with aides “physically and verbally abused,” as Miller put it.
In the memo, which promptly went national, Artl charged that the Trib’s Todd Lighty had even harassed Kirk’s 79-year-old mother with repeated calls in an effort to substantiate the story. At least one staffer involved has given the campaign a sworn affidavit denying any misconduct by his boss. The memo also suggests anti-Kirk bias by Lighty, who has done a series of critical pieces on the senator, including one about charges that the senator put his ex-wife and girlfriend on his campaign payroll. That story appeared just a few months after Kirk suffered a severe stroke.
The Trib hasn’t gone with the story, at least so far. And it released a statement strongly defending it and Lighty.
It’s impossible to know for sure what’s going on without reading the story and talking to those involved. But it would be a brave staffer–at least one who wants to continue to work in politics–who would publicly slam the boss.
I do hear reliably that Kirk can be difficult and demanding. But many pols are. The joke at City Hall used to be that one of the job requirements to be Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff was to come in each morning and be yelled at about what went wrong since the day before.
Assuming the Trib eventually publishes, Kirk will have drawn more attention to its article.
The only point of disagreement I have with Greg is that I think the Tribune story would’ve been a bombshell regardless of whatever Kirk did. Forget about the verbal abuse stuff. A sitting US Senator accused of physically abusing his staff is most definitely a man bites dog moment.
* From the Democratic SuperPAC American Bridge 21st Century…
Vulnerable Senator Mark Kirk has been making a lot of news over the last week — though not for reasons he’d like.
Kirk allegedly bullied staff members, subjecting them to both physical and verbal abuse — or so reports a thus-far-unpublished Tribune investigation, according to the Associated Press.
Predictably unhappy about the story, Kirk’s campaign launched an “unusual” counter-attack — threatening “legal action” against the Tribune in an attempt to suppress the report, the AP reported.
But the Kirk campaign’s effort backfired: The threatened lawsuit became public, and Mark Kirk is now publicly defending himself over the alleged bullying.
Here’re some coverage highlights:
Associated Press: Kirk campaign launches unusual attack on Chicago Tribune
Huffington Post: Senator Mark Kirk’s Campaign Pre-Emptively Bashes Chicago Tribune Ahead Of Negative Story
Sun Times: Mark Kirk’s office launches preemptive strike against reporter
Politico: Kirk camp goes on offense against upcoming Chicago Tribune story
Chicago Tribune: Kirk campaign attacks Tribune before any story is published
The Guardian: Mark Kirk campaign: reporter ‘bullied’ staff with questions about abuse claims
Notice how they gave the AP all the credit for the story. That could be because the AP itself neglected to mention where the info came from.
But I don’t see Kirk yet defending himself against the bullying allegations. So far, the coverage has mainly been about the unusual tactic.
* And just in case you’re wondering, I decided to run the piece because I thought it was a truly unique move with some special circumstances and gave my readers a fascinating look behind the scenes at how stories like these can develop.
In other words, it was most definitely newsworthy, as the national coverage clearly shows. My responsibility isn’t to the Kirk campaign or the Tribune. It’s to my subscribers and my readers. Everyone else can go pound sand, for all I care.
* The Question: While it is arguably too early to judge, at this very moment do you think the Kirk campaign’s preemptive strike at the Tribune will turn out to be a good move or a bad move? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.