Monday, November 06, 2006

Chronicle, DBR, Miller Endorse Cheek

The Chronicle, Duke Basketball Report, and Stephen Miller all published powerful endorsements of Lewis Cheek this morning.

To the Chronicle, “Durham voters will face an easy choice this Tuesday at the polls: elect a district attorney who has failed his office or vote to recall him by selecting Lewis Cheek.” The paper unequivocally endorsed Cheek.

The editorial lays out Nifong’s record of procedural violations in the lacrosse case, but also makes the critical point that “Nifong’s handling of the case to date raises a number of questions about his prosecutorial conduct, but also about the general manner in which he carries out his duties as district attorney.” Indeed, Chronicle editors astutely argue, “Nifong appears to be, from his actions during the past few months, a DA who will do anything to get a conviction and gain political favor.”

Duke Basketball Report has done as much as any website to keep Nifong’s misconduct in the public eye, and its editorial this morning represents the logical culmination of the site’s efforts to restore ethical conduct to the D.A.’s office. The editors note that they “normally don’t issue endorsements in elections,” but in this highly unusual circumstance, are “making an exception, and endorse the Cheek campaign.”

The central question, according to DBR, “is whether or not justice is being fairly administered and whether they are being treated equally under the law. In our judgment, Mike Nifong has miserably failed this basic test and therefore does not deserve to retain his position.” Echoing the critique of Duke Law professor James Coleman, DBR asks, “If Mike Nifong will run roughshod over three guys whose families have the resources to fight back, what’s to stop him from doing it to people who can’t? In fact, who would even know?”

And, like the Chronicle, DBR comments on the unprofessional demeanor all have witnessed from Durham County’s minister of justice. “Aside from the well-documented problems of the case,” the editors note, “Nifong’s personal behavior has been disgraceful. He has cursed attorneys, written ugly notes to people who disagree with him, rolled his eyes in court, and, in general, has revealed his nature: Mike Nifong is a bully. He’s no more interested in justice than the kid who used to take your lunch money.”

And in passionate language, Stephen Miller denounces Nifong for having perpetrated “a moral, social and legal outrage,” an “assault on our peers, our community and the core values of our nation.” He realizes:

To successfully unleash this depraved injustice, it seems our DA has managed to go against criminal procedure, legal precedent, constitutional protections, hundreds of years of common law and thousands of years of ethics tracing back to the Old Testament.

Nifong must have confused America with a police state.

Accordingly, Miller notes, “all who are registered to vote in Durham need to vote for Cheek tomorrow. The only justifiable vote is a vote to oust Nifong.”

Miller’s op-ed, it’s worth remembering, follows up on the extraordinary column by Kristin Butler in last week’s Chronicle dissecting Nifong’s failures. Why can’t we see such figures at the Herald-Sun, or penning N&O editorials?


The endorsements also make clear their condemnation of the spoiler write-in campaign. The Chronicle, for instance, bluntly concludes that Steve Monks, “a Republican write-in candidate with little trial experience, has no chance of being elected.”

As JinC noted yesterday, playing up the chances of the Monks effort succeeding appears to be Bob Ashley’s strategy of using the Herald-Sun to split the anti-Nifong vote. One particularly notable article came out on November 3—penned, of course, by John Stevenson.

The article contained the following assertion, unchallenged: “Monks downplayed suggestions that a write-in candidate cannot win. That is nonsense,’ he said. U.S. congressional candidates, he said, were successful in five of nine contests in which they ran.

Does the Herald-Sun have a fact-checking policy, or does it simply print any incorrect fact that a spoiler candidate offers? If Monks had said, “UFOs will descend upon Durham to write in my name,” would the H-S have printed that assertion?

Monks’ claim that 55.6% of the congressional candidates who have run write-in bids have succeeded is demonstrably false. In the last 40 years, a grand total of two candidates running for the House (Joe Skeen and Ron Packard) have triumphed in write-in bids: both prevailed under highly unusual circumstances, in which the local political party apparatus repudiated the party’s official nominee and threw its support to another (write-in) candidate in the fall campaign. Meanwhile, over the last four decades, there have been thousands of write-in bids for Congress, most of which draw only a handful of votes. For a paper to print a claim that only nine write-in bids have occurred is transparently absurd.

The Herald-Sun’s shabby journalism has been a low point of this affair. That it’s now printing outright factual errors about congressional history to promote Nifong’s efforts gives a sense of Editor Ashley’s desperation.


Svolich said...

Prof. Johnson, could you clear up something for me?

I understand that neither Mr. Nifong nor his staff have interviewed the alledged victim, other than to inquire as to her general well being. I understand from the 60 minutes report that neither Mr. Nifong nor his staff have interviewed Ms. Roberts, the second dancer.

I've understood from the def. attys that they have wanted to present exculpatory evidence to the DA, but the DA and his staff have refused to meet with them, and have refused to talk with the defendants.

Is this right? The DA and his staff have spoken with nobody who was there, despite their wanting to meet?

Anonymous said...

Happy to see the endorsements for Cheek. Stephen Miller has written excellent articles about the lacrosse case. As has been the case repeatedly, once again, the Duke students display more leadership than those at the adminstrative level. Duke students continue to impress. Considering the initial descriptions of the "hooligan" Duke students, it is ironic that they have diplayed greater integrity and leadership skills than the adults in Durham.
Now, the students need to get out and vote Cheek.

Anonymous said...

Steve MOnks should bow out gracefully now. When Nifong is ousted he will look like the a good guy. Even if Nifong does get elected he will be facing the NC Bar Investigation, Department of Justice and FBI Investigation and the numerous civil suits from all the lacrosse families. Nifong will not have time to go after real criminals in Durham. I would think the citizens of Durham be they black or white would at least want a safe place to live. Or is it just filled with drug dealers, gun runners and diamond smugglers?

KC Johnson said...

To the 11.40: the answers to your questions are yes and yes.

Anonymous said...

"Five of Nine"? What the heck is Monks thinking/smoking? (And as KC points out, where's the journalistic follow-up to either a) point out the error, or b) ask what he means?)

I'd be willing to bet there are more than nine write-in candidates for Congress just in North Carolina alone, this year....

Who wants this man, who apparently doesn't even understand basic civics, to be running a DA's office??

Svolich said...

1:34, I live in a gerrymandered district where there's NO doubt as to who wins in November. The only real fight is in the primary.

So every november I write myself in for Congress. If I don't find my name in the results, I know my ballot was not counted. I know of a half a dozen people that do the same thing.

Each one of those ballots is a write in campaign. A small one, of course. But Monk's claim is absurd.

It wasn't counted in 98. I raised hell, and got people fired.

Anonymous said...

It is so wild to be in agreement with Stephen Miller. He is to the right of Rush and I am a liberal from Mass who lives in Durham. But we are together on this issue.

I wish Cheek would have actually run, he would have had a better chance.

Cliff said...

KC write on the main page today: Monks’ claim that 55.6% of the congressional candidates who have run write-in bids have succeeded is demonstrably false.

As anyone can determine if they actually want to do the research (as opposed to engaging in careless and feverish speculation), Monk's claim is actually demonstrably true.

Five (55.6%) of the nine known write-in candidates who have run in general elections for the U.S. Congress have won. When most people speak of congressional candidates, they are, in fact, referring to candidates in the general elections to the U.S. Congress. Before those elections, the candidates who run in them are generally candidates for their party's nomination as a congressional candidate).

Interestingly enough, the success rate of 55.6% posited in this demonstrably true claim just happens to be a mere 1,968 times the success rate of .028% suggested, at best, by Duke Students for an Ethical (?) [sic.] Durham in their endorsement of Cheek last week in the Duke Chronicle.

Even more interesting is the Chronicle's refusal to print a letter to the editor which I repeatedly submitted attempting to correct the statistical deception in which the Ethical (?) Durham endorsement presents and has done so notwithstanding a professor in Duke's own Statistics Department advising that the correct analysis of the data presented by the endorsement is the one I'm attempting to offer in my unaccepted letter.

Perhaps the Chronicle just doesn't want the truth to get out here, as they too must know that the truth and Cheek's candidacy don't necessarily go hand in hand. I mean if you're endorsing Lewis Cheek, as the Chronicle did yesterday, why get the readers confused with the truth, when you can let stand unaddressed a statistical fiction that another endorsement of the same candidate in the same paper set forth only last week?

The editors of the Chronicle may think they're journalists, but with the disdain they have shown for the truth in this instance, I'm not quite sure how their thinking can be sustained.

In the post below, you'll find the text of the letter I submitted on this issue to the Chronicle, which, when I was a student at Duke, we would often refer to as the Comical. I'm beginning to remember why.

Cliff said...

Smoke, Mirrors, and Lewis Cheek – When the Facts Fail, Roll Out the Fictions

Casey Shanley, in his letter here earlier this week endorsing Lewis Cheek on behalf of Duke Students for an Ethical Durham, does nothing so well as put the world on notice of just how hollow Cheek's candidacy actually is. Setting reality aside, Shanley first attempts to replace one of its most troubling features with a misleading speculation and then to draw attention away from it with a statistical "analysis" that is fundamentally flawed.

Shanley writes, "Should Cheek choose not to accept the district attorney position…the governor would have to appoint someone to fill the position". This, of course, implies that Cheek might accept the position if elected, which, in view of his repeated public assertions that he will not, suggests a remarkable act of intellectual dishonesty or, considering the capacity in which Shanley wrote, ignorance on an amazing scale.

Shanley then goes on to tell us that "Write-in candidates virtually never win" and attempts to support this proposition with a statistical deception that manages to ignore the fact that they very rarely run. We are told, in effect, that in over 21,300 Congressional elections since 1913, only six write-in candidates have won. While it may be convenient for Shanley to assume that his readers are so naïve as to believe that the data he cites has any bearing on the proposition he attempts to advance, it does not. The only real measure of the success of write-in candidates is, of course, how many have won in elections in which they have actually run.

The answer to this question, as provided by Congress's own history offices, supplies the truth. Of the nine known write-in candidates who have run in the elections in question, five have won, yielding a success rate of 55.6%. Not only is 55.6% exponentially beyond "virtually never," it just happens to be a mere 1,986 times greater than the .028% rate that Shanley would like us to accept.

I cannot help but wonder, if Lewis Cheek is such a worthy candidate in this race, why his supporters have chosen to advance nonsense as the truth, when they could have advanced the truth instead. It seems to me that to the Cheek camp the truth is not so attractive and that Lewis Cheek, in his refusal to serve, is not so much a candidate as a concept and, in reality, a rather unattractive one at that.

Anonymous said...

Smoke, Mirrors and Mr. Irrelevant...when facts fail roll out the fake polls and start attacking the students... Cliff you are pathetic.

Cliff said...


Thank you for the high praise, which coming from you it is.

Nothing's quite so pathetic as a man (or woman) who, finding themselves mistaken, refuses to acknowledge his (or her) error and then wants to place the blame for it on the party who'd proved them wrong. Unless, of course, we're talking about folks with so little courage that they want to hide behind anonymous posts and tell those who don't how pathetic they are, which folks, of course, are all the more pathetic still...

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