Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sweaty Strangers

"I'm sorry. I talked to the people at the Holocaust Center and they completely understand."

That is the first public, recorded comment by Attorney General Jerry Brown on the matter we blogged about last week: his likening Meg Whitman's mega-money campaign tactics to the propaganda techniques pioneered by Joseph Goebbels.

I was ready to let this story die, and frankly, I was relieved it was starting to blow over as a new work week dawned. Other media outlets have made much more of it than we have at KCBS. But then Brown made a campaign stop Tuesday at Microsoft in Mountain View, touting his new plan to create half a million green jobs and 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. This was the media's first opportunity to question Brown since last week's Nazi controversy went nationwide. And so they did, in a post-speech gaggle (I wasn't there; the tape comes from my KCBS colleague Matt Bigler and from our CBS-5 TV newsroom). Earlier in the day, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement, denouncing Brown's comments to me as "deeply offensive and inappropriate," and calling on Brown to retract them publicly. He reacted with the aforementioned apology, although later his spokesman clarified that Brown was apologizing to the Jewish leaders for upsetting them, not necessarily for the comments themselves.

Asked by KTVU reporter Randy Shandobil, in a followup, if this means he doesn't regret making the remarks in the first place, Brown answered: "Well, I will tell you this. Jogging in the hills with sweaty strangers will no longer result in conversations. Mum's the word."

Can't say that I blame him. Except that answer is a little misleading. Yes, I was probably a bit sweaty, having ridden my bike about ten miles, mostly uphill, to that point. But I was not a stranger. Even though, as I blogged last week, Brown couldn't remember my name right away, he recognized me immediately, exclaimed "I know you" and, after I reintroduced myself, discussed the fact that I was a reporter at KCBS. So it's disingenuous for him to suggest that he got into all this trouble because he talked to a sweaty stranger. A sweaty reporter, maybe.

Brown's penchant for blunt talk landed him in some more hot water at the Silicon Valley event. Asked how he would cut state spending but still fund infrastructure projects and create jobs, Brown replied: "How do you do things without the money? It's very difficult, but I have a plan." After a pause, he joked, "I'll tell you after the election." That drew laughter from the audience but more fire from the Whitman campaign, whose spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said "this election and this issue are far too important for Governor Brown to continue to dodge questions, avoid specifics and shirk responsibility."

At Microsoft, Brown was whisked away by his handler as soon as the media questioning turned to the Goebbels incident. He's always been a little awkward - his late father, the legendary Pat Brown, used to lament that Jerry lacked the "human touch" and said it was daughter Kathleen who was really the natural politician in the family - but it struck me as odd how uncomfortable Brown was with the media who gathered around him in Mountain View. He seemed put off by the "gaggle," as we call it, of reporters and camerapeople who crushed around him. He complained about how "intimate" it was and said he had never been this close to so many reporters at once. Really? This, from a guy who's been winning elections in California for 40 years? You'd think he'd be used to that kind of close media attention. He'd certainly better get used to it, because this is already shaping up as an intense, hard-fought campaign, and it's likely there will be an awful lot of sweaty strangers crowding around, just waiting to see what he will say next.

17 comments:

William said...

You're doing great things for the Whitman campaign, tweeting about the Republican Rasmussen poll, posting detailed quotes on a seldom updated blog (where it doesn't go through the editorial process that reporting it on KCBS would) about something that happened days earlier the night after the primary, with an out of context reference to a supposed Nazi comparison right there to be blasted out by the Whitman campaign to the Drudge report and the media.

Here you go again.

Doug Sovern said...

I tweet most major polls, and Rasmussen is just one of many.

I can assure you the blog posting went through the same editorial process as everything else I do at KCBS.

There was nothing out of context about any of the quotes. Nothing "supposed" about the Goebbels reference, either.

And, again, it was up for almost 24hours before the Whitman people blasted it out, which took me by surprise as much as it did everyone else here.

Sorry William, you're entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts.

William said...

You're distorting what I wrote.

I said a supposed Nazi comparison.

You changed that to a "supposed" Goebbels reference.

Which was taken out of the context of what Brown was talking about, as you know, even though you have no recording and no notes from the conversation.

Here is the fact.

You didn't put this on the air in any timely manner after it happened.

Instead, you put it here, the night after the primary, where no one would see it since this blog is barely updated.

Except for the Whitman campaign, which blasted it out when it suited their purpose to try to disrupt what Brown was saying in the first engagements of the general election campaign.

I know you aren't a political writer, but don't play naive.

Doug Sovern said...

No, I'm correcting what you wrote, not distorting it. Once again, for the umpteenth time, Jerry referred to Goebbels. Now YOU are calling it a Nazi reference? I thought you were so angry that so many others referred to it that way.

And once again, no it was not taken out of context at all - and I have to wonder why you keep insisting it was, as if that's a fact. Were you there? What is this mysterious context to which you keep referring?

And if you read my earlier responses, you'd know that I do in fact have notes.

If you knew how busy I am, and how hard I work - 11 hours today at the gay marriage trial - you'd understand why the blog is neglected for days at a time. And again, I'm puzzled why, if you believe no one ever reads or cares about my blog, you think I would somehow know that the Whitman campaign would seize on it and blast it out.

And actually, I am a political writer. Another fact you've got wrong!

But thanks again for staying engaged.

William said...

Oh, please.

You're not a political writer, you're a general assignment radio reporter.

You wrote the post in such a way that Brown's comments were easily construed to be a supposed Nazi comparison.

You failed to provide the context for Brown mentioning Goebbels, i.e., the Big Lie technique used by many modern campaigns.

Your blog is not neglected for days at a time. It is neglected for months at a time.

This was simply a dumping ground for something which would come off very differently had it gone through the process of getting on to KCBS.

Making it perfect for the Whitman campaign to pick up and use to distract as the general election campaign began.

Your animus toward Brown -- "a strange human being," your purported knowledge of what his father thought of him, your repeated complaint that Brown never recognizes you and remembers your name -- couldn't be clearer.

Who knows what Brown actually said to you?

We don't.

You didn't record it.

You didn't take notes.

Etc., etc.


>why the blog is neglected for days at a time. And again, I'm puzzled why, if you believe no one ever reads or cares about my blog, you think I would somehow know that the Whitman campaign would seize on it and blast it out.

Doug Sovern said...

Oh, poor William, whoever you really are!

Wrong, wrong, wrong - but I'm done trying to lead you back to reality. You clearly have no interest in the truth, since you keep repeating the same erroneous statements, with no foundation, and the same faulty conclusions, with no basis in actual knowledge or fact, even after being corrected.

Goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I heard Jerry Brown on KGO yesteday and he admitted making those comments. He said he "probably shouldn't have." I think that settles it. Who cares if he recorded them or took notes at that very second - if Brown admits them and doesn't deny them? Which he certanily could have and would have done, if they were inaccurate in any way.

But he said he thought they were off the record. He said legally and technically, they were on the record, but he "assumed" they were off the record.

He is the state attorney general. He has been a politician for years and years and years. Shouldn't he know by now what on the record and off the record mean?

William, I agree with Doug here. You should get a life.

David said...

Anyone questioning Doug's recall of this has never met Doug!

All his friends, family and colleagues know: his memory is legendary. Astounding, in fact. There's a good reason he has never lost at Trivial Pursuit - or any other trivia game! - in his entire life. It's the same reason they picked him to go on Jeopardy.

I also have to laugh at these people who think he's out to get Jerry Brown. Ha! Like I said, you don't know Doug, do you?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter what Brown said. All that matters is that Sovern violated a sacred trust between himself and a public figure. This threatens the very business of journalism itself, which relies on bonds of trust between reporters and the people they report on.

Only a man with no honor would have reported Brown's casual, off the record comment. Sovern is a disgrace to journalists everywhere.

Doug Sovern said...

Correction: Brown's comment was ON the record. Not OFF the record. There was no "sacred trust," no bond to be broken or violated.

I have never, ever reported something that was confidential, off the record or on background after agreeing not to.

Also, wouldn't a true man of honor identify himself, as opposed to posting a comment as "Anonymous"?

Joe said...

Doug is a disgrace? He won something like 12 awards in the past week, including two huge, major national ones. He may be the best reporter in America, partly because of the courage and grace he has shown covering this very story. He is my idol.

William said...

WHAT?! Never heard of it, or him. Drink the kool-aid.

I have a life. That's why I never saw this blog before and only looked at it every few days while there was something going on here to see what spin he'd try next to cover that goofy, sloppily written post of his tailor made for the Whitman campaign.

Joe said...

Wait a second - you never even heard of Doug before this??? You didn't even bother to check his bio to see who he is, to judge his credibility, before going off on him and his post? Talk about sloppy! Then why did you write something like "you're a general assignment radio reporter" when you don't even know who he is or what his job is? You must not pay much attention to the news business if you've never heard of him before. He's one of the most respected reporters in the country. That ain't Kool-Aid talking. That's a fact. A simple Google search will prove my point.

William said...

You don't read or think very well.

I paid no attention to Doug BEFORE HIS 15 MINUTES.


>>>> Wait a second - you never even heard of Doug before this??? You didn't even bother to check his bio to see who he is, to judge his credibility, before going off on him and his post? Talk about sloppy! Then why did you write something like "you're a general assignment radio reporter" when you don't even know who he is or what his job is?

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