Beware of Scotsman: Aide Fired After Newspaper Publishes Off-Record “Monster” Comment

Samantha Power is an award-winning and respected academic has served as Mr Obama’s key foreign policy aide. She has now resigned after the Scotman newspaper published an off-the-record comment about Hillary Clinton, calling her a “monster” who will do or say anything to get elected. What I find most disturbing is the complete absence of journalistic ethics on the part of this newspaper. Years ago, I had a run in with the Scotsman over their publication of an interview or column that they attributed to me. I never gave them an interview or spoke with them.

In this article, the Scotsman clearly shows that Power made the statement off-the-record. Power is quoted as saying: “She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything.”

Yet, the irony is that they chortle at the “inexperienced Obama campaign” for such a mistake. In fact, most reporters would have honored the off the record statement.

Power is entitled to say such things off the record and not lose her job over it. The problem is the newspaper and its utter lack of professionalism. My only encounter with the Scotsman came with a publication years ago. It was so long ago, I only vaguely remember that it had something to do with the Clinton impeachment, but I called to ask about the publication. I got no response.

The story here should not be the fact that Obama people despise Clinton, but the fact that the Scotsman seem entirely unhinged on the question of journalistic ethics. While I give the Scotsman credit for not deleting the off-the-record demand, it is astonishing that it would openly disregard such a demand. The only defense would be highly technical: that Power should have stated upfront that the entire discussion or that portion would be off-the-record. However, that is rarely done. Sources and journalists often go back and forth on record comment, background comments, and off-the-record comments. It seems like the Scotsman created a “gotcha” story by not honoring this basic rule of journalism.

Conduct like this undermines all journalists and columnists who need to speak freely with sources. The Scotsman poisons that well when it disregards these basic rules of engagement. In the end, it was not the lack of experience of Powers but the lack of ethics of the Scotsman that proved Powers undoing.

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15 thoughts on “Beware of Scotsman: Aide Fired After Newspaper Publishes Off-Record “Monster” Comment”

  1. Unless you are a regular source for the journalist concerned it is plain stupid to think you can retract a comment after the fact by unilaterally declaring it to have been ‘off the record’. You’re right that this is about a lack of professionalism but the lack of professionalism is Power’s not the journalist’s.

  2. Pulitzer winning author and scholar Samantha Power took full responsibility for the expressing her opinion. There is ample video of her expressing regret at her comment.

    She has not expressed any opinion about the Scotsman or the reporter. This is generally characteristic of the Obama Team, that is to say, to take responsibility for their actions.

    As far as this goes, it doesn’t matter to me if the quote was intentional, unintentional or the result of Tourette’s Syndrome as long as it was quoted accurately. With all the complaints about he Press not doing their job – it is my opinion that I would prefer to see this “time honored tradition” go the way of the Edsel if we are getting the truth. The fact is, it was the the truth. Those were Power’s words. Even if it crash landed on the deck of the Obama campaign, of which I am an enthusiastic supporter. I would prefer to see the Press act like the Press and report news. While this was definitely a ‘gotcha’ it was still accurately reported, including the Power’s request that it be considered off-the-record.

    If that means that Power’s lack of media savvy got her tripped up, so be it. She’ll do better next time. This is a scholar, not a politician, and if we’re lucky, she’ll be around an Obama Administration, despite the efforts of Professional and Volunteer Call/Write Teams, such as the one that “Replier” Janet represents. The talking points are unmistakable.

  3. We Won’t Have Samantha Power to Kick Around Any More

    She has resigned from the Obama campaign. It was probably the “Hillary is a monster” quote that put her over the top, but that was only one of a number of ill-advised outbursts.

    So Power is gone from the scene, at least for now. But there is still a lesson to be learned, as Paul has documented in a series of posts, from the fact that Obama sought her out as a key foreign policy adviser. For the reasons Paul has noted, Power deserved to be controversial long before she started saying what the Obama camp really thinks about Hillary Clinton.

    PAUL adds: Unfortunately, there’s every reason to believe that, if elected president, Obama will continue to look to Power (who according to her account receives text messages from the candidate in the middle of the night) for foreign policy guidance. Indeed, Power has been describing herself as “an informal adviser” to Obama in her current role.

    UPDATE (by Paul): In a parting gift to the Obama campaign, Power told a British television audience that Obama’s plan for withdrawing from Iraq (like, apparently, his plan to renegotiate NAFTA) isn’t really to be taken seriously. “He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator,” Power explained. In perhaps the most sensible comment I’ve heard her make, Power added: “You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009.” She went on to describe Obama’s stated plan as “a best case scenario.”

  4. i’m sorry but I must disagree. Just because someone as you put it, demands that something be off the record doesn’t make it so. If she wanted something to be off-the-record she should have asked for it beforehand. Not after the fact.

  5. “I look forward to Al Gore’s comments most, as well as notable others.” –Patty C

    I like Al Gore as well and I think he gets a large part of the picture. And truthfully, I would prefer him to any other candidate on the horizon.

  6. Well, mespo, I’m glad you think Obama “gets it” because I sure don’t.

    Nor do I believe either Democratic candidate truly does “get it”,
    at this stage, either. I’m embarrassed for both of them and the resyt of us as, well.

    I wish I had saved the photo of Obama’s look on his face – while seated on stage, after his win in Iowa back in January…

    Truthfully, having a/any Democrat, is not the most important thing to me.

    Saying “Vamos” to Bush AND Cheney definitely is, however.

    I wish the Kennedy’s and John Kerry had kept their mouths shut.

    I look forward to Al Gore’s comments most, as well as notable others.

  7. I agree that when someone says something is “off the record,” it should be treated as such. And Powers did not say it at the end of the interview or long afterwards. She said it immediately.

    She is a human being and is entitled to private opinions, after all. Not everything she says has to be attributed to the Obama campaign.

    This whole affair reminds me of the episode with Connie Chung and Newt Ginrich’s mother. Journalism should get the story, but there is a limit to the “gotcha” element.

  8. Deeply: Thats’ politics with somebody always trying to bend your will. I like Obama because I think he gets it — that one good speech knocks the pants of the opposition as (gasp!) Richard Nixon used to say. It’s easy to stop a candidate but nearly impossible to stop a social movement. Ask Dr. King or Lech Walesa or Mandela. Opposition just makes it stronger. To quote someone much brighter than I: “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

  9. No Mespo,

    I’m afraid they will attempt to cripple his Presidency just like they did to the last Democratic administration.

    That is if he can get past the Hillary/GOP coalition currently working against him. It is 2-on-1 and will continue in that ratio until Denver and possibly even after.

    They will attempt to force him out of his game and get him to play on their turf where he becomes their moral and political equal.

    I hope he has wise advisors.

  10. Janet:

    Wow so much venom and hateful language. I suggest some relaxation techniques like water-boarding or stress positions. As for Obama’s credentials, I must concede he’s a little thin, but compared to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania, he’s a veritable Abraham Lincoln. Why don’t you start practicing saying “we have a Democrat in the WH and the sky is going to fall,” as it will be the Repub mantra for eight more years.

  11. “riots are happenin’ summer”

    Are you a congressional intern by any chance, Janet?

  12. Uh, Jonathan, even you and your buddy bud Keith Dolbermann know that you tell a reporter that this is off the record BEFORE YOU MAKE AN ASS out of yourself, not after.

    I smell a train crash coming, mostly as a result of MSNBC and types like you being in bed with Obama the kid who has zero credentials to be POTUS.

    Thank God it looks like the Messiah Barack has reached his fifteen minutes of fame and now it is all downhill, too bad he is taking the whole Democratic party with him.

    Stay away from Denver; lookin’ like riots are happenin’ summer.

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