Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cleveland Scene reporter fired over written story alleging GOP gubernatorial candidate engaged in extramarital affair

Except the reporter had multiple sources, campaign finance records showing questionable expenses, and Senate phone records showing an unsual habit of calling the alleged mistress after calling his wife at the end of the day. Tim over at BloggerInterrupted has the whole story that Cleveland Scene decided to fire the reporter over rather than risk the lawsuit GOP Gubernatorial candidate Kevin Coughlin was threatening.

According to the mistress' roommate at the time, the affair began while the mistresss was a student of Coughlin's at the University of Akron. It continued during his first campaign for State Senate. Multiple witnesses recall seeing Coughlin's vehicle at the mistresses apartment for long periods of time, sometimes even at 1 a.m. His campaign paid for damage to her car, hotel rooms in the district and in Columbus. Former campaign staffers and friends admit knowledge of the affair. A former political candidate even alleges that Coughlin once blew off campaign activities because, in Coughlin's alleges words, he was busy "canoodling" with the alleged mistress.

Coughlin, curiously, says he doesn't "have any extra-marital affairs going on", which is a rather peculiar choice of using the present tense when talking about event which allegedly transpired five years ago. He had the high-profile law firm of Roetzel & Andress alleging that any reporting of the alleged affair is false and would defamatory if published. Not content with that litigation threat, Coughlin later had his lawyer threaten litigation, even if the Cleveland alternative weekly never published any story on it, if it continued to "harass" Coughlin's associates by continuing to look into the story any further.

In what has to be one of the worst case of journalistic cowardice ever, the CEO of the company which owns the Cleveland magazine decided to fire the reporter who was working on the story.

Incidentially, the story also presents one allegation that is bipartisan:

And according to two fellow state representatives who spoke on background,
Coughlin once got into a public shouting match with Representative Ray Miller
outside a committee room at the statehouse over their mutual attraction for
Christina Cooney, a Democratic Caucus staffer.

That would be now Senate Minority Whip Ray Miller, who's under investigation for countless campaign finance violations. Nice to know what an outstanding guy he is.

I don't see why Cleveland Scene allowed itself to be bullied by Coughlin's threat of litigation. The story is sufficiently sourced to defeat any libel action. The fact that Coughlin threatens litigation for merely looking into by calling it "harassment" should have gotten a true journalist's blood up.

During my brief stint as a newspaper reporter covering politics and crime (sometimes in the same story), I often was threatened with litigation, sometimes by lawyers (one time by a lawyer who was upset that I covered a sentencing hearing the day before he demanded I cover). I was never sued.

I wrote stories about how court clerks pocketed payments on fines and how the city's auditor once had the city pay for repairs to his personal vehicle while police chief. I once wrote a store headlined "What Jesus Wouldn't Do" about a guy who shoplifted a WWJD bracelet. I later learned that he, too, went to law firm after law firm looking for someone willing to sue me. They all laughed him out of their offices. Every day, someone was calling the managing editor and publisher threatening to sue over something I written. Nobody ever did.

And I remember that when a subject of a story goes from complaining about not asking so-so and such and such and then complains that I'm "harassing" so-so by asking them about such-such, there's smoke in the air.

This is a complete abandonment of journalistic integrity by the owner of Cleveland Scene. And I look forward to reading about this reporter's wrongful termination lawsuit.

And Kevin Coughlin has some s'plaining to do.


Anonymous said...

puh-lease. Every person who has ever been within a 5-block radius of the statehouse knows Coughlin sleeps around. the Scene was in absolutely no danger of really being sued. Coughlin would've had to prove it wasn't true, and let's be honest... you can't prove a lie like that.

Joseph said...

Come on, Modern. Those accusations about Miller and Coughlin fighting could never be true.

Everyone knows chicks dig Ray Miller WAY more than Kevin Coughlin.

It's the mustache. Period. End of story.

Anonymous said...

When a tabloid refuses to publish tabloid trash, it's because the story is bullshit. Renner's story that he was fired because Coughlin threatened to sue can't be the real reason. It really makes no sense.

Modern Esquire said...

What's b.s. about the story? You seem to presume it's b.s. despite the fact that multiple sources on background confirm the existence of the affair. One source even has Coughlin admitting to them of the existence of the affair.

It actually makes total sense that Coughlin's threat of litigation over the story was the reason he was fired. When you have the CEO of the company which ownes the magazine say that he's spiking the story because "we can't afford defending a lawsuit right now", it's pretty clear the connection.

Your position is lacking any factual premise.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to agree with the anonymous comment. James Renner is well known around Cleveland Scene as a liar.

The question is whether the "story" Renner posted on the internet is even the story he presented to Scene editors. Or has he embellished it to make it look more thorough and authoritative?

What we do know is the Scene editors rejected the story because it was all hearsay and had no confirmation of an affair. That does not sound like the stuff Renner put on the web.

So it looks like he's put out the story he had hoped to write, rather than the story he actually had.

If that's the case, James Renner is a tool.

Modern Esquire said...

Seems like the Scene editors would have told Tim Russo immediately if the story he posted wasn't the story Renner presented to them. That's just nonsense to suggest that he "embellished" it, but the magazine hasn't brought that to people's attention.

"What we do know is the Scene editors rejected the story because it was all hearsay and had no confirmation of an affair." Who are "we" and how do "we" know this?

I'll protect your desire for anonymity, but you can't come here and make these claims without some explanation.

James Renner said...

Thanks for saying everything I was thinking.
-James Renner