McDonnell dodges charges.

Last Friday morning, I was a guest on Charlottesville’s WCHV, talking about AG candidate Bob McDonnell’s mystery $1M in income on “AM Charlottesville.” I think I can objectively say that I was very fair to McDonnell — I’m not sure that I could have been much more open, balanced, or nice, having gone out of my way to be considerably less biting than I adopt as my traditional tone on this blog.

This morning, McDonnell was a guest on AM Charlottesville to respond to the charges. The show’s host, Bo Short, had e-mailed a copy of the interview to McDonnell, so that he could prepare. McDonnell hadn’t bothered to listen, though, and he asked the host to summarize what I’d said. Bo said, simply, that his campaign had taken in a great deal of money from the Republican State Leadership Committee, and that was inconsistent with his stated position that all income should be disclosed (which was to say nothing of the law).

McDonnell’s response? He attacked me. He said that there’s a “grand conspiracy” between me, Creigh Deeds, and other bloggers, and that such accusations come just short of libel. He derided blogging on the whole, finding it to be a useless exercise. Oh, and other candidates for office have taken money from 527s, so, y’know, whatev.

And that’s it. That was the whole of the content of his response.

So, what about all that money? He ain’t sayin’. What about his extensive, intimate connections to a money-laundering 527 that he personally established? He ain’t sayin’.


I assume that McDonnell’s inability to defend himself results from his actions being indefensible. I’d assumed that he may well have a good defense that would explain how all of this has come to be. Perhaps he’d demand that the RSLC disclose his contributors, or else he’d give the money back. Perhaps he’d explain that he’d made some poor choices in friends and business associates in the past, but he’s severed ties with them now, and it was a mistake. But no. He’s got nothin’.

If I wanted to show Bob McDonnell blogging that stops just short of libel, I’d damned well show him. The trouble is that nearly everything I’ve written is based on the published accounts of major newspapers — the Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Charlottesville Daily Progress, etc. — which were wholly fact-based accounts.

For the record, neither the Deeds campaign nor anybody affiliated with them has given me a lick of information for anything I’ve written as I’ve followed this story. Nothing. There goes McDonnell’s “grand conspiracy.”

Perhaps this is another instance of when the facts don’t favor Republicans.

I don’t care who wins the election tomorrow. Whether McDonnell wins or Democrat Creigh Deeds wins, I intend to continue to pursue this story. I’m no investigative reporter, and I don’t pretend to be, but I’ll remain as interested as ever. I might have dropped it, but with McDonnell attacking the messenger — namely me — my interest is newly piqued.

If McDonnell is elected, Virginia bloggers should steel themselves for their new AG to propose cracking down on bloggers. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

10 replies on “McDonnell dodges charges.”

  1. Unfortunately WCHV doesn’t seem to share their audio online. I didn’t get the chance to catch MDonnell response, but I did have the good fortune to hear Waldo on Friday. While I’m a little biased on this issue, I do actually think Waldo bent over backward to avoid making an accusation and diplomatically pointed out the facts. McDonnell owes the voters an explanation, plain and simple.

    Incidentally, I can’t say I blame McDonnell for holding a poor opinion of bloggers, given that some sites like use childish terms like “taliban” to describe him.

  2. Thanks, Duane! I really did try to be journalistically evenhanded, and I’m glad it was perceived as such.

    I should mention that the Hampton Roads Daily Press gave him the nickname of “Taliban Bob,” in a January 2003 editorial, after McDonnell said that he couldn’t recall if he’d ever violated the crimes against nature law.

  3. It’s so unfair that reality is biased against Republicans!

    Last night, I happened to watch the “McCarthy Years” DVD from the recently released Edward R. Murrow collection. It’s striking how familiar it all seemed, and this is a textbook example — don’t acknowledge the validity of the charges, attack the accuser, and assert false connections and sources that the casual listener/viewer is unlikely to be able to check.

  4. “stops just short of libel”


    for a lawyer and an atty. gen. candidate, Bob shows an absurd (or willfull) ignorance of the law.

    he’s a public figure. you’re (arguably) a journalist. between NYTimes v. Sullivan and Hustler v. Falwell, you can just about call him anything you want. and when you have the barest factual basis to believe what you say in good faith, you’re untouchable.

    not that I think you’re worried. but still.

  5. Sorry, donald, but there’s no way in hell that a private blogger would get the benefit of the NY Times rule.

    A blog is the virtual equivalent of printing up leaflets and handing them out on a street corner… hardly the same thing as a recognized newspaper.

  6. Well, I.Publius, “no way in hell” is a awfully certain stance to take on an issue that hasn’t been tested much in the courts. Maybe Waldo isn’t doing a lot of reporting, but substantially I’d say he is as much of a journalist as anyone with a regular op-ed spot in a regional broadsheet (Bryan Mackenzie, e.g.). The word ‘private’ in your phrase ‘private blogger’ does nothing. Who is “a public blogger,” if anyone? If the Daily Progress paid Waldo to blog on its website, would he be a public blogger? Would he then get special privileges? Why?

    What’s the difference anyway between a blogger with a huge audience (say, Andrew Sullivan) and a writer for the NYTimes? The press got its own clause in the first amendment, I imagine, because it was the main (or only) way to easily spread information (including opinion) among the general populace. Blogging is now another means to the same end. either we are in the business of protecting speech, or we’re in the business of protecting institutions. I can’t why longevity should be a criterion when deciding which of two speakers gets protection.

    anyway, in such a situation, I would take Waldo’s case in a heartbeat.

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