Kansas Senator Kay O’Connor, Republican from Olathe, has been in the news recently.
It has been reported that Sen. O’Connor opposes the right of women to vote. In the June 12, 2005 Wichita Eagle a letter writer repeated this assertion. On June 2, 2005, the Eagle printed an Associated Press piece by John Hanna that detailed the remarks. On June 3, 2005, the Eagle editorialized about this, opposing Sen. O’Connor.
The facts, though, are different. Sen. O’Connor denies making the remarks. The Kansas City Star, the newspaper that first reported the story, would not print her letter telling her side. Neither would that newspaper print the letters of witnesses to Sen. O’Connor’s remarks, witnesses who say she did not say what she is reported to have said.
I have met Sen. O’Connor. I admire her for her work on school choice in Kansas. She also voted against the bill allowing Sedgwick County to raise the sales tax for the downtown arena. I can understand, then, the Wichita Eagle not liking Sen. O’Connor and editorializing against her candidacy for Secretary of State, as Sen. O’Connor is a conservative, and the Eagle’s editorial board seems quite liberal and in favor of big government. I would ask the editorial writers, though, to investigate these alleged remarks before citing them again. The Eagle is a newspaper, after all, and it should do some reporting of its own.
Following is a piece that details the Sen. O’Connor matter, and tells us more about the news media in Kansas.
OUR NEWS MEDIA’S INACCURATE STORIES
By Karl Peterjohn, October 26, 2001
Hey, have you heard the one about the female state senator from Kansas who opposes woman’s right to vote? It’s a story that was first printed in the Kansas City Star and made it into the national press and eventually even into Jay Leno’s monologue.
The star’s story claims conservative state senator Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe said this after she had finished attending a September 19 League of Women Voters forum in Johnson County. O’Connor who did not speak at this forum was talking privately to a couple of members of the league, Dolores Furtado and Janis McMillen as well as state representative Mary Cook, R-Shawnee.
Kansas City Star reporter Finn Bullers attended this meeting and belatedly claimed in a September 28 article that O’Connor told these ladies that she opposed the right of women to vote. O’Connor vehemently denies this assertion. What is newsworthy is not the borking of a social conservative in the pages of the liberal Kansas City Star.
After all this looks like standard policy based on the treatment that another conservative, former Kansas state school board member Linda Holloway also received from the K.C. Star. What was newsworthy was the fact that O’Connor’s written response to this assertion did not make it into even the letters section of the K.C. Star’s editorial page. It appears that O’Connor’s statement would be too politically incorrect for the K.C. Star to let O’Connor say, “This whole affair is simply ridiculous. I have always supported the right of women to vote, and have literally encouraged women to exercise that right.” O’Connor went on to say, “…I am hurt and upset by the manner in which my views have been distorted.”
Even more outrageous was the fact that another elected official, Rep. Cook, who witnessed the exchange, was unable to have her letter to the editor appear in print as of late October. She wrote the K.C. Star saying, “I was standing next to Kay O’Connor (who) was having her private conversation with Dolores Furtado and Janis McMillen, League of Women Voter members. I can say with confidence that Kay never said that she did not support the 19th Amendment or the women’s right to vote.”
Trashing state senator O’Connor fits right in with the treatment Judge Robert Bork received during his confirmation hearings in the late 1980’s. Bork’s nomination was scuttled by a tidal wave of inaccurate allegations from left wing and liberal critics that had nothing to do with his qualifications to serve on the federal court. Hence the phrase: “borking.”
Conservative men are just as big a target for the political left in the Kansas Press as women. Editorial writer Dick Snider in early October used a second hand, anonymous source who claimed that his information came from another anonymous “…party potentate…” who allegedly got it from a person attending a meeting at U.S. Senator Sam Brownback’s house. Brownback supposedly had offered state treasurer Tim Shallenburger a federal position as a consolation prize if he was unsuccessful in running for Kansas governor next year according to columnist Snider. This appalling inaccuracy then appeared in Mr. Snider’s Topeka Capital-Journal column. This assertion could have easily been debunked if Mr. Snider he had bothered to talk to any of the roughly 20 folks who were actually at this meeting. Mr. Snider apparently couldn’t be bothered or most conservatives are unwilling to talk with him. Mr. Snider did issue a semi-retraction October 12 after Senator Brownback’s office called Mr. Snider complaining about this lie, so this case is not quite as outrageous as the KC Star’s distortions.
I can speak first hand as a similar victim of an inaccurate Kansas City Star article written by the lying Mike Hendricks. These are not isolated cases. If you need more examples, folks should contact former K.C. Star editorialist John Altevogt, who has many more examples about his former newspaper.
Journalists should know that corrections should be made when mistakes appear in print. It is sad to see some Kansas journalists following down the footpath blazed by the fictional writing in the national press. These abuses have occurred in major papers from the Washington Post to the Boston Globe and led to reporters and columnist’s eventual firing and disgrace. In the Washington Post’s case a Pulitzer Prize was actually awarded and then retracted. In Kansas the borking takes place and the so called “journalists” just keep on writing.
Credibility is a vital tool for both elected officials and the news media. The fact that major news organizations like the KC Star are either too arrogant or too defensive to even print letters to the editor by elected officials who have been maligned by it are appalling. This is especially true when contrasted with the misbehaviors of politically correct politicians, like President Clinton, who had his Lewinsky scandal story killed initially on the mainstream press’ news desk. If it had not been for the internet and cyber-journalist Matt Drudge, the Monica Lewinsky perjury and obstruction of justice scandal would never have appeared in public. This is not, “all the news that’s fit to print,” but “all the news that fits.”