Carly Fiorina sure could use one. She knows all too well now not to fiddle with her Blackberry and make disparaging remarks about her Republican ticketmate's campaign, or repeat one about her opponent's hair, while getting primped for a live TV shot before an open mike (not to mention a rolling video camera).
Jerry Brown could use one. He's got notoriously loose lips, but this time they got him in trouble (okay, I did), when he brought up Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels during a conversation with me about Meg Whitman's campaign, at a park in the Oakland hills (see "Run Jerry Run" post below if you somehow missed this brouhaha).
And I suppose I could use one, too. I thought long and hard before blogging about that conversation with Brown, and there was considerable deliberation and discussion about it within our newsroom, and with outside experts, before I finally hit "publish post," 11 days after Brown made the now-infamous Goebbels comment to me. I don't regret writing it, but I do know that it has hammered home that I have no desire, ever, to become famous. I don't enjoy receiving nasty emails, or seeing people misquote my blog, or mangle basic facts. It is surreal to look up at the airport TV and see one's name crawl by in the CNN closed captioning. I have no idea how so many news organizations and conservative radio hosts got my cell phone number. I have been on the wrong end of the news a few times before, and I never like it. I'm in the business of reporting the news, and bringing interesting stories to people, not becoming part of the news myself, and I am never comfortable in that position.
For the record, I would like to clarify a few points for people. I don't imagine this posting will be read by nearly as many as the last one, but for those who are still interested (and all of my regular, devoted readers - thank you for all the supportive comments!), here are the answers to some of your questions:
- Yes, the conversation with Jerry Brown was on the record. Every conversation a politician or public figure has with the media is on the record, as long as the reporter identifies himself as such (which I did), and unless the newsmaker specifically asks before the conversation for it to be off the record, and the reporter agrees (Brown did not ask for it to be off the record).
- This conversation did not take place last Sunday, as Brown's spokesman has said, and as others have reported. It took place on Saturday, May 29, over Memorial Day weekend. I did not give the exact day or date in my original blog, so it's my fault that the timing of the remark wasn't clear. I only wrote "the other day," and I mentioned that it was before the June 8 primary.
- This was not a private, intimate conversation between just the two of us. As I mentioned in the blog, other joggers came in and out of the scene. At least one of them, a former neighbor of mine, overheard the entire discussion. At one point, Brown was holding forth before a group of five people. He's a public figure, running for public office, speaking publicly in a public place, which certainly makes his comments fair game for reporting.
- No, I did not record the conversation, since I was on my bike and had no recording equipment with me. I did, however, realize the potential import of what Brown had said. I rode home immediately, going over his words in my mind, and wrote them down as soon as I got home. I have a damn good memory. I use it on the radio every day. More importantly, Brown has confirmed that the conversation took place, and admits making the comments. He only regrets them, and believes they were taken out of context.
- They were not taken out of context. I'm not sure there's any context that would have made them acceptable to Meg Whitman. She probably would have publicized them even if I had provided ample historical and political context, and explained the entire history of Joseph Goebbels and his "Big Lie" propaganda technique.
- I never wrote that Brown called Meg Whitman a Nazi, or compared her or her campaign to Nazis. I simply reported his words, in which he likens her advertising approach to the propaganda techniques used by Goebbels. I leave it to others to draw their own conclusions. I am not responsible for the headline-writing or media shorthand of other organizations. You never heard "Brown Calls Whitman A Nazi" on KCBS, because we never said it that way, and that's not how we operate.
- My blog is quite different from what, and how, I report on the radio. It's sort of an Op-Ed column. It's written in a much more casual, impressionistic way. Sometimes it contains analysis, sometimes even my opinion. It is not an advocacy column; I don't ever take sides or make endorsements. Sometimes it just contains musings or items that don't really fit into what we do on the radio. Other times, it's designed to give our listeners some insight into what goes on behind the scenes, or add some color and detail that didn't fit into the tight time constraints of the KCBS news hour.
- I have had many, many private or casual conversations with public figures and have never blogged about one before. I have never breached an "off the record" agreement, and I never would. In fact, Jerry Brown himself has said some rather interesting things to me over the years which I haven't bothered reporting, because I didn't consider them blog- or news- worthy. This one, I did - not because of the potentially incendiary nature of the Goebbels reference, but because I believed the blog would give my readers a sense of the Democratic gubernatorial nominee's state of mind. I would have written it even if he hadn't brought up Goebbels. In fact, it wasn't until the Whitman campaign read the blog and e-blasted that section to the world that anyone even noticed or commented on the Goebbels reference at all. I had dozens of reactions to the blog before that, all positive, without a single mention of Goebbels or Nazis.
- No, I do not have a political ax to grind. I like Jerry Brown. I am not trying to destroy his campaign. I am not a tool of the right. My affection or disdain for political candidates does not affect what I report about them.
I don't usually use this blog as therapy, or to get things off my chest, but given the extraordinary nature of this situation, I really wanted to make a few things clear. Thank you for your indulgence.
Oh, and by the way, for the few who faulted me for not explaining every single historical reference in that blog - the "Miranda card" mentioned in this one's opening line refers to the warning card the police carry, so they can read you your rights, one of which is to remain silent. It's named for Ernesto Miranda. You can Google it.