Two cable news stars broadcast a repulsive but revealing display of self-promotion Aug. 10 when MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell credited fellow anchor Rachel Maddow for coverage prompting the resignation of Alabama’s scandal-ridden governor earlier in the day. “You alone,” he told her, was covering the scandal.
But credit belongs not to the heavily promoted Maddow (shown in a file photo) but to the courageous Alabama blogger Roger Shuler. He has been financially ruined, beaten and jailed for his relentless investigations of top state officials, including the just-departed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
Shuler broke the story of the scandals arising from Bentley’s affair with a highly paid state aide, Rebekah Mason Caldwell (shown with Bentley below), beginning with a column Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley engaged in extramarital affair that prompted First Lady’s divorce complaint on Aug. 31, 2015. Shuler followed with two more such columns over the next two days.
The story of his scoop is particularly appropriate now because of the awful price that Shuler and his wife Carol have paid for such work and the heavy-handed public relations campaign mainstream media is waging against bloggers, alternative media and those falling under the smear of “fake news” and “conspiracy theorists.”
This is the first of several columns we plan about those developments, which are prominent this week in part because of the annual annual announcement of Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzers were dominated as usual by winners from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal in major categories. It’s fine that they were able to achieve recognition, and in that spirit we cite winners here and below.
But there’s much to journalism than the big outlets. Grassroots practitioners like Shuler across the country cannot for the most part spare the entrance fees much less the time to compete in such contests, even in the unlikely event their work would receive serious consideration.
So, we focus for now on the brave and largely unreported tale of how an impoverished blogger in flight with his wife from autocratic Alabama judges managed to bring down his state’s governor in the kind of mind-boggling sex, legal and financial scandal that has become commonplace recent in that state.
The Tip and Tape That Torpedoed a Governor
Bentley’s resignation means the leadership of all three branches of Alabama’s state government has been ousted in less than a year because of scandal, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, permanently suspended for refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on gay rights that conflict with his understanding of The Bible, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was convicted last June of 12 felonies involving massive graft.
Shuler is shown puffy faced in a county jail mug shot taken after he was arrested at his home, beaten, and jailed for six months on a contempt of court charge in October 2014 arising from his coverage of what he regarded as other sex scandals involving prominent Alabama lawyers.
The irony is that Shuler gets virtually nothing for it — no money and very little recognition, and probably many more legal hassles to come — whereas the MSNBC anchors are highly paid.
Neither Maddow nor O’Donnell did original reporting that broke this case as Shuler did or risks anything by their commentary to a largely liberal audience. The Shulers, by contrast, have long lived in Red State country, where threats of violence against liberals are a frequent occurrence, especially for them.
What’s most important about this, however, is not who gets the credit for this particular story. The vital point instead should be greater public awareness that a healthy society depends on the diverse strengths from both independent blogging and mainstream news.
Here’s the inside story of the Alabama scandals, developed from Justice Integrity Project sources in Alabama fostered in part over many years of following that state’s courageous bloggers like Shuler and their dwindling core whistleblower sources who dare fight entrenched corruption in a state where drastic reprisals against dissidents are not uncommon.
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