No, this is not your typical RTP over-the-top headline. It’s true.
It has come to this: The Tennessean, reeling from declining profits, a flawed business model and major reductions in the number of reporters, editors and other staff, decided not to use reporters at all on its largest article about one of the biggest political issues of the past and coming year.
Looking for all the world like a regular news story, The Tennessean ran a weekend article under the headline: “Tennessee’s Common Core backtrack strands teachers, students.” Where the reporter’s byline should have been was: “Laura Camera, The Hechinger Report.” The article was in the News section of the paper, under the Education category – not in the Editorial or Opinion sections where it so obviously belonged. What makes it even more audacious is the sheer size of the article – nearly 3,000 words in all. It was the largest article in the newspaper that day, and possibly the paper’s largest single article on Common Core ever.
Down at the bottom of the page was an innocuous editor’s note: “The Tennessean is partnering with the Hechinger Report, a non-profit, independent news website … to bring you an in depth look at how teachers are implementing Common Core…”
Nowhere before, during or after the article did the Tennessean explain just exactly who was The Hechinger Report. But RTP will be more than glad to shine a little light.
The Hechinger Report/The Hechinger Institute is an adjunct of the Teachers College at Columbia University (you remember Columbia U, don’t you? That’s Barack Obama’s alma mater). And The Hechinger Report was thoughtful enough to list its major donors. There are a host of liberal non-profits also attached to the Hechinger Foundation, like the left-wing Ford and the Joyce foundations, but the one we thought we would see on the list was not there: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
So our researchers dug a little further and look what we found:
Notice the second donor on the list? Yep, Billy Gates. It appears the Gates Foundation has been scrubbed from The Hechinger Reports website list of donors since this article ran back in July.
Gee, we wonder why?
Could it possibly be because Bill Gates and his Foundation have been one of, if not the largest supporters and funders of Common Core? They have given millions in Tennessee to outfits such as S.C.O.R.E. – the main Common Core propaganda machine in the state – in order to shove this Obama-backed boondoggle down the throats of Tennessee taxpayers.
But somehow, the Tennessean forgot to mention, much less highlight, that awkward little truth. No, instead, the Tennessean set the stage for even more biased, under-the-table-funded “reporting,” informing its rapidly-dwindling readership that it intends to double down on the sleazy arrangement: “In the coming months, look for a series of stories [from The Hechinger Report].”
As for the accuracy and bias of the story itself, we refer you to one key passage:
“A 2013 survey of 28,000 teachers by…Vanderbilt University… found that teachers generally believed that…Common Core was going well…”
The “reporter” conveniently left out the fact this year Vanderbilt updated its study with a new one that showed support for Common Core hemorrhaging among teachers – completely refuting the central premise of the so-called news article:
On its web edition the Tennessean edition included a link to another webpage about the updated Vanderbilt study, but the editors used no quotes or numbers from the new study because that would obviously discredit the Hechinger story. How convenient.
The Tennessean should be ashamed. But shame can only come from the self-recognition that the reputation and practices of the Tennessean have slid into an ethical and professional cesspool of its own making. Let’s see Frank Daniels The Third write about that.
No wonder Chas Sisk told the Tennessean to piss off. The Tennessean is turning into a joke.
Rocky Top Politics received a gratuitous mention in Tom Humphrey’s recent column.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are (slightly) misquoting Tom and including his backhanded comment under our masthead (see above) for the next week or so.
Hell, we may leave it up until Christmas.
“God bless us everyone!” Especially cantankerous, irascible hack journalists we love to read.
What was surely meant as a Politico puff piece for the new head of the Republican Governors Association (a story likely planted by Tom Ingram) instead morphed into an embarrassing and hilarious “suck-up fest” by Gov. Bill Haslam’s paid courtiers.
The best quotes came from Haslam’s media consultant, Fred Davis:
“I have to be careful because I represent more than one governor – but I think he’s one of the best governors in the country that we’ve ever seen.”
But the adman didn’t stop with his gushing schoolgirl hyperbole. He then let loose with this beauty:
[Davis] described [Haslam] in contrast to his football-exec brother.
“Jim Haslam is more outgoing. He’s bigger physically. He’s the kind of guy who you look at and you say: There’s the governor of Tennessee. And then there’s Bill, who is more introspective….”
Aside from the creepy “Bro-mance” tone of his comments, Davis effectively delivered the message that Bill Haslam is … a wimp.
This is not the first time Fred Davis has wandered off the ol’ metaphorical plantation. RTP would like to remind readers of Mr. Davis’ previous work. Like this “major fail” television spot from 2010:
— Christine O’Donnell for Senate, 2010
Maybe Fred can produce a new spot for Bill:
“I am not a Wimp”
“Yesterday’s News, Tomorrow!”
It seems cost-cutting at the Tennessean has taken its toll. Late yesterday afternoon, the Tennessean ran with a story about Bill Haslam being named chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, taken mostly from the governor’s press release. What the Tennessean failed to mention was that Rocky Top ran a story more than a day earlier, telling our readers it was going to happen and why. And we did it with a crew member on-site in Boca Raton giving context to the content.
But as satisfying as it was to do the Tennessean’s job for them and beating them to the punch one day in advance, think about our amusement at beating WSMV-TV to a major story by 5 months. We were falling off our chairs laughing at the “breaking news” from WSMV that there were problems at the Tennessee School for the Blind. If the professional reporters at WSMV did not lift this story directly from Rocky Top, maybe they should have.
On July 9 of this year, RTP ran the story about the TSB, along with copies of the emails from former TSB teacher Norma Englehardt. A simple Google search would have revealed that fact. Englehardt was the main source for WSMV, as she was for RTP back in the summer. A little love and a little credit from the folks at WSMV would have been nice, but we’re not holding our breath. Instead, RTP will be satisfied with leading the MSM horses to water AND making them drink when they get there — even it takes them 5 months to find their butts with both hands.
As to how RTP got the story in the first place, well, it’s simple. A legislator tipped us off by sending it to the Rocky Top Politics Tip Line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we did the rest. So for all you Republicans who are tired of waiting around for the news media to do its job, keep it coming. Or Democrats for that matter. Hell, we don’t mind where we get our tips, as long as they’re accurate. And as always, we recommend using an anonymous email account. Documentation and detailed specifics will increase the chances we will use your submission. We are not interested in your identity, just the reliability of your information.
And finally, as a gesture of goodwill from RTP to our friends in the MSM, here’s a little tip you might want to run down:
“Butch Jones To Be Named Head Coach At Tennessee.”
Check it out — it just might be true. And there’s a Pulitzer just waiting for the lucky reporter who breaks that story.
One of the RTP crew was lucky enough to escape frozen Tennessee and join the Republican governors at their meeting in Florida this week. Here is his/her on the scene report:
The weather has been overcast, rainy and windy since we arrived on Monday, but at least it’s not snowing. The big word today is that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam may well be the next chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. Now before he and his staff get the big-head over that possibility, here are some behind the scenes factoids about how this may happen.
First, the reason Haslam is being considered at all is that no one else wants the job. All those who are the first tier candidates have declared they are not interested. Some of them are running for president. Others don’t want to try and follow the banner election earlier this month. Duplicating those results would be nearly impossible. And lastly, there are only two races for governor next year — hardly worth the large amount of time you would have to spend as head of the RGA.
Second — Haslam is everyone’s second choice. The best line we heard was last night over drinks at Bar Luna. The chief of staff of another, more prominent governor told us: “No one wants the damn job. We might as well give it to Miss Congeniality (Haslam).” If Haslam gets the post, think of it as a “meteoric rise to mediocrity.”
But that hasn’t kept the governor’s minions from lobbying like crazy to get him the post. Mark Cate was spotted this morning flitting around the Palm Court from chief-of-staff to chief-of-staff. Now Mark didn’t draw the attention that Haley Barbour did with his garish red shirt yesterday, but he looked the part with his severe dark suit, white shirt and frisky yellow tie. But enough of our fashion report….
Where have we seen this scenario play out before? Oh, that’s right — when Big Jim and Jimmy couldn’t figure out what Bill could contribute to the family business, they decided the best thing for Pilot was to run Bill for mayor of Knoxville. Now that no one can figure out who will take the job that no one wants, the governors appear to have settled on Bill to be the chairman of the RGA. How thoughtful of them.
Our favorite line related to the Kevin “IVFO” Huffman departure came from Gov. Haslam:
“I wanted Kevin to stay.”
Yeah, right. Like our Uncle Buster wished his hemorrhoids would stick around a little longer.
To paraphrase Huffman’s favorite president: “If you like your arrogant, self-dealing prick of an education commissioner, you can keep your arrogant, self-dealing prick of an education commissioner…”
Bye, Kev. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.
[Editors’ note: In anticipation of the upcoming legislative session, RTP will occasionally report on pending issues of interest. Generally, we will decide what is interesting and what is not. But if our readers think they have a good issue, send it on to the Rocky Top Politics Tip Line: http://email@example.com. If we like it, we’ll report on it. If we don’t, too bad. Get your own blog.]
Some Folks Never Learn.
Over the past couple of sessions, a relatively obscure bill with the potential to affect thousands of Tennesseans has been presented and defeated. The bill was submitted on behalf of those nice people at TicketMaster. Along with the affiliated LiveNation mega entertainment combine, they convinced a couple of naïve (pliable?) legislators to introduce a bill they claimed would stop the hated “ticket scalping.” Of course the LiveNation folks never bothered to tell folks that LiveNation holding back primo tickets is one of the major reasons there are fewer tickets available for concerts, but we digress.
After convincing Rep. Ryan Haynes to sponsor their bill in the house and Sen. Ken Yager to do the same in the senate, the LiveNation/Ticketmaster lobbyists went to work. After winning a couple scrimmages in committee, the crack lobbyists then proceeded to completely blow their chances by allowing the opposition (StubHub, etc.) to turn the whole debate into a property rights issue.
Enter conservatives such as Steve Gill, Americans for Prosperity, Nashville Tea Party and others who rallied the Tea Parties and others of like mind, to openly oppose the LiveNation attempts at confiscation of concert-goers’ personal property – their tickets. Haynes blinked while whining about the Tea Party types (which reminds us: How did you avoid a primary opponent, Ryan? Oh well, there’s always 2016). Yager refused to follow Haynes over the cliff, and the bill died in embarrassing defeat.
So end of story, right? Nope.
Unbelievably, Ticketmaster is seriously considering bringing up a similar bill this coming session. Their head of government relations, Becky Relic (who flipped over from the same job at competitor EBay last year after matriculating from the Chuck Cagle School of Situational Ethics) was in Nashville recently looking to gin up another fight. Apparently Ticketmaster (and their bill sponsors) are gluttons for punishment. But have no fear! The same Ticketmaster maladroit lobbyists may be back on the job! Tom Lee, a Democrat lobbyist (in a super-majority Republican legislature) hasbeen signed up again for another charge of the Pickett variety. And this time he has reinforcements, by golly. In an effort to take the Dem-stink off his resume, Tom hired none other than former Republican legislator Debra “0-2” Maggart. RTP readers will remember Debra “I Heart Common Core” Maggart as the disgraced politician who managed to spend hundreds of thousands of GOP caucus money while getting her butt whipped in the double digits by political novice Courtney Rogers; and then followed up this primary season with another failed attempt to beat her nemesis by proxy.
Yep. I bet those guys at StubHub are really scared now… Is the GOP leadership anxious for another caucus splitting fight over a bill that doesn’t do anything to help anybody but Ticketmaster – and their lobbyists?
So far, all the predictions about who replaces Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman have left out a rather obvious candidate. More than just a few believe the logical person to replace Huffman would his close buddy and fellow carpetbagger Chris Barbic – the very highly paid Achievement School District superintendent.
Huffman recruited Barbic, an old Teach For America friend from Texas, to come to Tennessee. Of course Teach For America is the outfit that Huffman left to move to the Volunteer state, and when he arrived he rewarded his old employer with $12 million of our tax money through no-bid sweetheart contract. And Huffman has let people know that he thinks Barbic would be just the perfect person to replace him.
To this we say: Governor you ain’t got the cajones. And here’s why.
RTP has uncovered a problematic fact about Mr. Barbic — a person Haslam once referred to as one of “two of the best hires I have made as governor.” (The other “best hire” was Huffman, natch.)
It seems Barbic’s wife, whose name is Natasha Kamrani, is the Exec. Director for Tennessee of a Washington, DC-based group called Democrats for Education Reform — an organization comprised primarily of former Democrat state legislators.
You read that right. Democrats for Education Reform.
Can you imagine the reaction in our legislature if the governor named Barbic to the job? It’s bad enough that he let the Obama-voting Huffman take over the education of our children, but picking Barbic would be rubbing salt in the wound.
Of course, there’s also the little problem of the multi-million dollar lawsuits against Huffman and Barbic. One of the lawsuits sued Barbic personally as well as in his official capacity. Should make for interesting discussion during hearings next session.
Of course, RTP does not hold high hopes that anyone this governor appoints will be anything more than a toady for Common Core and SCORE.
But just for kicks: go ahead, Guv — appoint Barbic. Make our day….
The Tennessean and others have finally decided to report on the slimy goings on in the GOP’s recent election of State Executive Committee members. RTP reported on this back in July (hat-tip to the Jackson Press for being the first to report on the controversy). This is the second “Hit & Run” by the GOP establishment to squelch the conservatives within the party. The first was the Advance Tennessee PAC that targeted incumbent Republicans in the legislature.
Now comes something called the “Strong & Free” PAC. What makes this latest attack interesting is the incompetent manner in which the perpetrators conducted business. They filed late, then they forgot to pay their $100 filing fee, then they made secret contributions from an incorporated organization before the organization was incorporated. We don’t know the name of the incompetent lawyer who got them into this mess, but we know who Strong & Free hired to try to get them out of it (could be the same person, for all we know).
The fly-by-night PAC hired favored establishment consigliere, Gif Thornton. RTP readers will remember Gif Thornton as the “Republican” lobbyist who celebrated the GOP’s super-majority takeover of the legislature by hiring a bunch Democrat lobbyists from the Naifeh era. Go figure. Gif airily dismissed the glaring insufficiencies of the PACs reporting violations as just”bookkeeping” mistakes (that’s the same excuse Tom Ingram gave when he got caught red-handed for lobbying without registering).
All of these incidents add up to an increasingly corrupt state GOP establishment. Instead of facing conservatives head-on, they surreptitiously try to slime them with secret PACs, then hire hack lawyers to cover their bumbling tracks.
Add this to secret under-the-table payments from the governor to Ingram, 7-figure payoffs to companies whose contracts they took away so that the administration’s friends could profit, to an Obama-voting education commissioner who handed out multimillion dollar no-bid sweetheart contracts to his old (and future?) employer.
These people are sleazebags.
Kevin “I Voted for Obama” Huffman has resigned.
To this RTP says: “You’re welcome.” We have been among Huffman’s most severe critics, and for good reason. When Bill Haslam selected the carpetbagging, liberal jerk to head up the education of our children, RTP was the one who pointed out his mercenary double dealing with his former employers, among other transgressions. Apparently Governor Hardhead finally got the message from Republican legislators who said Huffman was a hindrance to the Governor’s education agenda. But if the governor thinks this is an olive branch to those who oppose Common Core and the coming testing debacle, he should think again. This will only serve to embolden those opponents who will undoubtedly view Huffman’s departure as a victory. Perhaps maybe now the T.E.A. will come out and ask for Huffman’s resignation — something their leaders have refused to do despite the fact their members loathe the education commissioner. Of course, they will need to pry Jim Wrye’s lips off of Huffman’s butt first….