You may or may not have seen that the finished version of the story about the ramifications of Nikki Haley’s daughter getting a PRT job finally appeared in The State today. Of course, it was far more involved and complete than the “draft” version that appeared inadvertently on the web pages of The Rock Hill Herald and (so I’m told) The Charlotte Observer last week.
In the end, the story turned out to be almost as much about itself as about the suggestion of nepotism.
While nothing can really erase the embarrassment for the newspaper of readers knowing about the story for a week before it appeared, the editors did everything they possibly could to make up for it. Most importantly, they thoroughly explored the ridiculous “controversy,” generated by the governor herself, about whether it should be published.
I particularly like the sidebar box that lists all the perfectly rational, professional questions that the newspaper had been asking the governor’s office from the beginning of this silly saga, followed by the immature, petulant, emotional statement from the governor’s office, refusing to answer those questions — all of which a public official who actually does believe in transparency would have answered immediately. Let’s quote that sidebar in full:
Questions, but no answers
Emailed questions sent by a State reporter to the governor’s office on Monday, July 16. (The State has removed the name of the governor’s daughter in the email exchange below.)
Here are my questions about (NAME REMOVED) Haley working at the State House gift shop:
When was she hired? When she did she start work? Will she continue to work at the shop after school starts?
What are her duties?
How many hours a week does she work?
How much is she paid?
Is this her first job?
Who does she report to? How many people work at the shop?
Was this job posted to the public? (If so, can I see a copy of the posting?)
Was the job budgeted? (If not, how was this job added and funded?)
Were work hours of shop employees adjusted to accommodate (NAME REMOVED)?
Why did her parents choose the gift shop as a place to work?
Some people might not think it’s fair for (NAME REMOVED) to have a job tied to a state agency where the director is appointed by her mother (PRT). Response?
If the governor’s office has concerns about (NAME REMOVED)’s safety, about the public knowing where she works, why does she have a job at one the state’s most-prominent and most-visited historical sites?
Would she have needed additional security if she got a job outside the State House?
The governor’s office response
Sent on Tuesday, June 17
What follows constitutes our office’s response for any story you plan to write regarding (NAME REMOVED) Haley.
Quote from Rob Godfrey, Haley spokesman: “The State newspaper – the reporter who wrote it, editors who approved it, and ownership who published it – should be ashamed for printing details of a fourteen year old’s life and whereabouts, against the wishes of her parents and the request of the Chief of SLED, who is ultimately responsible for her security. We have nothing more to say.”
Quote from South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel: “I have expressed my concerns, as of yesterday, that publication of information regarding minor children of elected officials creates problems for State Law Enforcement and its efforts to provide security for the children of this governor or any governor. In my 30 years-plus of experience at SLED, the security or activities of minor children of elected officials is something that the media in general has taken a ‘hands off’ approach to in reporting except as officially released by the elected official’s office.”
Did the newspaper manage to convey to you that it was going out of its way not to name the child, or do you need to get hammered over the head with (NAME REMOVED) a couple more times? No? OK, good, we’ll move on…
The story was unaccompanied by editorial comment (unless you count Mark Lett’s statement of the newsroom’s thinking on publishing the story), but for anyone able to put two and two together, the lesson to be learned here is obvious: This governor, when backed into a corner, will use hypocritical obfuscation in an effort to manipulate an emotional backlash reaction from her base so that she can hide behind it, rather than give straight answers.
Most telling on that score was the fact that Gov. Haley herself has consistently disclosed information about her children and their doings, even to providing the name of her daughter’s orthodontist — and yet has the nerve to (apparently) induce the head of SLED to say, absurdly, that disclosing that her daughter has a job that is just outside the governor’s office and protected by more than one layer of security somehow threatens her safety. Yes, any information published about any person’s whereabouts could, conceivably, make that person marginally less safe. So maybe the governor will think about that in the future when she posts on Facebook.
Substantively, in terms of the bare bones of the original story, what this story contained that last week’s draft did not were some basic facts that Nikki provided to the Charleston paper after refusing to answer The State (more petulance): such as her daughter’s hours, and what she was being paid. (Actually, the Charleston story turned out to be less about the governor, and more about the continuing, puzzling absence of the story from The State.)
No one who brought the draft story to my attention ever mentioned the one significant fact that was missing from it: What the child was being paid, or even whether she was being paid. This seems to be what held up the story. I think that’s a lousy excuse to hold the story– I would simply have written, we don’t know whether she’s being paid because the officials who should tell us refuse to — but it does seem to explain the delay. As soon as it had that information, from the third party, the paper ran the story.
Nikki Haley will continue, to the extent she acknowledges this story’s subject, to try to dupe her base into rage that the paper intruded on her child’s privacy.
But to anyone with even a rudimentary capacity for reason, it should be obvious that this story, now that it has finally appeared, is not about a child. It’s about the governor’s childishness.