Who knows? Not me.

I got a cordial email from the editor of Willamette Week the other day. Cordial, but he did want me to know that he found "unfair," harmful, and without evidence, the following swipe I took at his publication in my post about their latest story about the hot mess known as Jefferson Smith:

I'm not sure why the Weed is going after Smith again now. Back in '12, they sandbagged what they had on him until after they politically assassinated another mayoral candidate, Eileen Brady. Once the race was narrowed to Smith against their boy Char-Lie Hales, Willy wheeled out the Smith assault story and Hales cakewalked in for an utterly forgettable term as mayor.

The editor's point is well taken. These two sentences were all suspicion and speculation on my part. I would bet that they're true, but can I prove them? No. The following timeline and facts are consistent with my theory, but it's just a theory.

The Portland mayoral election in 2012 consisted of a primary in mid-May, and a general election in early November. There were many candidates in the primary, but the three major contenders at that time were Smith, Char-Lie Hales (who ultimately won), and businesswoman Eileen Brady.

Willy exposés did damage to all three candidates, but the editorial types there expressed their strong preference for Hales in both their May and their November endorsements.

They started going after Brady in September 2011, when they broke an embarrassing story about her run-in with a police officer at the Rose Festival in 2003. In January 2012, they made a mountain out of a molehill flogging the charge that Brady was not a "founder" of the New Seasons supermarket chain, as she claimed. Her husband was a "founder," and she was involved in starting the company, but she was not a "founder." As weak as that objection seemed to me, it got a lot of traction. 

Brady lost in the May primary to Hales and Smith.

Here is where my first assumption comes in. While they were busy raking Brady over the coals in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, did the Willy folks already know about Smith's 1993 assault incident? The story was 19 years old at that point. More than a few people had heard it.

And if they did have the story during that time frame, why would they not have released it at the same time as they were pounding the drums over Brady's sassing the cop, and her "founder" issue?

The trashing of Smith didn't really get going until the summer of 2012. I started looking into Smith's "Bus Project," which I concluded was a financial minefield. In August, his hideous driving record was aired out in the media. I believe the Oregonian was the lead questioner on that one. But the coup de grace was the assault story, which WW broke on October 1. With that, Smith was burnt toast.

If that story had appeared at the time the Brady stories were circulating, the outcome of the primary might have been different. Hales might have had to face a bruised Brady, rather than a fatally wounded Smith, in November.

Now, I know for a fact that the folks at WW are smart. They are well aware of the effects their work has on local politics. They write with a distinct point of view.

But hey, I can't prove that WW timed its stories to help Hales. That would require me to know what they learned and when, and I would never ask a journalist about that. And it would require me to read their minds, which of course, I couldn't do even if I wanted to.

It's all just a theory, the validity of which will never be conclusively proved. 

Or disproved.

So take it for what, if anything, it's worth.


  1. My memory of this is fading and I'm fine with that. However I thought the Jefferson Smith stuff leapt into the public eye - not because of a long ago violent episode in college that WW was sitting on - but because the candidate showed up at his victim's house early in the morning with a handwritten letter that was next level creepy.

    1. I vaguely recall he showed up, twice, after the news broke.

    2. And she was married to a Portland cop.

  2. The takeaway for me on this is that Portland's ruling class is beginning to read this blog again. You have a ways to go before you are as prominent as in Jack Bog's Blog #1 but this is a big step. And since you have their attention...

    Back in the day the WW used to follow Phil Stanford's quest to free Frank Gable for the murder of the head of prisons Michael Franke . They even commissioned a painting of Phil and put it on the cover for one story. Last year Frank Gable left prison and there was barely a blip locally - it was a quick news cycle here in Portland.

    Where's the big cover story that Phil was right? Could it be because the matter is still being appealed by the state and it's awkward because your publisher and owner Richard Meeker is married to Ellen Rosemblum, Oregon's Attorney General? And don't try and claim the story has lost its relevance. Last year out of all the podcasts in the world Phil Stanford's "Murder in Oregon" was in the top ten - it was a mega-hit. Yet it was covered here in Portland like nothing happened.

    I could understand not wanting to highlight the shabby job Portland media did on the Frank Gable story but to keep him in suspense with this ridiculous appeal is just cruel and twisted. I certainly see why you wouldn't draw attention to the horrendous job the Oregonian, etc...did in letting this man rot in prison for nearly 30 years. But now that a judge has looked at the case and freed him pending appeal, how can you live with yourselves to keep the sword of the state over his head? It's cruel.

    Finally, I always felt grateful to the WW for John Callahan's cartoons. That was to your great credit. I attended your memorial service at the theater in Northwest Portland and even took to the stage to say a little something something myself: "This was our Richard Pryor! This was our Lenny Bruce!"

    John was a friend of mine and we would talk comedy on the phone. One day I was bitching about editors and I said, "You are so lucky to work in cartoons. You send them in and they're done. Meanwhile my editors are always busting my balls about one joke or another."

    John replied, "Are you kidding? One day they called me in and said they didn't like the way I had drawn a fly. I just told them 'It's a fly. Get over it.'" I mention that as a tribute to John Callahan and to give you some idea how amusing it is to me to see a WW editor get bent out of shape about anything.


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