By: Joe Strupp
It’s not exactly Obama vs. Clinton, but now that The Newspaper Guild has nominated its two top contenders for the first contested presidential race in 13 years, the first signs of negative campaigning are showing.
Just days after incumbent Linda Foley and challenger Bernie Lunzer were nominated at last weekend’s Guild sector conference in Providence, R.I., Foley fired the first salvo in what promises to be a bitter battle.
Her comments had nothing to do with job security, contract negotiations, or newspaper industry economics. Instead, she all but accused Lunzer of not offering enough support for freedom of the press because of his opposition to comments she made in 2005 about military attacks on journalists.
In a video posted on her Web site and on YouTube.com, Foley cites a moment during a candidates’ forum last weekend in which some remarks she made in 2005 were discussed. Those included her accusing the U.S. military of targeting journalists in Iraq and citing the 2003 attacks on an Al Jazeera television studio and the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad as an example.
Foley made the remarks during a panel discussion at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis on May 13, 2005. She said at the time that those who bombed the Al Jazeera studios in Baghdad in 2003 had the coordinates of the television station, “because Al Jazeera had given it to them and they bombed the hell out of the station. They bombed it knowing it was the Al Jazeera station. Absent any independent inquiry that tells the world otherwise, that is what I believe.”
In her video, posted this week, Foley recounted the comments.
“I made some very strong comments about how the U.S. military was targeting reporters and journalists, journalists from Al Jazeera television, journalists from Abu Dhabi television, and journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel,” she recalled in the video. “When I said those remarks, I then was attacked by the right wing for a period of two to three weeks. Very intensely.”
She adds that she “stood steadfastly behind the journalists” and notes, “For me, that is a critically important issue for the president of the Newspaper Guild to uphold.”
Foley then says in the video that Lunzer stated at the candidates forum that he would not have made such remarks. “My opponents, in his retort, said he would never have said what I said. He would not have stood up for those journalists who paid the ultimate price for freedom of the press. I was outraged by that.”
Lunzer, the current secretary-treasurer, told E&P that he was responding to a question about the Palestine Hotel attack specifically, saying “I just would not have made the comment.” He later added, “There was no proof they set out to attack the media at the Palestine Hotel.”
He said that he strongly objected to the Al Jazeera attack, calling it “outrageous” and “deplorable.” “We probably should have done more to condemn it,” he added.
Lunzer also objected to Foley using such a negative approach to campaigning. “I’m concerned about it, there have been a lot of negative attacks,” he said, declining to cite specifics. “We were trying not to do negative attacks.”
During the weekend conference, guild officials also made plans for the massive election, which will affect some 30,000 guild members nationwide. Tracy Simmons, chair of the five-person election committee and administrative officer for the Denver Newspaper Guild, said voting will occur between April 24 and April 29, with final votes expected to be tallied by May 12.
“We are in the process of updating the rules that will be mailed to each local,” she said, noting each local has the option to have a mail ballot or allow votes to be cast at polling locations. “It is not that difficult, it is a process that is spelled out.”
Guild delegates at the sector conference also chose nominees for secretary-treasurer and international guild chair.
Foley’s running mates are Scott Stephens for secretary-treasurer and Lois Kirkup for international chair, while Lunzer is running with secretary-treasurer nominee Carol Rothman and international chair candidate Connie Knox.
The video can be found at: