Mr. Donovan, Pistols at Dawn?


Regional/ Kansas City:



Find out what's REALLY happening in the news:


The primary purpose of KC NewsWatch  will be to watch the news and objectively correct it as needed through appropriate reporting and commentary.

Particular emphasis will be on news print, radio and television media reaching areas surrounding the Kansas City Metro area.


by Jack Cashill
December, 2008
Published in KC News Watch.com

This past month I have found myself in a minor dust-up with The Kansas City Star that I was prepared to let drop until my normally prudent, apolitical, university professor wife told me it was time to bitch-slap these mothers.  And when my wife talks, I listen.

My initial hesitance had nothing to do with fear of The Star but simply with what I considered the small potatoes nature of the squabble.  To continue the food metaphor, I felt I had bigger fish to fry, specifically my work on the authorship of Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

The contretemps began on November 14 when I published an article in the American Thinker entitled “Newspapers Censor Their Way To Oblivion.”

The article’s lead sums up my thesis: “This campaign season The Kansas City Star passed on a parcel of the nation's most eye-popping stories.  Incredibly, at least five of those stories flared up in the Star's home state, Missouri.  As the reader might guess, all five stories reflected unfavorably on Democratic candidates.”

I cited five stories—Obama’s “St. Louis” gaffe, Biden’s “Stand up, Chuck” gaffe, the “Obama Truth Squad” scandal, the junior high Obama storm troopers scandal, and the Star’s pathetic ongoing coverage of ACORN.  In each case, I specified where the story did not appear, specifically the Star’s “Start Smart--"10 hot topics," which it emails blasts every morning to me and many others.

For instance, in October 2008 hundreds of thousands of Americans watched a shocking video of Obama youth wearing military fatigues and chanting, “Yes I Can,” on public school time under the watchful eye of a public school teacher. 

This video circled the Internet for four days without comment from The Star.  A local AM radio station interviewed the principal on a Monday.  I interviewed her that same morning.  Here is what I wrote about the Star’s response on Tuesday:

“The Star did not report on the Obama Youth video until the following day and then under the comically gentle headline, ‘Schools tread a tightrope when teaching about election.’ Tightrope?  This story did not make the "Start Smart" top ten either.”

My dictionary defines “censor” as “to suppress or control something,” which is quite how I used the world although I would round out the definition with “to diminish.”

Star reader rep Derek Donovan took exception.  He titled his response article, “Stating lies forcefully does not make them true.”

Wrote Donovan, “The specific news stories cited as examples are absolute nonsense -- unless you can count the paper running them, including on Page A-1, as censorship.”

The page A-1 story he was referring to was that of the junior varsity storm troopers.   Wrote Donovan, “Yep, again censored in The Star -- unless you count that Page A-1 story about the subject of political involvement in schoolrooms on Oct. 8.”  To repeat, the Star covered the story late and then trivialized it when it did. One can imagine the paper’s response if a suburban school district had sponsored McCain Youth marching in military fatigues.

Donovan was equally dismissive about my take on the Obama “Truth Squad” story.  Although he cited only one instance, he claimed the story had been in the paper “multiple times.”  Donovan then added an altogether telling aside, “And the critics also forget that McCain had his own ‘truth squads’ out there (though they didn't include prosecutors and sheriffs in Missouri, which was one of the main knocks against the Obama team).”

“One of the main knocks?” No, that was “the” knock.  A truth squad made up exclusively of prosecutors and sheriffs scares people.  That was its intention.  At the time, when I told my wife (who wisely goes by her maiden name) that I was prepared to tackle the “Truth Squad” story, she blanched and advised strongly against it, fearing legal retribution.  That is why this story should have been one of the “ten hot topics” multiple times, but as I reported, it never did make the top ten, not once.

Of the five stories, my account of Obama’s undeniable gaffe on the opening night of the Denver convention has caused me the most trouble. As I reported, at the end of the Michelle's speech, Barack joined his wife and daughters over closed circuit TV.  Said he unthinkingly, "I'm here with the Girardeau family here in St. Louis."

One problem--Obama was actually in Kansas City about three blocks from my house.  The Star’s chief political reporter, Steve Kraske, was there in the house. I read Kraske’s article on line the next morning but learned about the gaffe only from listening to Rush Limbaugh later that day.

"You people don't understand this," Limbaugh told his national audience at the top of his show the next day.  "This is a gaffe.  Kansas City and St. Louis hate each other."

After diminishing the importance of Obama’s error, Donovan raved, “It wasn't just quoted in The Star's A-1 story -- the reporter even pointed out that Obama got the city wrong.”  He said of my account, “The intellectual dishonesty here is breathtaking.”

Kraske then called me in high dudgeon.  I know him halfway well.  He and I appear regularly on a local Kansas City public television show (KCPT) called “Kansas City Week In Review.” Yes, of course, he reported the St. Louis gaffe, he told me.  My falsehoods were now floating around the Internet, he continued, and had added credence given my frequent appearances with him on public television.

Kraske’s call took me by surprise.  To that point I had fully ignored Donovan’s posting.  I wrote off his failure to understand the impact of the word “lie” to ignorance, not malice.  In a more honor-bound era, I would have had to shoot him.  I don’t think he knew that.

Not having the article in front of me—The Star often pulls them quickly from general Internet circulation—I apologized to Kraske if I had gotten my facts wrong, but, as I told him, I know that I had nailed the other four stories, and I could have sworn I was right about the St. Louis gaffe.  He was not appeased.  If the Star has since leaned on KCPT to have me removed from the air, I would not be surprised.

After Kraske’s call, I searched my email and found my way to the article in question.  Here is what I wrote to Kraske and Donovan. 



Each morning the Star sends out a "Smart Start" newsletter that features the "10 Hot Topics Today In The News."  On August 26, your piece "Obama watches wife's speech from KC" was understandably number one.  I was not in KC that day so that was all I had to work with.


I cannot now access the article through the Star, but I have found a reprint online from democraticunderground.com
that I am confident is what I read that day. I do not how or if it was edited down--"snip?"--but this is what went out online. I wrote about it the day afterwards, stunned by the omission of the Obama gaffe, and referred to that earlier piece to write the longer one last week in American Thinker. 


Here is the online version unedited by me:


Barack Obama appeared Monday at the Democratic convention in a video feed from Kansas City. He talked with his wife, Michelle Obama, and daughters after her speech.


The Barack Obama whom many Americans know typically is a pillar of confidence.

Monday night at the Brookside home of Jim and Alicia Girardeau, he was a nervous wreck.


The presumptive Democratic nominee picked the Girardeaus’ living room to watch his wife’s opening-night speech. For most of the time he sat like a statue.


“It’s nerve-racking,” he said as his wife took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where he’ll deliver his own big speech Thursday night at Invesco Field at Mile High, where the NFL’s Broncos play.  After a pause, he added, “She’s pretty cute.”




His nervousness showed — not so much in what Obama did but in what he didn’t do. He barely moved. He hardly brandished emotion. He said little, even as his wife described their hardscrabble upbringings, their courtship and their dreams for the nation.




Only at the very end, as Michelle Obama dedicated their campaign “in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future,” did the senator from Illinois lighten up. A smile streaked across his once-solemn face, and he looked up at the Girardeaus and the assembled reporters.


As Michelle finished, Obama turned toward the Girardeaus and the assembled media and said: “So what do you think? She’s pretty good, huh? She’s pretty good.”

Pausing and smiling, he then repeated: ”I thought she was pretty good. She was fantastic.”


He then said he was glad they didn’t pan to his mother-in-law because he would have gotten choked up.



Considering that you write here about how nervous Obama was, would it not have been entirely natural to mention his St. Louis gaffe in the lead?  Had this been Sarah Palin would you not have lead with it?  I would have if it were either one, unless, of course, I felt the chivalrous urge to protect Palin (which I might have).


It is possible that not you, but your editor was protecting Obama?  Earlier I had noted that an editor undermined your story about how the GOP picked principle over politics in the [Phill] Kline [abortion] case with the absurd headline, "GOP picks principles over progress." Progress? 


My argument stands: of course, the Star manages the news to advance its liberal/Democratic causes. I do not believe that the Star does so consciously for the most part, but that does not change the reality. "Censoring" does not mean eliminating stories; it means diminishing their impact, and in all five cases I mentioned, including this one, that is exactly what happened.


In any case, I deeply resent Derek's suggestion that I was lying.  I would like a public apology, thank you.






Donovan promptly wrote me back: “I have nothing to apologize for, Jack.”  He again quibbled about my use of the word “censor” and went on to concede that the Kraske article I quoted in full “was an early-evening version, which Steve amended for the final edition.”

No, this was the article that was email blasted to scores of thousands of people the morning after as the Star’s hottest story.  It omitted the St. Louis gaffe, which would have been huge in these parts.  The omission was intentional.  I think “censorship” is an entirely appropriate word to describe the phenomenon.

Wearying of a fray with a guy whose likely future is on an unemployment line—the source of much anxiety chez le Star--I emailed Donovan a one-word response, “Basta.” I thought that was enough until my wife reminded me that my honor was at stake.

Pistols at dawn, Derek?

Who is Jack Cashill?


to top of page  
Subscribe to the Cashill mailing list. It's FREE!

Receive political news, invitations to political events and special offers.

Home | Professional | Personal | International | National | Regional | Books & DVDs | Articles By Title | Email Jack
copyright 2005 Jack Cashill









































eXTReMe Tracker