AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier has recently been the focus of sustained criticism of media watchers, who have complained about a detectable favoritism in Fournier's stories that runs toward the McCain campaign, whom he briefly flirted with joining. FishbowlDC reported today that the AP had responded by issuing a talking points memo to "senior AP managers," as a means of "help[ing to] guide [them] as this issue plays out."
"As many of you know, some political groups and left-leaning blogs have aligned to organize a newspaper letter-writing campaign against AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier. The campaign started this weekend with an email writing push aimed at Kathleen Carroll and Mike Oreskes, but has now moved on to urge newspaper readers to write their local editors."
"In addition, later this week, Corporate Communications will go live with a robust new Elections page on ap.org that will provide some real estate to deal with these issues. It will highlight our Elections Team, include an archive of Ron's political analyses as well as those of other AP journalists."
Michael Calderone of The Politico has since obtained the entire memo. The portion relevant to Fournier's involvement with the McCain campaign reads as follows:
Blogs also have made much of Ron's discussions with the McCain campaign regarding a position in it. These discussions occurred before Ron returned to AP. He also was considered for employment by Politico.com, the blog. Here's what AP said about it, and what we continue to say in response to queries: "It is not uncommon for journalists to be approached by political campaigns, elected officials and government agencies about possible job opportunities. Ron Fournier was approached by the McCain campaign and turned them down, months before he rejoined AP in March of 2007." (Paul Colford, Corporate Communications) The McCain campaign has made it clear that Ron was not interested in the position and that they never had any idea of his political leanings.
Through the memo, the AP also asserts that "the dual rule of AP Washington Bureau Chief and political writer has long roots in AP history" and insists that Fournier's email to GOP strategist/McCain advisor Karl Rove telling him to "Keep up the fight" was but a standard interaction "with a source."