St. Louis, Missouri – Surprise, disappointment and accusations of political correctness run amok is the reaction from several Missouri leaders to Politico’s removal of top political reporter David Catanese from covering the Todd Akin rape gaffe over tweets that were deemed “offensive” and “a distraction” by Politico’s editor-in-chief John Harris.
The tweets were posted after Catanese published one of the first national stories on what has now become known as Representative Akin’s “rape gaffe”. Catanese proceeded to tweet attempts to understand what Akin might have been thinking before finally tweeting: “Re last night: Bad idea trying to have nuanced conversation on highly charged issue on here. Did not intend to take a side. Lesson learned.”
However, some were not content to allow the lesson to be learned. Several groups such as the Daily Kos used the tweets to attack the reporter while the reaction was also passionate from Missouri tweeters. However, many of the bloggers debating Catanese were disappointed by Politico’s decision. “I really thought Dave was just teasing the story along and engaging in honest debate. I never felt he was siding with or promoting Akin’s remarks. I was disappointed to see that he will not be continuing to cover the story”, said Jane Dueker one of the bloggers debating Catanese Sunday night.
Other bloggers were disappointed while not quite as forgiving, “I thought he tweets were extremely inappropriate but it seemed to me like Politico over reacted by removing him from the story. Maybe he should have sat it out for a few days, but he has the existing connections from his time in the state to bring a very interesting perspective to the story”, said Sarah Felts another prominent Missouri tweeter who took issue with Catanese.
Catanese has a long history reporting in the state formerly working for KY3 in Springfield. While there he earned the respect of several newsmakers. “I am disappointed that Dave will not be covering this ever more exciting race. He is an extremely professional reporter and would have brought an interesting perspective to Politico’s readers of which I count myself as one”, said former Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley.
Former Democrat State Senator Jeff Smith who also participates in Politico’s The Arena forum and who has worked with Catanese was also very supportive, “Dave Catanese is a complete professional who is one of the hardest working journalists I have ever worked with. His prescience covering this campaign will be missed. He is one a select few journalists who gets the changing media landscape”.
Catanese was also supported this week by some prominent Missourians who he has hasn’t always provided favorable coverage. Republican former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman commented, “Dave Catanese is one of the best journalists I have ever encountered. He has professional integrity and although I don’t always agree with Dave he tries to seek the truth which is rare in political reporting today.” While leading Democratic strategist Roy Temple commented more directly, “In my dealings with him, he’s always been a tough but fair reporter.”
Catanese apologized for the controversy yesterday in a statement, “I would never intentionally impugn a woman who has been the victim of the horrific crime of rape. My commentary on Rep. Akin’s repugnant rhetoric failed to make this clear.” However, former Republican House Speaker Rod Jetton offered, “I have worked with Dave and was closely following his coverage of this story and I never felt that he agreed with Akin’s comments. I believe journalists tweeting commentary between filing stories adds a great deal to context stories are written in, and I hope this does not discourage Dave or other journalists from sharing their thoughts on twitter.”
When asked for comment John Harris of Politico responded by email: “Thanks for checking in. Consistent with Politico’s usual practice, I am not answering media questions on what I regard as an internal personnel matter.”