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Bizarre incident won't change LA governor's race

No doubt if Sen. David Vitter truly had the power to control newsroom personnel Louisiana would be littered with jobless former reporters. Instead, the gubernatorial derby got treated to a bizarre episode instigated by an apparently unprofessional television journalist.

When Vitter showed up for qualification for the contest on Tuesday, lying in wait was one Derek Myers, then working for NBC’s Baton Rouge affiliate. Myers, who alludes to himself in his Twitter feed as a deliberately aggressive reporter, has done some job hopping this year, beginning in Ohio, then Florida, and, less than a month ago, landing in Louisiana.

And now, maybe elsewhere. Independent reporting reveals a chain of events where, as Vitter departed, he asked him about Congressional hearings in Louisiana that also could serve as campaign opportunities and then about whether Vitter dallied with prostitutes. In 2007, Vitter expressed remorse for commission of a “serious sin” believed to be related to availing himself of prostitution services.

Vitter ignored his questioning, which led him to run after Vitter as the senator left the property. The Vitter campaign said Myers shoved a staffer in this quest, which Myers denies. The campaign also later inquired with him whether he had been questioning on behalf of other candidates in the race, which he also denied.

Not long after the incident, station management fired Myers, who later alleged he heard scuttlebutt it was the Vitter camp who had precipitated that by threatening to pull the candidate’s political ads from the station. Both the Vitter campaign and station denied that, much less that any communication had occurred between them.

Circumstantial evidence suggests a younger, not entirely knowledgeable, reporter trying to save face with this assertion. For one thing, in such a sudden circumstance management simply would not have canned Myers without any explanation. He would have been given one, which he did not care to state when questioned about the whole series of events, and which management cannot reveal, this being a personnel matter. That he did not voluntarily express it, if he truly believes the reputed newsroom gossip, indicates there must be some credibility to the action.

But more tellingly, the supposed threat by Vitter’s forces is entirely hollow. By regulation, rates charged for political advertising are extremely favorable to campaigns, lower than what a station likely could sell them for otherwise. If such a threat actually happened, the station probably would tell the campaign to take a hike, not only because it easily could sell the slots to another campaign, but also as it could sell these at higher rates to non-campaign advertisers. Nor would any station take kindly to being bullied by a campaign and might just cancel the whole thing out of principle.

It’s almost certain than a large proportion of television reporters in the state who report regularly on politics if they had a chance would stick plenty of pins into voodoo dolls of Vitter, and he would not mind returning the favor. Myers, from his Twitter feed, fits the profile, as within the past year several times his entries express sympathy for same-sex marriage that Vitter very visibly has opposed and one of those questions the character of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the basis of obviously trumped-up ethics charges already largely dismissed that any reporter with more than a surface desire to understand politics would give little credence to.

Still, unlike what Myers seemingly did, when dealing with Vitter they don’t act in an overly-aggressive manner that breaches decorum. If that’s the case, to salvage his career Myers, when identified as the reporter let go and asked about it, would have to accept a dubious or make up an explanation flattering himself and publicize that.

Naturally, Vitter’s opposition will try to finesse the episode into some kind of indictment along the lines that Vitter is too mean, dictatorial, etc., although not directly. Yet the charge of Vitter campaign interference is so glaringly far-fetched to the unbiased observer that, as a talking point by campaign surrogates, it should have little impact or staying power.

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