In a display of bipartisan support for two fired Associated Press employees, several of Virginia's top elected officials are hosting a post-election gathering in their honor.
Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling will host the Nov. 18 reception in Richmond along with Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, according to a "Save the Date" email obtained by HuffPost. The reception will be in honor of former AP political reporter Bob Lewis and Virginia editor Dena Potter. The location remains to be determined.
It's unusual for politicians to honor journalists who have been -- and may still be -- expected to hold them accountable. To some, it could suggest a too-cozy relationship. However, the bipartisan reception could also be seen as testament to Lewis and Potter being perceived as fair arbiters in covering Virginia politics.
The Huffington Post first reported Monday that the AP fired Lewis and Potter over an erroneous Oct. 9 report alleging that gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe had lied to a federal investigator. The AP retracted the story roughly 90 minutes after it went out over the wire and Lewis quickly apologized on Twitter.
The McAuliffe campaign responded immediately after Monday's firing to say they did not push for actions to be taken against the journalists and noted having a "professional relationship" with Lewis, Potter and the AP's Virginia. (The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that Ken Cuccinelli, his Republican challenger in the Governor's race, passed the bogus tip to both the AP and the Post).
Within two hours of HuffPost's report Monday, Kaine, Warner, McDonnell and Bolling all tweeted in support.
AP's Bob Lewis has been a fixture at the Va Capitol and his reporting will be missed by Virginians. Best wishes at a tough moment, Bob.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 21, 2013
Big loss for Virginia. @APBobLewis is an even-handed, talented reporter & a class act.
— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) October 21, 2013
Sorry to see the AP fire Bob Lewis. Bob is one of the most respected reporters in Richmond. We all make mistakes. Bob did not deserve this.
— Bill Bolling (@lgbillbolling) October 21, 2013
— Bob McDonnell (@GovernorVA) October 21, 2013
McDonnell again expressed support for Lewis isn an interview with WTVR, a CBS affiliate in Richmond.
"While I think that it is good to elevate the standard in the media, it appears that this was a mistake as opposed to a knowing violation of journalistic standards," McDonnell said. "I've always had a high regard for Bob Lewis and I'm disappointed and sad for him and his family."
On Tuesday, HuffPost reported that the AP also fired Norman Gomlak, an editor in the Atlanta bureau, and that the News Media Guild filed grievances to reinstate him and Lewis. The guild does not represent Potter because she was part of AP management.
The AP has not commented on the firings, citing a policy not to discuss personnel matters.