A recent story from Bloomberg News claiming the Romney camp asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to tone down news about the state's economic recovery is disturbing. If the story is true, it's unprincipled. If not true, then why did it make it to print?
Here's reporter Michael C. Bender's lead for the June 21 story: "Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter."
Florida Governor: State's economy doing well
In the body of the story, Bender writes of the difficulties for Romney, in Florida and states where economies are on the upswing such as Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin, to get a message across of poor economic policies from Obama when economic recovery is occurring. That is legitimate reportage but the damage had been done by the earlier statement, which resonates throughout.
Here's the response from Gov. Rick Scott: "I'm glad people understand how well we're doing," he told CNN’s Jessica Yellin in an interview. "The Romney campaign has not asked us to tone down anything." So either Bender and Bloomberg are running with unsubstantiated, and quite possibly untrue information, or Scott is playing with words so as to neither lie, nor be truthful.
Economic news in Florida improves
By not making Floridians aware of how their economy is faring and by not being truthful about the policies, state and federal, behind the economic upswing, the possibility of negatively affecting the choices citizens make is very real. Further, the positive outlook an improving economy might have on the market could be diminished.
If Romney's camp suggested anything close to that should occur, it is politics at its worst, but on the other hand by printing such a damning accusation without naming a source, or supplying further evidence such an exchange took place, we get journalism at very nearly its worst.
The truth, it seems likely, is most probably somewhere in the middle, which suggests that both politics and journalism need to be better.
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