Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Moscowbama
Did you catch the scathing "60 Minutes" piece this week about the Bush-Rove Justice Department's political hit job on the Democratic governor of Alabama? It was a dramatic illustration of what the U.S. attorneys firing scandal was all about -- the complete politicization of the justice system, and the firing of any U.S. attorney who wouldn't go along with Karl Rove's strategy of using the criminal courts for "politics by other means." So did you catch it?

Not if you were in Alabama...

The New York Times' Mike Nizza explains:

Governments that try to keep a firm grip on information flow in their countries, like the Kremlin, have used “technical problems” as an excuse to shut out unwelcome content on the Web and television. But could it have happened in the United States?

A controversy has been brewing on the Web since a “60 Minutes” segment failed to appear on a CBS affiliated TV station in Alabama last night. The report covered a bitter flashpoint between Democrats and the Bush administration: the case of Don Siegelman, a former Democratic governor of Alabama who was jailed for corruption last June.

So hot was the anticipation of the segment in left-leaning circles that one political site published an article, “Bama TIVOs at the ready for ‘60 Minutes’.” But many Alabamans did not see initial broadcast of the report, which included new allegations that Karl Rove, President Bush’s former top adviser, waged a campaign against Mr. Siegelman.

Instead, just before the segment was to start, people in the northern part of the state who were tuned in to WHNT-TV, Channel 19 in Huntsville, found this on their screen instead:

We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.

So what gives? More from Nizza:

Upon hearing reports of the missed segment from readers, Scott Horton, a writer blogging at Harper’s, phoned CBS headquarters in New York, which offered him a startling contradiction:

“There is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” I was told that the decision to blacken screens across Northern Alabama “could only have been an editorial call.”

The station later denied that it was an editorial decision, but it also changed its explanation. It was the receiver of the signal in Alabama, not the feed from CBS, that caused the blackout, the network said in a statement.

“We can assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast,” Stan Pylant, WHNT’s president, told The Huntsville Times.

But the assurance alone seemed unlikely to appease all of his viewers. According to Mr. Pylant, the problem was fixed quickly, resulting in only 12 minutes of down time. But that mostly covered the controversial segment, which lasted about 13 minutes. (”Strange coincidence,” one viewer called it.)

Long story short, the "60 Minutes" piece makes it clear that the Republican White House and its Justice Department pursued and jailed Siegelman because they couldn't defeat him at the ballot box, a view endorsed by more than 50 prosecutors of both parties around the country (those quoted in the CBS piece were Republicans.) Karl Rove should be jailed if he refuses to answer Congressional subpoenas on this issues, and at minimum, the U.S. attorney scandal -- and this prosecution -- should be reviewed by a special prosecutor.

As for the folks running that "news" station in Alabama, I'm sure Vladimir Putin and his successor would have great use for them in Mother Russia.

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
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