Sunday, August 02, 2009

Week 29: Nixon's Grade


The Springfield News-Leader's report on the E.Coli controversy drove the coverage of Gov. Jay Nixon last week. And while there was no "smoking gun" connecting Nixon to having direct knowledge of the withheld Department of Natural Resources report, Chad Livengood's reporting raised more questions about how close the information got to the Governor's office. At a press conference in Springfield the day the story broke, Nixon repeated that he had no knowledge of the report until July. But he was visibly perturbed by the repeated questions on the topic. For a moment, the old anger-prone Nixon seemed to rear his head just slightly. The Governor doesn't fake it well; he wears his emotions on his face. If Matt Bunt is remembered for his statuesque smile, Nixon will be known for his scowl. And as silly as this may sound, a more conciliatory statement from Nixon could have helped blunt (pun intended) the backlash and frankly, the coverage. Instead, the Governor's message was: I've let them know it was handled poorly, next question. In addition, Nixon's appointment of the DNR staffer at the center of E.Coli-gate to the Administrative Hearing Commission will now gain added and warranted scrutiny. A Senate committee probing the incident almost guarantees the story legs. Will a committee or a journalist be able to clarify the unanswered questions, such as: Did not anyone at the top of Nixon's staff have any knowledge of this troubling report before late June or July? And if not, why not? Are we to believe that Joe Bindbeutel, a loyal Nixonite, didn't share information with anyone in the upper echelon of power? And should anyone inside DNR be fired over this? Lingering questions will just generate more Sunshine requests from journalists and/or citizens who still feel left in the dark. By week's end the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tony Messenger had tied E.Coli-gate to Scott Eckersley in the same column. That's not a comparison any administration wants.

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