Update: The NYT has appended a correction to the Broder/Healy piece ... Wouldn't you also like to know how they heard the suspect spin in the first place? That would tell us something about Burkle and Clinton. ...
More: kf has received an email from Frank J. Quintero, the aforementioned spokesman for Burkle's Yucaipa Companies. It reads, in part:
It is true that many of the Food 4 Less stores suffered economic damage in the 1992 riots. However, the account reported in the New York Times is also true.
How can that be so? Because although as The Orange County Business Journal correctly reported, as many as 40 stores were closed during the disturbances, many (most of the company's) stores were still open. These were the stores that President Clinton asked about. These are the stores, as detailed on Page 409 in President Clinton's book, that when President Clinton asked Congresswoman Maxine Waters why some supermarkets were still open, she replied that those stores were not burned because the owner, Mr. Burkle, treated his customers and employees well.
Sure enough, on page 409 of Clinton's My Life you'll find this passage:
The streets looked like a war zone, full of burned and looted buildings. As we walked, I noticed a grocery store that appeared to be intact. When I asked Maxine about it, she said the store had been 'protected' by people from the neighborhood, including gang members, because its owner, a white businessman named Ron Burkle, had been good to the community. He hired local people, all the employees were union members with health insurance, and the food was of the same quality as that in Beverly Hills groceries and sold at the same prices. At the time, that was unusual: because inner-city residents are less mobile, their stores often had inferior food at higher prices. I had met Burkle for the first time just a few hours earlier, and I resolved to get to know him better. He became one of my best friends and strongest supporters.
A couple of points:
1) The NYT's story (and Quintero's) actually differs from Clinton's account in non-trivial ways. a) Clinton only says that a single store was "intact," having been protected (he was told) by neighborhood people. The NYT and Quintero say "stores," and the Times gullibly implied that Burkle's whole chain was protected because he was such a good employer (when in fact Burkle's stores sustained "extreme damage from looting, fire, and water," according to the chain's own VP of corporate communications as paraphrased in Supermarket News of May 11, 1992). b) Clinton says he'd already met Burkle, and merely "resolved to get to know him better" after hearing Waters' story. But the NYT omits the prior meeting, recounting a juiced-up, take-me-to-this-wise-man version of the anecdote in which, after Waters' explanation, "Mr. Clinton asked to meet [Burkle]" and "[a] meeting was quickly set up at the Burbank airport ...."
2) Was Maxine Waters' explanation of why that one store was still intact accurate? I don't know. There's some evidence in the clips that the Alpha Beta chain of stores, one of several chains owned by Burkle, was highly valued in the community. Alpha Beta stores were more upscale than other local Burkle emporiums, such as Boys Markets (which were subject to "criticism by some residents over the pricing," according to John Mack, the president of the L.A. Urban League). One writer for Drug Store News reported: "Near my home, residents formed a barrier to protect an Alpha Beta market and turned away a mob of looters." On the other hand, a) Alpha Beta had been acquired by Burkle less than a year before the riot. It seems unlikely that it was Burkle's business reputation, as opposed to the market's pre-Burkle history of service, that customers would have been protecting; b) Maxine Waters, as Clinton himself notes,had a "long friendship with Jesse Jackson." Burkle, the L.A. Times has noted, has been "a frequent contributor to Jackson's causes." Was Waters giving Clinton a ... dramatized pol's version of events that cast a glowing light on an ally, a big Democratic fundraiser, and a potential future supporter of her favorite projects?
I emailed Mr. Quintero last night and asked him to confirm Burkle's support of Jackson's activities and give "an approximate idea of the amount" of money involved, but I've yet to receive a reply. Maybe it's in his spam folder! 4:22 P.M. link
The Desperation of Independence: In a desperate attempt to demonstrate that the campaign finance laws are unworkable, trailing California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides' labor backers and his "longtime patron and business partner" Angelo Tsakopoulos just happen to have started an "independent" TV campaign on his behalf--a campaign not subject to limits on individual donations. (Source: Bill Bradley, New West Notes.) This is about as non-independent as an "independent" campaign can get. ... The hope of those campaign finance reformers has always been that, as long as the two campaigns--official, and "independent"--actually didn't meet and coordinate messages with each other, they might get in each others' way and produce defeat, not victory. That might have happened with John Kerry and the fabled Dem 527s in 2004, but it's hard to see why that would happen in a simple, underpublicized primary between two relative unknowns in a single state. Virtually any ad buy touting Angelides or trashing his opponent would seem to help at this point, no? Except that Angelides will get impressive bad press from the editorial pages for this move. Shame saves the day! ...
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