Oregonian Digs Deep For Dirt on Wu
3 weeks until the election . . . Oregonian endorses Goli Ameri . . . this morning's paper carried an inexplicable front page feature article on a single unresolved personal incident 28 years in Wu's past. Why? You do the math.
This incident, in the Oregonian's own words, "has no link to Wu's record as a politician," "The newspaper established no pattern of similar behavior," and "The lack of interviews with the two people most directly involved [and the only actual witnesses to the event] made it more difficult to establish precisely what had transpired."
Try "practically impossible." In court they call what details the Oregonian managed to dredge up, "heresay." One of the persons quoted in the article was not available for personal or contemporary comment, Leah Kaplan, the school counselor, died August 24th. "Whether it was an amorous [relationship] or whether it was just platonic or what, I was never able to determine . . ." says Raoul K. Niemeyer, a patrol commander who questioned Wu and who is quoted extensively throughout the article. Wu was NOT CHARGED, NOT ARRESTED by the police nor was ANY FORMAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION TAKEN, despite what other newspapers and television outlets are now reporting.
In its groping attempt to find further evidence of a serious crime, the Oregonian came up against many brick walls:
"Reporters searched extensively for records documenting the incident but found none . . . Santa Clara County courts also had no relevant records . . ." yet it justified its intrusion into the lives of two private individuals in an incident that impacts the election not one iota by saying:
". . . in the final analysis, we decided to publish the story because we believe that readers, with the full benefit of the facts we know, want to determine for themselves wehther they find an incident from 28 years ago, involving a much younger David Wu, relevent - or not relevant - to his qualifications for office."
Excuse me, but what horseshit. This incident does not remotely compare with the sexual harassment and juvenile sex crimes of Goldschmidt and Packwood - repeated incidents which established a pattern and extended over a long period of time. What Wu did - in his own words - was "inexcusable" but he was 21 and apparently the relationship of two years and their regard for each other's personal lives mattered enough that the two people involved resolved to this day that it was something that they did not care to share with the general public.
There is probably not one person among us who didn't see, hear about, or become involved in an incident in college or high school which can be compared to the Wu incident. We may not have liked it but the last thing we would expect is that it would be resurrected as a crutch for our political opponent to win an election -- an opponent endorsed by the paper which self-righteously makes it a front page feature.
What's next? A six year old David Wu - living in Taiwan - forgot to feed his pet turtle and let it die? That he got into a shoving match in kindergarten that resulted in a bloody nose? Oh, the humanity.
Here is the link to the Oregonian articles:
(It does not include the Oregonian's disclaimer, "To Our Readers", which I include below)
Sandy Rowe, the editor who write the sidebar justification for publishing invites comment. Let her know what you think about this kind of yellow journalism:
FAX: (503) 294-4193
Public Editor Phone: (503) 221-8221
News researchers: Kathleen Blythe, Margie Gultry, Gail Hulden and Lynne Palombo contributed to the report.
Laura Gunderson: (503) 294-5958
Dave Hogen: (503) 221-8531
Jeff Kosseff: (202) 383-7814
TO OUR READERS
Today the Oregonian publishes an article about David Wu, who is running for a fourth term representing Oregon's 1st Congressional District. Printing this story was a difficult decision, raising serious questions about how far the news media should go in examining a candidate's background.
The story resulted from allegations that Wu attacked a woman while an undergraduate at Stanford University 28 years ago.
Early in the reporting, The Oregonian approached Wu for his side of the story. Over several months, his campaign manager repeatedly said Wu would not comment on "unsubstantiated allegations."
Several former Stanford officials and professors, as well as friends of the woman, provided accounts of what they said was a violent encounter.
The woman did not seek out reporters to tell her story. A reporter contacted her, and she declined to comment for privacy reasons. Reporters talked numerous times with a representative of the woman in an attempt to confirm the various accounts.
In deciding to go forward with the story, editors at The Oregonian weighed two basic issues: accuracy and relevance.
The lack of interviews with the two people most directly involved made it more difficult to establish precisely what had transpired. Some questions remain unanswered. In this story we have tried to clearly state what we know, how we know it and what is unknown. All sources used for publication are named.
Relevancy posed an even more challenging and subjective question. The incident occurred long before Wu entered public life. The incident had no link to Wu's record as a politician. The newspaper established no pattern of similar behavior. But, in the final analysis, we decided to publish the story because we believe that readers, with the full benefit of the facts we know, want to determine for themselves whether they find an incident from 28 years earlier, involving a much younger David Wu, relevant - or not relevant - to his qualifications for office.
Over the past two decades, the private lives and personal histories of political figures have come under increasing scrutiny. An incident can be judged as serious or trivial, depending upon a reader's own values, life experience, and, often, gender.
We believe candidates who ask the public for support should expect their past to be scrutinized. For this reason, The Oregonian and most newspaper routinely examine the backgrounds of major candidates. If a resulting story is accurate and ready for publication, as we believe this is, we believe our responsiblity is to publish rather than withhold information voters may need, even if some would consider it minor or too distant in time to be important.
We have carefully considered the political context and community expectations for political leaders in making this decisino, and we have discussed at great length the ethical questions involved. We recognize that many people may disagree with our decision, and we respect the opinions of others and the expression of them.
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