So, speaking of conservatives finding solidarity by bashing the media—while I was in transit out of Houston, the campaign of Rep. Steve Stockman started a skirmish with me on social media. Donny Ferguson, the campaign's spokesman, took exception to a line in my story about the GOP primary for Texas' U.S. Senate seat. I wrote that Sen. John Cornyn was campaigning heavily, and that Stockman wasn't, to the mystification of local activists, candidates, and reporters. Specifically:
Reporters don’t know where he’s campaigning, or whether he’s campaigning at all—when I asked a spokesman, he said, “We’re not interested.”
This set off Ferguson, who started making claims about my reporting, tweeting at Texas reporters to call me a liar.
.@daveweigel lied. I said "We're not interested" in speaking to him. Miffed, he doctored my quote to "we're not interested" in campaigning.— Donny Ferguson (@DonnyFerguson) February 20, 2014
@amanbatheja Weigel asked me for interview. I told him "We're not interested." He framed it as "We're not interested" in campaigning.— Donny Ferguson (@DonnyFerguson) February 20, 2014
Obviously, I take any accusation that I "lied" very seriously. This particular accusation is loaded, false, and malicious. What I wrote, and meant, was that before coming to Texas I asked where Stockman was campaigning, so I could cover it. The campaigns/offices of John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Dwayne Stovall, and some House candidates all let me know where to follow the candidates, and gave me time to ask them questions. Stockman didn't, and when I asked reporters in Texas whether they had any clues where Stockman would be, they told me they were left in the same darkness.
Here's the first part of my email exchange with Ferguson, which he has already tweeted.
And here's a final email from me, which Ferguson did not tweet.
Now, look at what Ferguson claimed in the excerpted tweets. Let's just pull apart the falsehoods.
1) He claimed "I said 'we're not interested' in speaking to him." I specifically said that I didn't need an interview with Stockman for what I was writing.
2) He claimed "Weigel asked me for an interview." Again: I specifically didn't do that. Previously, I'd asked Ferguson to let me talk to Stockman for a podcast, an upcoming feature at Slate that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, and Sen. Mike Lee have all participated in. Ferguson turned me down, so, plan B, I tried to see if I could see Stockman on the trail to fill out a story.
3) He claimed I "said [a Rick] Perry story wouldn't interest anyone." Not what I said. I was in Texas to cover candidates on the ballot for the March 4 election. Perry's retiring, and there'd be plenty of time to write about him if he ran for another office.
Hey, sometimes campaigns deny access to reporters. No news there. But the invisibility of Stockman's campaign is part of the story in Texas. And so is its dishonestly. Stockman's campaign uses social media to create the appearance of action and momentum while the candidate avoids public forums and the press. One example, from today, comes from Stockman's Twitter account.
"Another" Texas straw poll—that implies that Stockman just won it, right? Wrong. This straw poll happened two months ago, right after Stockman entered the race.
I get that Stockman will win a certain number of voters in Texas by dint of being "not John Cornyn." I get that he can do this without any transparency, honesty, or tact. Maybe I couldn't cover the "campaign" in person, but I thank Ferguson for this study of how it's being run.
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