Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Still Undecided?

Last month, a reader alerted us to the story of an "undecided voter" who was appearing on NPR's Morning Edition. The voter in question was one John Ridley, who turned out to have donated money to both John Kerry and Wesley Clark, raising doubts about how really "undecided" he really was.

The story was also covered quite thoroughly by Jim Geraghty at NRO's The Kerry Spot. In fact, Geraghty recently posted his own update on what has transpired since the original questions were asked about Ridley's status.

But one of our readers is still not satisfied with the resolution of this matter. And if one our readers isn't satisfied, then damnit, we're not satisfied either. And so we give Bill the floor to air his case:

The NPR ombudsman's 9/24/04 column (which led Jim Geraghty to comment, "Ladies and gentleman, in the long and varied history of lame excuses and spin, this may just be the lamest...") claims Ridley confessed to both the Clark and Kerry donations on 9/24/04.

On Morning Edition last week, John Ridley, the screenwriter and occasional essayist on NPR, was introduced as a "swing voter"... someone who has not yet made up his or her mind who to vote for. Ridley would be interviewed weekly on Morning Edition about his vote, which candidate he was leaning toward, and what had most influenced his thinking over the past week.

Within minutes of the story airing, the e-mail onslaught began from readers of a number of blogs especially from opensecrets.org.

All claimed that there was a John Ridley listed in the Federal Elections Commission Web site. That is where the list of donors to the candidates and their donations are posted.

It listed one John Ridley claiming that he donated $500 to Sen. Kerry and $500 to Gen. Wesley Clark. This turned out to be the same John Ridley, as he belatedly admitted to Renée Montagne on Morning Edition on Friday of this week.

However, as you can hear for yourself (scroll down to the link "NPR's swing voter on Iraq") he did no such thing. He admitted to Kerry only and then used as the excuse that he gave to Kerry only because Bush had raised so much money. Of course this "I only gave to a Dem to balance Bush" is belied by the fact that in January he gave to Clark and then when Clark left, gave to Kerry in March.

I've spoken to the NPR ombudsman directly and noted the fact that Ridley did not 'fess up completely on air. He said he knows, that the producer told him Ridley was supposed to have, and that he wrote the 9/24/04 ombudsman column based on the producer's assurance Ridley would admit to both donations on the 9/24/04 broadcast. The ombudsman would only tell me that this was being dealt with by "higher level management", but the fact that the piece did not air on Friday or Monday morning for that matter should tell you something.

Ridley also claimed to have given money to the RNC:

"Not so," says Susan Feeney, Morning Edition senior editor. "John Ridley is a smart and funny political observer who really hasn't made up his mind. John has also given money to the Republican National Committee and carries around an RNC card to prove it.

Last Friday no "swing voter" episode aired. The ombudsman's 10/4/04 column does not mention at all that Ridley is still not admitting to the Clark donation. Moreover, Ridley's claim that he gave to the RNC "because I have an RNC card" is questionable: there's no FEC record of his giving to the RNC or ANY Republican EVER and simply having an RNC card doesn't mean you gave (some RNC mailings GIVE the card in anticipation of you giving).

Jim Geraghty has spoken with the NPR ombudsman as well, who claims that there are no records of Ridley's donations to the RNC because they were small in nature (less than $200). Awfully convenient isn't it?

Let's hope that NPR has finally realized the folly in trying to play this guy off as an "undecided voter" and pulls the plug on this little charade for good. If not, you can expect Bill to tell us all about it.

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