So, have you got any skeletons in your closet you need to start worrying about?
None. Not that I haven’t ever done anything that would disqualify me from public service, there’s plenty of that, but the chances of me going into public service in the first place are lower than the chances of you being elected chairman of Mensa. Ergo, nothing to worry about. I presume you’re referring to “The Pope’s Long Con”?
Yeah. Impossible for me to feel any sympathy for him on a personal basis. Danny Ray Johnson lived a Walter Mitty fantasy life, was a shameless racist, lied his way to power and influence, and got sussed. There’s nothing brave or noble about how he ended it. None of it is the fault of the media: quite the opposite, in fact. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting did an outstanding job. I’ve seen Pulitzers won for less.
If Peggy Noonan can win a Pulitzer for rabbiting on about who-the-hell-knows-what on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, then this lot can, and should, win a Pulitzer for this. Nobody’s responsible for what happened to that bigot other than Johnson himself. Honestly, I’m not even sorry for his family. I didn’t hear any of them denounce him for his racism and sociopathic lies, and now his totally-unqualified widow wants his old job before his corpse is even cold. That family’s almost as wretched as the Trumps. Almost.
I’m not glad he took his own life. I wish he’d faced the music. But I am glad he was investigated. He chose public life. If you choose public life, you choose the scrutiny that comes with it. It is right that people who make our laws are scrutinized and held accountable for their qualifications and experience.
Being a religious grifter is not a qualification, under any circumstances. My only moan about the “Long Con” piece, excellent though it was, is that it probably went too hard on the unproven — and now likely unprovable — assault claim, and not hard enough on the more easily proven claims about Johnson’s career and life fabrications. Sign of the times, of course. But the stories about working for presidents, on 9/11, the LA riots, and so on, are all easily provable as false, and all equally disqualifying for a taxpayer-funded salary and pension. And that’s before the racist Facebook posts.
Seeing those again made me wonder about Bevin’s milquetoast criticism at the time. Now that I’ve seen Johnson’s repulsive Facebook garbage again, how the fuck does Bevin explain himself? Not saying Johnson deserved to die for it, although plenty of people have died because of such vile beliefs, but how does Bevin look his kids in the eye and tell them it didn’t matter? Because in the end, once Johnson won, it didn’t. Not to Bevin.
Often wondered about that myself. Bevin will use the outcome as a cudgel to criticise any and all scrutiny of people like him, unless, of course, they’re Democrats, in which case he’ll be totally square with it. Critiquing how journalists write stories is one thing, but criticising what they do is another. And it always comes loudest from closeted authoritarians like Bevin and that muppet Wesley Morgan — who’s nuttier than a bag of frogs and probably has good reason to fear investigative reporters.
A free, aggressive and fearless press is a crucial element in an open society.
Partly agree. But aggressive? Not sure you’re going to get much support for that.
It has to be aggressive. Not taking no for an answer. Not cowering in the face of criticism. I remember my first editor telling me never to call anyone “sir.” His point was that calling someone that, unless they’d actually been knighted, you immediately create a relationship based on dominance and submission. As a journalist you simply can’t be submissive if you want to ask difficult questions.
Oh, so that’s where the attitude comes from. I’d always reckoned it was just because you’re an arrogant toff. Never tripped you up, has it? This never-call-anyone-sir stuff? Like, I don’t know, in court, perhaps?
As you know, I got sued and was in court just last week, an appearance that resulted in me getting three reprimands from the beak for interrupting and speaking over her. I didn’t cover myself in glory — but now that I think about it, it was definitely my first editor’s fault.
Well, you’re a real American now that you’ve been sued. I assume you lost, and you’re steeling yourself for some well-deserved time doing porridge?
Not sure yet. But what I will tell you is that it was a far more stressful experience than I expected, even taking into account my inability to shut the fuck up for two seconds. As for getting sued, I do wonder if I did the right thing, even though I stood up for myself and did what I thought was right.
Doing what you think is right doesn’t automatically make it the right thing to do, does it?
On reflection, perhaps sometimes it’s better to just pay the man and damn his insolence. Perhaps I should just do that to you?
What, and miss out on your twice-monthly public shaming? Come on. You love it. You’re a living, breathing facsimile of Uriah Heep, right down to the Victorian sensibilities and lisp.
He I am not — but I do thank you for the frequent opportunities you give me to separate you from your dues. And actually, in deference to my first editor and given the time of year, you may henceforwards start referring to me as Mr. Scrooge, esq. •