by Irvin Muchnick
A shoddy story in the San Jose Mercury News, whose plant by USA Swimming flacks is painfully obvious to the more than minimally informed, contributes to an effort to spin the investigations by Congressman George Miller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as no big deal. That effort must fail.
Earlier this week, Miller – ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce – released to, we believe, four media outlets his 11-page letter to the FBI advocating for the bureau to “fully investigate” enumerated allegations of continuing cover-ups of sexual abuse, along with the FBI’s one-page response.
One of the recipients of Miller’s package was Concussion Inc. You can read our coverage here, and view my podcast with Tim Joyce at http://youtu.be/M7BhE-i8ygE.
Another recipient was the Mercury News. On release day, the Merc published a perfunctory summary. Yesterday the paper followed up with a` story whose agenda seemed to be to bury what had already been published.
At “FBI , USA Swimming officials talk on abuse,” http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_26778626/fbi-meets-usa-swimming-sexual-exploitation-concerns, reporter Elliott Almond wrote in the second paragraph, “A USA Swimming spokesman said Thursday the national governing body is not under investigation by the FBI.”
Our information is that USA Swimming is under investigation by the FBI and, perhaps, additional federal investigative agencies – for both sexual abuse and cover-up, and insurance irregularities. The support for that conclusion is all over these pages.
But, concededly, the letter from the FBI’s Maxwell B. Marker to Congressman Miller was written in the kind of ambiguous and inscrutable bureaucratese that can be read either way. The real problem is that the Mercury News leaped to the soft conclusion – that the bureau patted the long-time representative of California’s 11th congressional district and told him not to worry his pretty little head – without doing any journalism, or homework.
We asked three questions of the Mercury News’ Almond, plus editor David Butler, managing editor Bert Robinson, metro editor Mike Frankel, and assistant sports editor Darryl Matsuda. They declined to answer any of them:
* Who at USA Swimming claimed the organization was not under FBI investigation, and by what standard was it appropriate not to quote and name the USA Swimming official after publishing federal government documents signed by Congressman Miller and the FBI?
* Why did the story not mention the most recent material, suggesting current and ongoing cover-ups, in the Miller letter?
* Did the Merc know about Concussion Inc.’s documentation of the fact that the FBI’s Campbell office subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents in discovery in a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court ? These were records USA Swimming suppressed, paying tens of thousands of dollars in court sanctions, before the California Supreme Court ordered their release. If the newspaper of record of the South Bay , and the state’s sixth largest overall, did not know any of this, why not? If yes, why did Almond not report it?
The full text of my exchange with the Mercury News is at http://muchnick.net/mercexchange.pdf.