Monday, September 22, 2008

CNN as a smear merchant claiming: "Palin's town charged women for rape exams"

Here's the real problem, if you read the title and the first couple of paragraphs - you fall for it. You believe that this vicious ex-mayor wants to punish rape victims. Heck - the comments section is filled with people with reading comprehension issues. I don't blame them, because CNN put this smear article on their front-page website.

I could mention that within the article, the smear is dispelled, but it would take CNN off the hook for deliberately tailoring an insignificant factoid as a big gotcha to meet the needs of their preferred candidate, and to smear Palin's record.

So I'll start by quoting the response from within the article:

In a statement, Jill Hazelbaker, communications director for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, said that "to imply that Gov. Palin is or has ever been an advocate of charging victims for evidence gathering kits is an utter distortion of reality."

"As her record shows, Gov. Palin is committed to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice," Hazelbaker said. "She does not, nor has she ever believed that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence gathering test."
(You will find this closer to the end, of course)

This is at the very end of the article:
The McCain-Palin campaign insists that fighting domestic violence and sexual assault are priorities for Palin. And they say she has been looking at other programs to support. As governor, Palin approved a funding increase for domestic violence shelters -- $266,200 over two years. And she reauthorized a Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

This is somewhere in the middle:
Judy Patrick, who was Palin's deputy mayor and friend, blames the state.

"The bigger picture of what was going on at the time was that the state was trying to cut their own budget, and one of the things that they were doing was passing on costs to cities, and that was one of the many things that they were passing on, the cost to the city," said Patrick, who recalls enormous pressure to keep the city's budget down.

But the state was never responsible for paying the costs of local investigations. Patrick was also a member of Wasilla City Council, and she doesn't recall the issue coming before council members, nor does she remember discussing the issue with Palin.

She does recall Palin going through the budget in detail. She said Palin would review each department's budget line by line and send it back to department heads with her changes.

"Sarah is a fiscal conservative, and so she had seen that the city was heading in a direction of bigger projects, costing taxpayers more money, and she was determined to change that," Patrick said.

And here's CNN's first couple of paragraphs:
CNN: Palin's town charged women for rape exams
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's hometown required women to pay for their own rape examinations while she was mayor, a practice her police chief fought to keep as late as 2000.
A former Alaskan lawmaker says it seems unlikely that Gov. Sarah Palin was unaware of Wasilla's policy.

Former state Rep. Eric Croft, a Democrat, sponsored a state law requiring cities to provide the examinations free of charge to victims. He said the only ongoing resistance he met was from Wasilla, where Palin was mayor from 1996 to 2002.

"It was one of those things everyone could agree on except Wasilla," Croft told CNN. "We couldn't convince the chief of police to stop charging them."

Alaska's Legislature in 2000 banned the practice of charging women for rape exam kits -- which experts said could cost up to $1,000.

Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, often talks about her experience running Wasilla, population approximately 7,000, and that has prompted close scrutiny of her record there. Wasilla's practice of charging victims for their rape exams while she was mayor has gotten wide circulation on the Internet and in the mainstream media.

Some supporters of Palin say they believe she had no knowledge of the practice. But critics call it "outrageous" and question Palin's commitment to helping women who are the victims of violence.

For years, Alaska has had the worst record of any state in rape and in murder of women by men. The rape rate in Alaska is 2.5 times the national average.

Interviews and a review of records turned up no evidence that Palin knew that rape victims were being charged in her town. But Croft, the former state representative who sponsored the law changing the practice, says it seems unlikely Palin was not aware of the issue.

"I find it hard to believe that for six months a small town, a police chief, would lead the fight against a statewide piece of legislation receiving unanimous support and the mayor not know about it," Croft said.

During the time Palin was mayor of Wasilla, her city was not the only one in Alaska charging rape victims. Experts testified before the Legislature that in a handful of small cities across Alaska, law enforcement agencies were charging victims or their insurance "more than sporadically."

Putting the facts backwards, giving disgruntled liars front and center stage... nice going CNN. The lowest of the lowest smears - on a major news outlet's front page!

Exit questions:
* Why wouldn't CNN or those who dug this story up in Obama's campaign/smear department come up with one person who claims he brought this issue up with Palin when she was Mayor?
* CNN shows the contrary, the chief of police was contacted by state legislator and refused. Where's that chief's response in the article? Is this fair reporting?
* I'm not saying that rape victims should reveal themselves to the public, it would be perfectly normal to anonymously claim to have been charged for the kit and to have complained to the mayor - with whatever response was given back from the mayor's office. Why hasn't any such evidence been presented? Even anonymously, while the details of the alleged rape victim known to the media yet withheld, a bill for the kit and some documentation of correspondence would be acceptable evidence.

Some were outraged at SNL's sketch yesterday which had a joke about how the press can accuse Todd Palin with incest with his daughter without proof, but since there's no proof to the contrary - it's a worthy story. While the whole idea is despicable - I think it is clearly a joke about how the press is treating Palin, not an offense to her family. I think today's Palin smear is a demonstration of that: They have no proof, but CNN put it on the front page of the website - to stir some controversy regardless of the facts. I think at this point - SNL were spot on.

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