Politics & Prejudices
Anatomy of a smear
Case against U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee doesn’t pass the smell test
Published: November 30, 2011
What do you have in common with the rat I saw the other day, running under a trash bin behind a grocery store?
Well, my guess is that you like to eat, are capable of fear and at some point in your life have wanted sex. Think about that, and you understand the mentality of those who run much of the mass media.
Like rats, they aren't especially concerned with fairness, but are sometimes far more malicious. We had a nice example of that last week, when suddenly, stories surfaced saying that elderly, retiring Flint-area U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee was being accused of "improperly touching" a male teenage cousin almost a half-century ago.
WNEM-TV in Flint began heavily promoting their "exclusive I-team report" on this issue, which aired Nov. 21. What it turned out to be, however, was an outrageous hatchet job, in which their "six-month" investigation consisted mainly of an interview with the alleged victim, one Patrick Kildee. The station showed Patrick claiming that back in 1964, when he was 15, the future Democratic congressman "would take my little penis and start rubbing it. ... I had no understanding of what my penis was, other than for going to the bathroom."
Give me a break. That sounds like something a 4-year-old might say. Fifteen-year-old boys have been through puberty and most have been enthusiastically masturbating for years.
Patrick claimed that this ruined his life, and caused him to inflict many wounds on his own body. Eventually, he was diagnosed as a schizophrenic manic-depressive, according to WNEM. In a previously taped audio interview, Patrick's mother talked about her son's drug and alcohol abuse as well as his mental problems.
Why didn't he complain a long time ago? Well, he forgot. Years later, his "repressed memories" came out while in a state mental hospital.
Basically, then, we have the word of a schizophrenic against that of a man who has served in Congress since 1977, and about whom there has been no previous scandal.
The allegation wouldn't stand the test of reasonable evidence in any court, or journalism's two-source rule. Oh, the Flint station had "other sources" — family members who said they believed what Patrick said. The congressman angrily denied all of it.
Kildee, 82, said this was the result of a failed blackmail attempt by the alleged victim's son in September, and that he had gone to the FBI about this. And while Dale Kildee announced last summer his decision to retire, there may be a political motive for smearing the family name: Dan Kildee, the former Genesee County treasurer, is running to succeed his uncle.
The "story" first surfaced recently on the blog of a Washington-area blogger named Susan Bradford. The right-wing Washington Times then picked it up, at which point Bradford got cold feet. She announced that she had been approached by one Jon Yinger, a "Christian" broadcaster with a history of donating money to the Republican Party.
Later, the Flint Journal discovered that the broadcast interview with Patrick Kildee "was coordinated by Genesee County Republican Party Chairwoman Prudy Adam and Yinger."
No other media outlet has been able to find the cousin, who allegedly lives in a trailer in New Mexico. Patrick Clawson, a former CNN investigative reporter who lives in Flint, told me that GOP operatives tried to shop the story to him a year ago.
Clawson is not in awe of big names. He's the journalist who uncovered the story last year that then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm had awarded a tax break and appeared smiling on camera with a convicted fraud artist whose business was entirely a scam.
As for Kildee, "Another investigative reporter and I independently checked out this more than a year ago," Clawson said. "We both concluded that these allegations could not be substantiated in any way, and were most likely false.
"The real story here is how incompetent journalists and partisan political opponents came together to smear a very good and decent man," Clawson added. Clawson — a libertarian, not a liberal — has known Kildee for nearly half a century. "Don't get me wrong. If I had turned up credible evidence that Dale Kildee or anyone else was a pedophile, I'd have hung him or anyone out to dry. But there wasn't anything there. ... If I tried to broadcast this when I worked at CNN or NBC, I would have been kicked out and fired," he said.
What is filthiest about all this is that some people will always believe it, and a taint will hang over the head of an elderly man who fought hard for fairness and was known for honesty his entire career.
History shows that a lot of straight-seeming men have had very bizarre sex lives. But here's why I don't believe any of these accusations:
Those who prey on children never stop with a single child. When they are caught (think Jerry Sandusky) other victims start coming forward. Since this "story" broke, guess how many other people have said Dale Kildee ever did anything to them? Not a single one.
Having the right stuff: Earlier this month, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards Sr. again ruled against Manuel "Matty" Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge. Judge Edwards has long had the outrageous idea that Moroun should follow the law, live up to signed agreements and comply with court orders.
> Email Jack Lessenberry