— by Quin;
Please allow me to defend myself from an absurd attack by the Yellowhammer News site. The other day, YN ran a headline about me that began like this:
Alabama journalist comes unglued
Much of the actual article was pretty straightforward. I stand by the comments I wrote, to which YN was responding: I have never seen a GOP convention boo its own speaker. I never thought I would see it, especially when what it booed was a mere exhortation to vote for conscience and the Constitution. Elsewhere on this site, I will run a full piece (by guest writer Steve Stone, with a few extra links thrown in) about the Cruz speech, but for now, suffice it to say that I am perfectly happy for YN to have quoted my full Facebook post.
But then, in the midst of a rather objective account (apart from the headline), came this: “Hillyer has also been deeply critical of his home state senator, Jeff Sessions, who has been one of Trump’s biggest proponents.”
This is not just bogus, but risible.
Here are the facts. First, I have written copious amounts of praise for Sen. Sessions in the past 18 years. Second, I written zero columns or even blog posts blasting Sessions, not even since he endorsed Trump.
But… Since Jeff Sessions announced his support for Trump, I have produced approximately 3,000 Tweets or Twitter replies or reTweets, on all sorts of subjects. Of those, a mere 17 have mentioned Sessions. Several expressed personal disappointment or bewilderment at Sessions’ endorsement (in sorrow, not anger), with no criticism. Several pleaded with Sessions to reconsider, in response to whatever latest outrage Trump had just perpetrated. One noted the irony that Trump had actually given money to try to defeat Sessions in the past. A couple said that even if Trump named somebody as Veep who I really, really admired — such as Sessions — I still wouldn’t vote for Trump.
The only two that were “critical” of Sessions were one where I said, rightly, that it was absurd for Sessions to have just predicted that Trump would somehow attract significant black and Hispanic votes, and another where I said that Sessions should not be pressuring Paul Ryan to endorse Trump (in the wake of Trump’s attacks on the Mexican judge) — because Ryan had to tread carefully in order to make sure he was doing the right thing to protect the GOP House majority. (Yes, I think protecting the GOP House majority is crucial.) Two quick Twitter responses — among 3,000 Twitter posts — disagreeing with specific Sessions statements hardly qualify as being generally “deeply critical” of Sessions. (And I stand by those assessments of the two specific statements by Sessions, although I might take out the too-cute word “bleeping.”) Indeed, far more recent than those two “criticisms” of Sessions was this Tweet of mine on June 20, defending Sessions from a stinging, nasty, personal attack at Salon.
I wrote: This is outrageous. “
@SenatorSessions” is wrong to endorse Trump, but Sessions is a fine man, kind and courageous.
Meanwhile, there is no way Sims could know this, but I also repeatedly defend and praise Sessions in private. For example, on July 1, in response to an anti-Trump column written by The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin in which, in passing, she called Sessions a “zealot,” I emailed her that “I wish you hadn’t taken that shot at Sessions. Otherwise, I loved it.” She responded that she knows I like him, and I followed that comment of hers with this: “He’s a really fine man…. a truly good human being.”
In short, YN’s portrayal of my attitude towards Sessions, and statements about him, is meretricious.
Why is all this important — and what are the principles at stake?
In a political world that gets nastier and nastier, I insist on basic levels of accuracy, courtesy, and fair play. Put another way, I insist on basic standards of decency even in a milieu that, of course, is naturally a bit rough-and-tumble. If Sen. Sessions, a consummate gentleman, endorses a candidate who demonstrably violates every standard of decency in campaigning, I react, more in sorrow than in anger, with the only two brief, ever-so-mild criticisms I have lobbed Sessions’ way in 18 years of covering him.
But I’ve also reacted specifically against actions I thought were clearly un-fair play by others. And this is why YN decided to attack me.
What it was, really, was petty payback for some fact-based criticism I lofted YN’s way, back when I wrote a post here blasting Sen. Richard Shelby’s over-the-top negative campaign against his young challenger, Jonathan McConnell.
(Shelby has been, on the whole, a good senator for Alabama, and I have written as much, several times. I objected specifically to the unnecessary harshness against McConnell, based on falsehoods — especially when I already knew from polling sources independent of both campaigns, and I knew Shelby was aware as well, that Shelby was already poised for a monumental landslide victory. In short, Shelby’s smearing of McConnell was utterly unnecessary politically, as well as untrue.) In the course of setting the record straight — very factually — about young McConnell, I noted that
Shelby has used his personal hit man at Yellowhammer News, whose living is boosted by those over whom Shelby has (shall we say) great influence, to plant attack after attack. (Note that the “documentation” for most of the attacks in Shelby’s nasty anti-McConnell mailers isn’t a neutral professional news outlet but rather Yellowhammer’s partisan blog.)
I then explained what was wrong, factually, with the YN reports.
(YN also has come under attack by former Press-Register investigative reporter Eddie Curran. Eddie is an ace reporter, and doesn’t care which political side’s ox gets gored: It was his reporting that did more than anything else to catalyze the investigation that put former Alabama governor Don Siegelman in a federal prison.)
Every fact in that opinion piece I wrote was true.
Sorry for the rather rambling post here, but this is important: I criticized YN in passing only in defending somebody from clearly unfair attacks. It was a small part and parcel of the defense, not an ad hominem assault on YN just for the heck of it.
If an otherwise decent senator, Shelby, uses smears and untruths to trample an accomplished young patriot who ran a standard-issue campaign that barely threatened Shelby, I will call out Shelby even while noting his overall decent record. And if, in passing, as a necessary part of that, I correct clear errors made by a political web site, I obviously welcome correction of any clear errors I make in return.
But YN wasn’t content with that. It got petty, with an outlandish headline and with an untrue assertion about my anodyne Tweets about Sessions.
And here’s a statement for the record: In the matter of Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, I found myself an adversary of Sen. Sessions, and told him so in person. But I think he is one of the best public servants I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and, as an opinion journalist and as a citizen, I admire him. It was outlandish, and demonstrably untrue, for Yellowhammer to suggest otherwise.