Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Media & the Wingnuts: LOST Edition

Kurtz (TPM: Lost While Hiking Comeback Trail
Mark Sanford is currently the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, whose Facebook page is "The GOP Comeback," complete with photos of Sanford and Sarah Palin.

SGW: Will The Stenographers Learn?
For the last two days the mainstream media has made fools of itselves with their coverage of Governor Mark Sanford's dissappearance. No matter how much the facts didn't add up the media repeatedly just acted as stenographers for Sanford's aides. When they said they knew exactly where Sanford was, the media repeated it as fact. When they said he was hiking in the Appalachian trails even though several other contradictory statements had already been made about his whereabouts, the media repeated it as fact. When they said they heard from him yesterday and he was indeed hiking, the media repeated it as fact.

So imagine the MSM surprise when he showed up in an airport today supposedly coming back from an almost weeklong trip to Argentina.

Now you would think after having acted as stenographers with out even a hint of curiosity or skepticism with the story Sanford's aides were feeding them, the media would now act a little more cautiously and show a healthy bit of skepticism over whether he was even in Argentina as he said.

And you would be wrong.

Seriously, these people will never learn.
Benen: TAKE A HIKE?...
The official line on South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's (R) whereabouts is that he went hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The number of people who accept the official line at face value appears to be small. (Updated below: he actually left the country)

Late yesterday, CNN reported the vehicle Sanford drove off in last week turned up at an airport near the state capital.

The black Chevy Suburban believed to have been used by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford to leave town has been found in the parking lot of Columbia Metropolitan Airport. [...]

The SUV is outfitted with blue police lights and two-way radio.... A parking permit for the school attended by Sanford's children is visible on the windshield.

Complicating matters, the local NBC affiliate reports that Sanford was seen boarding a plane in Atlanta.

Sources told [News 4's Nigel Robertson] that a federal agent spotted Sanford in the [Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta] boarding a plane. Robertson was told that the governor was not accompanied by security detail. [...]

[S]ources told WYFF News 4 that the federal agent who spotted Sanford saw him at the Atlanta airport, which is about 80 miles from the start of the trail.

WYFF News 4 has not yet confirmed where the plane was going or how the governor got to the airport, but it is clear there are two very different stories.

Now, this doesn't necessarily prove anything. The local affiliate is the only outlet with these details, which haven't been confirmed elsewhere. It's possible Sanford from South Carolina to Atlanta, and then flew again from Atlanta to somewhere he could go hiking, but it seems like a strange way of going about doing things, especially in light of the other details.

As for Sanford's family, the governor was away from his wife and kids for Father's Day, and yesterday, after his aides told reporters Sanford was returning to his duties, Jenny Sanford said she still hadn't spoken to her husband. In talking to CNN, she added, "I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children."

As for the governor's allies, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) didn't appear anxious to vouch for Sanford's character during a Fox News interview yesterday.

Stay tuned.

Update: This morning, Sanford returned to the United States, explaining that he wasn't actully hiking, but rather, was in South America. He claims he was alone, driving around Buenos Aires since Thursday. When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, "I don't know."

Second Update: Any chance state lawmakers, who don't care for Sanford anyway, may hold hearings and/or consider impeachment?

  • Yglesias adds: Don’t Cry for Mark Sanford, Argentina

    The truth is Mark Sanford went to Buenos Aires.

    The truth is Mark Sanford went to Buenos Aires.

    The Mark Sanford quasi-disappearance story gets weirder:

    Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media. [...] Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money. [...] When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, “I don’t know.”

    In fairness to Sanford, I took a flaky last-minute poorly-planned solo trip to Iceland (photos here) in the summer of 2005 so I don’t find it inconceivable that this is all on the level. That said, it’s obviously strange behavior for a governor. The larger issue with Sanford, however, continues be that “difficult legislative session” in which he decided to jeopardize the well-being of South Carolina’s students and unemployed workers in order to bolster his national cred with the hard right.

  • JedL adds: Sanford was AWOL in Argentina

    Get your popcorn out, because at 2PM ET, Mark Sanford is holding a news conference to explain this craziness:


    Uh, well, Argentina and the Appalachian Trail both begin with the same letter, right?

    The one thing that seems perfectly clear -- assuming Sanford is telling the truth now about his whereabouts for the past few days -- is that neither Mark Sanford's staff nor his family had any idea where he'd gone over the past few days.

    As a result, Sanford's staff lied repeatedly about his location and whether or not they had been in touch with him.

    That's utterly dysfunctional, even if you disregard the fact that he left his state rudderless for a full week. Suffice it to say, his days as a serious political figure are over.


    Update (8:02 AM): This is an amazing quote from the article linked above:

    "I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion," Sanford said.

Kurtz: Should We Believe Him Now?

The AP showing some skepticism:

Sanford told The State he was alone on the trip to Argentina. He declined to give any additional details about what he did other than to say he drove along the coastline.

Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.

TPM Reader GK concurs:

Know that the "coastline" in BA is completely featureless and incredibly boring -- it's on a slow-moving, broad river. When residents of BA "go to the beach" they drive many hours away to Mar del Plata, which is on the Atlantic coast (or they hop on a boat to Montevideo, Uruguay.) But right now it's in the low 50's during the day and the mid 30's at night on the coast.

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