Michael Gaynor
Times reporter Stephanie Strom's dilemma
By Michael Gaynor
April 7, 2009

The reported killing of the story that might have been "a game changer" caused Ms. MonCrief to permit me to identify her. Ms. MonCrief had long wanted the truth about ACORN to be told, but she had not wanted public attention for herself.

Will New York Times national correspondent Stephanie Strom risk being thrown under the bus by acknowledging publicly that she told ACORN whistleblower and Strom source Anita MonCrief that an ACORN-Obama story was killed shortly before Election Day 2008 because her editors feared that it would be "a game-changer," or risk being proven to be foolishly false by denying that she told Ms. MonCrief that?

Last month Heather Heidelbaugh, Esq. testified before a House committee: "The New York Times articles stopped when Ms. Moncrief, who is a Democrat and a supporter of the President, revealed that the Obama Presidential Campaign had sent its maxed out donor list to Karen Gillette of the Washington, DC ACORN office and asked Gillette and Ms. Moncrief to reach out to the maxed out donors and solicit donations from them for Get Out the Vote efforts to be run by ACORN. Upon learning this information and receiving the list of donors from the Obama Campaign, Ms. Strom reported to Ms. Moncrief that her editors at the New York Times wanted her to kill the story because, and I quote, 'it was a game changer.'"

Ms. MonCrief noticed that part of the voicemail message Ms. Strom had left her had been redacted before it was played last week on "The O'Reilly Factor," provided the missing part to me to post and arranged for the complete audio to be put online.

The missing words — "Ah, we're running a story tonight for tomorrow that, ah, pretty well lays out the partisanship problems that Project Vote may have, ah, based on a report that I got. So, ah, they think that going to do, — that's going to be the story about the partisanship issue, and so they want me to hold off on coming to Washington" — did not refer to the potential "game changer."

The story that The New York Times' editors permitted was NOT a game changer.

Ms. Strom has remained silent.

Surely she knows what she told Ms. MonCrief, but if not, she can refresh her recollection by reading my October 22, 2008 article.

I emailed Ms. Strom to "confirm or deny the accuracy of what Ms. Heidelbaugh said [Ms. Strom] reported to Ms. MonCrief."

Instead, Catherine Mathis, a New York Times member of senior management whose biography lists 'crisis communications' among her responsibilities, replied that "political considerations played no role in our decisions about how to cover this story."

Last week Bill O'Reilly covered the story, reported that he got the same "no political considerations" response and played a redacted version of a voicemail message that Ms. Strom left for Ms. MonCrief on October 21, 2008 reporting that she had been told by her editors to "stand down."

Mr. O'Reilly also announced that The New York Times had not let him talk to Ms. Strom.

No surprise there!

FACT: In an article posted on October 22, 2008, I publicly identified Ms. MonCrief as an ACORN whistleblower and wrote: "Yesterday, Anita advised me, Ms. Strom apologetically canceled a meeting for today and explained that New York Times policy was not to publish what might be a game changing article this close to the election."

The reported killing of the story that might have been "a game changer" caused Ms. MonCrief to permit me to identify her. Ms. MonCrief had long wanted the truth about ACORN to be told, but she had not wanted public attention for herself.

Tellingly, Ms. Strom never disputed the accuracy of what I reported that Ms. MonCrief had told me that Ms. Strom had told her.

Early in the evening of the day my article appeared, Ms. Strom emailed Ms. MonCrief. She identified the subject as "Gaynor post" and wrote: "I thought we had an agreement to speak off the record. In addition to outting yourself, you outted me. I have scrupulously protected your identity, refusing to even acknowledge speculation about our discussions. Wish I had received the same consideration."

I have reviewed the MonCrief-Strom email both before and after October 21, 2008 and there was never even a quibble by Ms. Strom about the accuracy of what Ms. MonCrief told me that Ms. Strom had told her.

Instead of disputing, Ms. Strom emailed Ms. MonCrief on October 26, 2008 that it was "[s]o good to hear from" her, she was "sorry" but not "surprised" that Ms. MonCrief had "become a tool for the far right," I had "used" Ms. MonCrief and she [Ms. Strom] was "in the amusing position of being the darling of the right wing as well" as well as "a fan" of Ms. MonCrief who wanted to be kept "posted" and "to know how [Ms. MonCrief is] doing" Ms. Strom closed that email with the close parenthesis signifying a smile.

Suggestion to Ms. Strom: Tell the truth. (History teaches that a cover up that is exposed is worse than what was covered up.)

Suggestion to The New York Times: Polygraphs can be very useful.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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