Editor’s column didn’t tell the ‘whole truth’

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Tell the WHOLE Truth, Mr. Miele. (Cherry picking season is still eight months away.)

As someone who respects true conservatism, but is disgusted by what passes for conservatism today, I don’t usually read Frank Miele’s Sunday column. But last Sunday’s piece (Jan. 28) had both HuffPo and Secretary Zinke in the headline, so I took the bait.

For those of you who also read it, and believed every word, you came away thinking that the Huffington Post is a liberal purveyor of “fake news” and had “smeared the Trump administration” with a false story about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Well, that’s exactly what Mr. Miele wanted you to think, and it happens to be false. Mr. Miele’s editorial was the real “fake news.”

There are many ways to lie, and one is by omission. The HuffPo story was about two things. First, Mr. Zinke owns 1,000 shares of stock in PROOF Research, the arms, ammunition, and aerospace company located in Columbia Falls. Nominees for Cabinet positions are required to disclose all assets of $1,000 or more, and Mr. Zinke did not disclose his stock because it turned out to be valued at less than $1 per share.

But the actual value of the stock was difficult for the HuffPo writer to ascertain because PROOF is a privately traded company. The writer contacted two other major investors who both estimated the value of Zinke’s holdings at “about $1,000.” One, Michael Goguen, later cited an audit that put the value of one share at 85 cents, meaning that Zinke’s stock was worth $850. Even later, an Interior Department spokesperson confirmed that the secretary’s holdings were actually worth $250 to $400 total, and the HuffPo article was updated to include her comments. That’s when Mr. Miele stopped reading and starting typing.

He dashed off his column ranting that HuffPo had accused Mr. Zinke of not disclosing his stock holdings in the first paragraph, then in the 8th paragraph stated that his stock wasn’t of sufficient value to legally require disclosure. And therefore, HuffPo had “smeared the Trump administration” with “fake news!” He thought he would get clean away with this hack job because he knows his readers, and knows not one in 1,000 would click on HuffPo and bother to read the full and accurate story.

The second focus of the HuffPo story involved the actions Zinke had taken as interior secretary that were POSSIBLY conflicts of interest given his holdings in PROOF, regardless of what those holdings were valued at. One of those actions was an April 2017 meeting that Zinke and top aides held with PROOF execs. Mr. Miele described that meeting as merely “evidence that Zinke is supporting a local business that provides local jobs.” He conveniently left out that among the people Zinke met with was Brian Kelly, PROOF’s registered lobbyist in Washington and also a member of the company’s board of directors.

Also conveniently omitted by Mr. Miele was federal lobbying disclosures that show Mr. Kelly has lobbied the U.S. House of Representatives and the Department of Defense on behalf of PROOF since 2015, while Zinke was still in Congress. A further omission was that PROOF did receive at least one government contract of $11.4 million from the DOD.

The HuffPo article went on to quote Virginia Canter, former White House associate counsel for Presidents Clinton and Obama. “… the fact that he (Zinke) met with company executives is troubling since by law he’s required to recuse himself from participating in particular matters that would directly and predictably affect the company. To the extent he’s made decisions to expand hunting and gun-carrying on public lands, he has further raised the potential for a conflict of interest since these decisions may affect the company’s fortunes.” You guessed it — Mr. Miele failed to mention this quote too.

HuffPo then listed several actions by Secretary Zinke that Ms. Canter was talking about — actions that could (I emphasize COULD) be considered conflicts of interest given Zinke’s affiliation with, and holdings in, a firearms and ammunition company, including:

• Lifting the lead ammunition ban on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service land and waters

• A report from the McClatchy D.C. Bureau that Interior had appeared to muzzle NPS Acting Director Michael Reynolds’ objections to several provisions in NRA-backed legislation that would loosen hunting regulations within park boundaries.

• Zinke announced a proposal to expand hunting opportunities in 10 national wildlife refuges (Why do they call them “wildlife refuges” if you’re allowed to hunt in them?)

• Zinke appointed Susan LaPierre, wife of the NRA’s head con man and liar, Wayne LaPierre, to the board of directors of the National Parks Foundation, which receives and administers gifts and real estate bestowed to the National Park Service. These last two moves led the NRA to proudly declare that it has a “friend at the Department of Interior” in Secretary Zinke. I’ll just bet that they do.

• Zinke announced that the BLM would increase access for hunters in Arizona’s Santa Teresa Wilderness Area,

• And that Interior would once again allow “trophy hunters” to import elephant parts taken in Africa. (But the “stable genius” had to put that one on hold because of “bigly” public objection.)

NONE of these events were disclosed by Mr. Miele in his column.

So, Mr. Miele COULD have included this information, but then he wouldn’t have had a story about a liberal, fake news outlet smearing the poor beleaguered Trump regime. Now, the Huffington Post certainly has a liberal bias; it publishes articles of interest to progressives. It’s part of the liberal “echo chamber” just as Breitbart, Fox News, the Drudge Report, ad nauseam, and at the local level, the Daily Inter Lake, are part of the right-wing echo chamber. But HuffPo isn’t “fake news.” They published the COMPLETE story. It was Mr. Miele who cherry-picked their story to fit his pre-determined conclusion.

So, who smeared whom? Seems to me that Mr. Miele and the Daily Inter Lake smeared the Huffington Post with “fake news.” Next time, Mr. Miele, please tell us the truth — the WHOLE truth.

Robert Horne Jr. is a resident of Whitefish.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Editor’s 2 Cents” column written by Managing Editor Frank Miele is an opinion column published in the opinion section. It is not “news” of any kind — fake or real. Like all opinion writing, the “2 Cents” column reflects its author’s point of view and no one else’s. Mr. Miele stands by the column as written.)

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