“Fake News” – In Defense of Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin

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Late last week Idaho Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin posed with and then removed on Facebook a brief meeting she had with two members of The Three Percenters. This group is described by Jeff Taggert in his most recent Idaho Politics Weekly post as being “wacky and extremist at best”. The group met with and posed with Mrs. McGeachin to support the legal fight of Todd C. Engle. Mr. Engle was involved in the Cliven Buddy family standoff in Nevada several years ago with Federal agents. He did indeed brandish a firearm in front of Federal Agents and deserved to be convicted and sentenced for that crime—nobody is disputing that fact, but his sentence of 14 years is out of proportion to the Buddy family members who were the primary defendants in this case and are already out of prison.

Betsy Russell in her Eye on Boise Post for the Idaho Press Tribune posted three articles in two days pointing out our Lieutenant Governors association with a fringe group described as a 2nd Amendment activists. I back posted a response to those arguments and used the terms “calumny’ and “detraction” in association with the term “fake news” to describe what I felt was very unfair treatment of our Lieutenant Governor. It is my position that the 1st. Amendment right to a free press should also carry with it the responsibility and some form of later accountability giving readers both sides of the story. Reporting in the press does not afford the accused of the ability to cross-examine an accuser. It doesn’t even give the accused any ability to test the facts or put them in context. Because of these two issues alone regarding reporting of the truth, the responsibility of the press for getting the story right is even greater.

Calumny is the making of false and defamatory statements. It is a form of gossip that the person reporting the truth absolves themselves of any responsibility for the veracity of the truth. For example, if someone were to say—”did you hear that Mrs. McGeachin is a 3%er?” They are placing the responsibility for that truth on the third party that they heard the information from—no responsibility of their own.

Detraction is an even more interesting form of false witness (fake news) because the reporter of the event needs to either believe that what is being related is true, but the context of the truth may be unknown to anyone. An historical novel about this concept was written 20 years ago entitled “The Court Martial of Daniel Boone”. During the Revolutionary War, Mr. Boone was accused of consorting with the Indians of the Ohio and Miami River Valleys helping them procure firearms to fight white British Settlers. At Court Martial, it was revealed that in fact, he was fabricating the triggering mechanisms of the weapons in such a way that they could only be fired once—giving the Colonialists a huge tactical advantage. Context is important when the truth is at stake. Ms. Russell in my most humble opinion and Mr. Taggert in my not so humble opinion are very much approaching the limit of calumny and detraction—and they know it.

Abigail Adams during the Presidential Campaign between her husband and Thomas Jefferson was confronted with information about Thomas Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings—his house slave. She worked actively to suppress that information even though it could have helped her husband win re-election if it had been made public. She said: “It had to be the right truth, about the right person, at the right place, at the right time, for the right reason”. Thomas Jefferson defeated her husband in that election and many believe it was because of the integrity and wisdom of Mrs. Adams. She was unwilling to participate in a calumny or detraction. Context is part of the truth.

John Adams almost 30 years early defended 8 soldiers, one officer and 4 British subjects for murder that occurred during The Boston Massacre on March 5th, 1770. All were acquitted except for 2 that were found guilty on a lesser charge and were subject to a branding on their hands—they returned to active duty of the Crown. Many Patriots of the day including Paul Revere and Samuel Adams—John’s cousin, accused Mr. Adams of being a traitor to the cause of liberty and for many years afterward John Adams feared for his own life. But the issue of the facts of the case and the need to support a legal code were certainly severable. The murders occurred but everyone deserved a fair trial and fair representation. Years later this case has been memorialized and is used to show how in criminal cases it is not only the defendants that are on trial but the law itself, and that attorneys who represent both sides in a legal case need to respect the process, the law, and the truth.

So Mr. Taggert tries to use the old playground schoolyard guilt by association tactic. By supporting Mr. Engles publically is Mrs. McGeachin saying she is a 3 percenter?—not hardly. Is she saying she is part of a militia group?—no. She is pointing out support for an Idaho citizen who she thinks got a raw deal? Absolutely she is taking a stand about right and wrong and about a process that she believes in, but that she thinks has been abused? Answer that question for yourself. I think Mrs. McGeachin stands in the same tradition and for the same values as Mr. and Mrs. Adams did over 265 years ago. Good for her and it is too bad that more of our politicians and leaders don’t have her guts.

It is also a shame that people in the media have such little understanding for those standing on principle, but when the American Civil Liberties Union takes similar unpopular stances they are portrayed as heroes. It is also my opinion that Ms., Russell and Mr. Taggert will continue placing their own political agendas in front of protecting people’s reputations and the sanctity of the legal process and 1st Amendment Rights and responsibilities.

Fight on Mrs. McGeachin. You have big shoulders to stand on and you will prevail. Thank you for your courage.

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