THE BLOG
01/25/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Professor Edsall: Retract

Update at End

Let me first say that I respect professor Edsall tremendously. He is a treasure to journalism. Unfortunately, he has been incredibly sloppy and bordering on defamation in his latest entry on the unfortunate death of GOP programmer Michael Connell.

Edsall rightly takes to task the many people that have prematurely determined that Connell's death was anything but an accident. I agree with him on that point. I have seen an incredible number of conclusions drawn and people are jumping the gun, while others are going completely into insane musings of missing bodies and such.

Where Edsall is at fault is in his sourcing. Here is what he writes:

Instead, about three miles short of the Akron-Canton Airport, Connell's plane crashed to the ground in an upscale section of Lake Township, killing Connell instantly. "I was standing in the kitchen and I looked out the window and all I saw was fire," Taylor Fano told The Akron Beacon Journal. "It took out the flagpole and the cement blocks surrounding the flagpole . . . . It skidded across the driveway and right in-between a line of pine trees and a small fence around an in-ground pool."

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the accident and has not yet filed a report, but there was no immediate evidence of wrong-doing or sabotage.

Nonetheless, Connell's death provoked a groundswell of commentary among conspiracy theorists on the web, including Larisa Alexandrovna, Raw Story, Velvet Revolution, ePluribus Media, and TheZoo.

I cannot speak for anyone other than Raw Story and myself, but I can say without question that neither I or Raw Story pushed a single theory. On the contrary, we have stated otherwise. Click on the link provided by Edsall and you will arrive at my personal blog entry, in which I say as follows:

I am not saying that this was a hit nor am I resigned to this being simply an accident either. I am no expert on aviation and cannot provide an opinion on the matter. What I am saying, however, is that given the context, this event needs to be examined carefully. If you want to understand the context more broadly, I suggest you read this article I did a while back about the break-ins and arson cases that Siegelman and others have experienced.

Just to be very clear and state again, I am not claiming conspiracy theory or direct relation to Karl Rove or the White House in any of these events. What I am saying, however, is that these possible relationships cannot and should not be overlooked by investigators. There are far too many serious and reasonable questions that must be answered for the public.

Now unless journalism now means no context, no asking of questions, no examining all possibilities, what about the above could in any way be called a conspiracy theory? Either Edsall did not read what he linked to (something Michelle Malkin also did) or he is willfully misleading his readers by misrepresenting what was written.

The Raw Story article he links to simply discussed the allegations against Connell, the history of the case in Ohio, and cites my blog entry and that exact portion i just cited above. Again, not a single word was written by Raw Story suggesting any knowledge or any conclusions as to what may or may not have happened. In fact, we did a follow up piece, from which I will cite below:

Curtis Randy Cole, a close friend and former colleague of the GOP political consultant who died when his plane crashed in a suburb here last Friday, dismissed suspicions of foul play in an interview with RAW STORY Sunday evening.

In an interview at his Ira Road home where he based his recent failed run for Ohio State's 41st District House seat last year, Cole, the former President of Michael Connell's government contracting company GovTech Solutions, revealed how the bad news arrived to Connell's friends and family members late Friday night. "I got a call from a GovTech employee late Friday that that his plane had crashed," Cole said, "I thought 'bad weather' or 'icing of the
wings.'"

--snip--

A reporter for a Cleveland television station said Sunday that Connell had been warned his plane might be sabotaged.

"Connell...was apparently told by a close friend not to fly his plane because his plane might be sabotaged," 19 Action News reporter Blake Renault said. "And twice in the last two months, Connell, who is an experienced pilot, canceled two flights because of suspicious problems with his plane."

Randy Cole isn't buying it. When told of the alleged threats Cole said that in all the hours he spent flying with his friend in the close-quartered cockpit of the Piper Saratoga, he says Connell never shared any worries or suggestions of threats or intimidation. For Cole, something went wrong and for him the weather was the most likely culprit.

Does this sound like Raw Story is selling conspiracy theory Mr. Edsall? Again I have to ask why Edsall linked to Raw Story and my blog entry as proof of something the complete opposite of what we wrote?

Yet, by the same token, Edsall conveniently leaves out an article done for the Huffington Post by former ABC producer, Rebecca Abrahams and he also leaves out what Scott Horton - his colleague at Columbia - wrote for Harper's Magazine.

Edsall has provided a rather ominous look at journalism and perhaps we can now understand the failure of mainstream media. Instead of addressing the complete lack of interest in the corporate media to even do a single story (with exception of CBS News) about a high level insider who had close ties to the White House dying, he spends his time addressing the conspiracy theorists and does so by linking to people who put forth no conspiracy at all. What does that tell you about how journalism now functions? Sadly, a great deal.

Edsall could have included this, the most pointed reporting by actual journalists I have seen thus far (see video clip below), but he did not. Why?

I would also like to say that I am proud of my work. My asking of questions got a man out of prison. And members of Connell's family have thanked me for my reporting on his case.

Mr. Edsall needs to retract his inclusion of me in his conspiracy story and apologize. He also needs to retract his inclusion of Raw Story as well. Failing to do so, now that he has been made aware of his errors, would very quickly prove that Edsall is no longer operating under ethics that me and many others have long respected him for.

UPDATE

Mr. Edsall has retracted his earlier statement and apologized. I thank him for his response.