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Campaign dirty tricks costs veteran reporter his job

By Doug Thompson
October 22, 2013

No appeal for AP political reporter.

No appeal for AP political reporter.

Sadly, the rough and tumble world of the Virginia governor’s race this year has cost a veteran Associated Press reporter in Richmond his job along with two editors for the news service.

Bob Lewis, a 29-year AP reporter and dean of political writers in The Old Dominion, was sacked by the news service over a since retracted report that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe “lied to federal officials” in the government’s probe of a Rhode Island estate planner accused of defrauding terminally ill clients.

An AP story filed by Lewis went out on the wire on October 9 and carried the claim.  McAuliffe was one of several hundred “passive” investors in the planning firm run by Joseph Caramadre and the story by Lewis was based on a federal indictment that listed someone with the initials of “T.M.” who the indictment said gave false information to investigators.

The AP killed the story shortly after sending it out and said “the indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the ‘T.M.’ who allegedly lied to investigators.”

Lewis took immediate responsibility for the mistake, which cost him his job along with two editors who reviewed and approved his story.

Political operatives from Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli, the current Virginia Attorney General, shopped the story around to several reporters, including one assigned to cover Virginia elections for Capitol Hill Blue.  She checked the story out with her sources and was told flatly that the ‘T.M.’ in the indictment was not McAuliffe so we passed on publishing anything.

Tips to reporters of supposed wrongdoing by political opponents if a common practice in politics.  As a journalist with half a century in the business, I get such tip several times a week about public officials, prominent citizens and others.  Less than 10 percent of those “solid tips” turn out to be factual.

Bob decided to go with the tip, which was passed on to reporters as part of “dirty tricks” by campaign operatives of the man who currently serves as the top law enforcement official in Virginia.

To be fair, the campaign of McAuliffe does the same thing.  We’ve received several so called “reliable tips” from his operatives.  Few check out.

I’m sorry Lewis was taken in by the Cuccinelli folks.  He’s a good reporter and many think the AP went too far in sacking him.  Such tactics by both the Cuccinelli and McAuliffe campaigns raise serious questions about whether or not either is qualified to become governor of Virginia.