The news story that was (in part) about itself

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.

38 thoughts on “The news story that was (in part) about itself

  1. Michael Rodgers

    What is your point? How does this post help to advance your goals for our state?

  2. tired old man


    We live, however, in a polarized society where facts increasingly are ignored and accepted as distractions.

  3. Steven Davis II

    How many kids go to work for the business where one of their parents works? Her daughter is working for $200/week. Most out of work people wouldn’t take the job because they can make more than that on unemployment.

  4. Brad

    Well, Michael, let’s see… we’d had extensive discussions here about this story, and the fact that it had not yet appeared in the paper.

    So… when it did appear, I sort of felt obliged to say something about it.

    What would you have preferred I say?

    The bottom line is that I wouldn’t have said anything to begin with if I hadn’t seen Nikki’s over-the-top Facebook posts about it. Which I only saw because that was where she was reacting to the veto override votes last week.

  5. Brad

    It’s interesting to read this comment from the governor’s spokesman in the Post and Courier story: “The governor, as a parent, appealed to The State’s sense of decency in hopes that it would follow tradition and not write about details of her minor child’s life, and, unfortunately, The State showed its lack of decency…”

    No mention of the Post and Courier writing about the same thing. But doesn’t it, by the “logic” of the governor’s office, have a “lack of decency” as well?

    Maybe it’s OK for the Charleston paper to report the same facts, and for the governor’s office to cooperate with that paper in providing those facts (as it did not do with The State, thereby helping drag this thing out and making it a multi-day story), because they were only doing a story about the story. Or something.

    All very twisty and bendy, and confusing to one who seeks reasonable behavior…

  6. Brad

    I was interested to learn — from the Post and Courier story — that Jim Romenesko, author of the best-read blog about the newspaper industry, had joined Corey Hutchins in raising questions about why the story hadn’t appeared before today…

  7. KP

    For petulance (and also arrogance), the report of the back-and-forth with Kittle might have been the best part of the story: “You can’t talk about my children, I won’t talk about my children, I’m not talking anymore” (as if Kittle were actually asking about her daughter). She sounds like a three-year-old with her fingers in her ears, which makes me wonder (and not for the first time) who in the world is advising this governor. We haven’t seen this level of incompetence since Beasley was in office.

    What do you make of this Haley assertion: “Not only is this a story about my daughter, it’s a story that is based on false facts and none of that is true”?

  8. Brad

    The most interesting thing about that exchange was this:

    “Y’all are not allowed to talk about my children.”

    That would have sent me off on a digression, had I been the reporter: “Really? Not allowed? I mean, this isn’t about your child; it’s about you, but just for the sake of argument, is there anything else we’re ‘not allowed’ to talk about?”

    Or at least, I’d wish later I’d thought to ask that. At the time, my mouth would have been working soundlessly like that of a fish, since it would have been the first time a public official had ever told me I was “not allowed” to talk about certain things. Never mind that that wasn’t what we were talking about, it would just have been so bizarre.

    But I guess reporters nowadays have to get used to such…

  9. tired old man

    @ Steven Davis II

    who claims “Most out of work people wouldn’t take the job because they can make more than that on unemployment”:

    UNLESS perhaps they have run out of unemployment benefits

    UNLESS they do not fit your stereotype and perhaps they feel anything coming in will help their kids

    BUT we will never know. They are deprived of an opportunity for that job by Nikki, whose husband draws $65,000 a year in his own questionable job.

    Why is it that the anti-gov’t people so quickly turn to gov’t for advantages? Nikki’s husband has a similarly mysterious public job that pays $65,000 — probably far better paying than his previous employment as a barterer in the era his wife enjoyed a lucrative and (sanctioned as) ethical public-private revenue stream before being elected to gov.

    The state’s first family righteously backs you in your understatement that in the public job arena you can make more than the unemployment stipend.

  10. Brad

    Also, I think Steven’s probably wrong that someone who would be in the market for that job wouldn’t want it because “they can make more than that on unemployment.”

    The two or three weeks that I actually got an unemployment check (because I both a, had not pulled in any freelance income that particular week and b, actually got around to filing for it), I did get more than that.

    But that’s because I got the maximum, based on my income at the job I’d lost. That maximum was less than one-seventh what I had been making.

    I can’t imagine what the payout would be to someone who had lost an $8-an-hour job. If it were proportional to the fraction of income I got, it would probably be about $45. It would probably be better than that (my salary had been far above what the people who drafted the rules saw as a maximum, I’m guessing), but I don’t know that it would have been as high as $200.

    I cannot imagine anyone willingly staying on unemployment, it is such an unbelievably bad deal. If you’re unfortunate enough to be on it, you find yourself wondering what your employer paid all those unemployment taxes for.

    I remember the meeting where they explained it all to us. I was sitting there absorbing the fact that if forced to live for any time on unemployment, I wouldn’t be making enough to pay my mortgage during that interim, much less eat. But then I thought, hey, I could go out and get some part-time work while I’m looking, and supplement that piddling amount with another couple of hundred bucks a week.

    Nope, I learned a moment later when someone asked about that. Every dime you make is subtracted from the unemployment check.

    So fine. I went out and earned more than unemployment in almost all of the weeks during the 10 or 11 months I was out of salaried work.

  11. Michael Rodgers

    I could have done without the last two paragraphs. The rest is about politics and the newspaper industry, and I thank you for your gained-from-experience insight.

  12. Brad

    OK, well… what do YOU say this incident tells us about our governor?

    I ask that because there’s really no reason for the newspaper to run the story at all, except for what it tells the readers about their governor.

    So what do you think a reader should walk away with?

  13. Steven Davis II

    “But that’s because I got the maximum, based on my income at the job I’d lost.”

    Let’s run some numbers, just because I like to run numbers.

    The maximum weekly benefit in SC is $326.

    I ran the calculator with several equal quarterly earnings. You have to earn a minimum of $32,750/yr. ($8000,$8250,$8250,$8250) to qualify for the $326 benefit.

    $32,750/2080 hours worked in a year = $15.75/hr. to earn the maximum unemployment benefit.

    $326/40 hour work week = $8.15/hr.

    But since this gift shop job is a part-time job with a maximum of 25 hours let’s run those numbers.

    $326/25 hour work week = $13.04/hr.

    So… it looks like you can go to work at the gift shop part-time and no benefits for $8.00/hr for $200/week or you can stay home and make $13.04 for the same hours and benefits.

  14. Steven Davis II

    Lose an $8.00/hr. job, you collect approximately $173.04/week.

    Or you could go work at the gift shop and earn an extra $26.96 a week.

    “I cannot imagine anyone willingly staying on unemployment, it is such an unbelievably bad deal.”

    I know people who worked jobs only long enough to qualify for unemployment then did something to lose their job but still qualify for benefits.

  15. Michael Rodgers

    It tells me there is a some investigative journalism into Gov. Haley going on that I ought to follow. It tells me that Gov. Haley is reacting to this investigation with her standard tactics, which are lashing out and playing the victim.
    Your calling her behavior childish plays right into her hands.

  16. Mark Stewart

    It’s a story becasuse it reveals a governor on the ropes. Who cares about the kid (as a political story); this is all about the end of her mother’s political career. And that part of the story bothers me not at all…

  17. Kathryn Fenner

    She never cites what is false about the apparently easily verified story, does she?

  18. bud

    I saw somewhere (maybe FITS) that in order to make room for the young Miss Halley a couple of employees had to cut back on their hours. If true that would be the worst part of this “scandal”.

  19. tired old man

    Justice Department employees accused of nepotism, ethical lapses

    By RICHARD A. SERRANO – Tribune Washington Bureau

    E-Mail Print Reprint 0 Comments
    Text Size:

    on it goes, with a Democratic flair

    WASHINGTON — Eight senior Department of Justice administrative employees should be disciplined for seeking jobs for their children and other relatives, and the department needs to tighten its employment guidelines after three nepotism incidents in recent years, the Inspector General’s Office said Thursday.

    In the latest cases, the inspector general’s report determined that within certain departments, a culture of “nepotism, ethical lapses and misleading statements was the result of bad behavior by individuals insufficiently impressed with the principles of fair and open” job-hiring competition. …

    Read more here:

  20. Ralph Hightower

    SC Governot Nikki Haley wants her family life private, yet she mixes family life and politics on her Facebook page.

    So The State was well within their rights for publishing the story.

    Once again, SC Governot Nikki Haley plays her victim card again.

  21. Steven Davis II

    @Tim – Reminds me of the news story, could have been the headlines in The State for all I know.

    Two seater aircraft crashes in cemetery, so far crews have recovered 41 bodies.

  22. Deb

    Suppose a the husband in a family lost his job and suppose he’s collecting unemployment. Then suppose his wife decides to go to work to supplement the meager unemployment dollars her husband is collecting so their family can eat. That gift shop job might be exactly what she needs, but a teenager got the job instead because her mom is the Governor. The questions are mostly valid and should have been answered by the Governor, especially was the job published and what was the interview process.

  23. Scout

    I agree with Deb. The thing that bothers me the most about it is that there are people that need the job more than a teenager whose family is doing alright. Even if she didn’t interfere with the hiring process officially, I think it would be hard to not feel pressured if you were the person doing the hiring just by virtue of knowing the applicant’s family connection.

    The thing that bothers me next most is that Nikki Haley either was not smart enough to anticipate that this would draw media attention or allowed it to happen precisely because she knew it would and wanted to play the victim. Either is sad, especially for her daughter, if it is the latter.

  24. Steven Davis II

    @Deb – So you’re against anyone younger than 21 from working a summer job because it takes an employment opportunity away from an unemployed person’s spouse. I hope fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and farm laborers are taking notice.

  25. Kathryn Fenner

    Body found just lying around in local cemetery
    Lacks punch! Sounds like Onion hede

  26. tavis micklash

    I would have refused to divulge the exact amount of the pay for the daughter.

    That is simply on a personal privacy point rather than anything else. It is protected information even by FOIA laws.

    I WOULD have given the range of that job position though. That is required by FOIA.

    This assumes that this job isnt >50k which would be required exact salary.

    The pay is such a moot point though. No one cares if the governors kid works. Its not about the kid. Its about concern that the governor is using her position benefit her family in a way the average person can’t.

  27. Kathryn Fenner

    @Tavis, and also about claiming victimhood when the media do a less intrusive story than your own Facebook posts and then the story’s strange history of being sort of published and then not and then published.

  28. Kathryn Fenner

    And Steven: It would be fine if the job were open to any teenager and appropriately posted publicly.

  29. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – If you had a kid, would you try to help him/her find a part-time job where you worked?

  30. Doug Ross

    “That’s an easy one, from one who does have kids: No. I never have.”

    But would you help them? If one of your kids was laid off, are you saying you would not make a call to people you know to try and help with the job search?

    I helped my son get his first job by providing a training plan that he covered over six months. When he was ready, I provided him the names of a couple companies to apply to where I had some contacts from previous assignments. It worked out perfectly. Three interviews, two jobs offers, one job paying 50% more than he could have hoped for when he graduated from college.

    I’ve always done what I can to help people find jobs especially when the person is qualified.

  31. Doug Ross

    Isn’t a big part of this story a case study of old school media versus new media?

    While The State was sitting around wating for an email response from the Governor, the news was already out there on Fitsnews.

    Could the questions that were emailed to the Governor’s office been worked through other channels?
    Did the reporter drive over to the gift shop to check out the situation? A photo of Haley’s daughter on the job would have been pretty damaging – and in my view justified considering the obviuous nepotism involved.

    The velocity of information is just too much for traditional newspapers to handle apparently.

  32. Mark Stewart


    The difference is you are a private citizen who used his connections to smooth the way for a qualified applicant.

    That’s not nepotism.

    For the Governor to get a job for her child in the gift shop right outside the governor’s office and behind security is a total brain-dead joke. As I said earlier, I would have assumed that she might have found a private sector connection to employ her child. That wouldn’t have bothered me. This situation just demonstrates such a lack of adroitness.

  33. Doug Ross


    I said I thought it was an obvious case of nepotism.

    “A photo of Haley’s daughter on the job would have been pretty damaging – and in my view justified considering the obviuous nepotism involved.”

    It was just another in a series of dumb moves she’s made… which is why I didn’t vote for her and wouldn’t vote for her.

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