Mallahan Wrong (about PubliCola) at Seattle Times Interview

By Josh Feit October 2, 2009


Mayoral candidates Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan at the Seattle Times yesterday

At yesterday's Seattle Times ed board interview with the mayoral candidates, T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan told editorial board member Lynne Varner that a PubliCola report (about Mallahan's comments on Mayor Nickels' "racial agenda") had taken him out of context and misquoted him. (Click on ed board interview link above and scroll to about the 01:19:00 mark.)

His accusation is absolutely false.  (His campaign has even apologized to us about this before.)

This morning, I sent the following email to the Seattle Times editorial board (it's serious business when a candidate goes around telling other news publications that we're misquoting him):
In response to your question to Joe Mallahan yesterday about how his comments about Mayor Nickels' "racial agenda" were "misunderstood," Mallahan told you the comments he made were "out of context" in our report.

He tells you that he told us: "I hadn't seen the results [of Mayor Nickels' race and justice initiative]" but that we simply reported he "blamed the mayor for stealing funds from the neighborhood department to work on racial issues." He concludes: "That wasn't what I said."

The fact is, we reported the context of his comments—specifically noting that he said he didn't see the results of Nickels' efforts to address racial issues.

When both Erica and I reviewed our notes after the interview and saw the odd quote about pursuing "a racial agenda," we immediately called his campaign back to get clarity on what Mallahan meant.

We had two long follow-up conversations with his spokeswoman Charla Neuman, and then posted our story which certainly places his answer in context.

Neuman, in fact, called us back to thank us for being thorough.

Here is the section that addresses Mallahan's comments on the "racial agenda" :
And in a theme Mallahan hit repeatedly, that Nickels had disempowered neighborhoods, he was critical of Mayor Nickels' "first act"— firing popular neighborhood department head "rock star" Jim Diers (which Nickels did back in 2002). Mallahan said Diers had organized neighborhoods to make demands on city government and that Nickels had "cut the neighborhood budget in half in real dollars" and pursued "a racial agenda."

I had to follow up with his staff later in the day re: what Mallahan meant by a "racial agenda." After checking in with their candidate, they reported that Mallahan accused Nickels of refocusing the neighborhood department on addressing racial tension in the neighborhoods instead of basic services.

And, more to the point, Mallahan says, Nickels didn’t follow through on tackling race issues.

“Nickels went to Diers and said, ‘I’m moving in a different direction,’" Mallahan says. "And he [Nickels] went with a racial agenda. I don’t get it, and I don’t see it.”


Josh Feit

I've called Mallahan's campaign and I've asked his spokeswoman Charla Neuman (the one who thanked me for making the original story clear and one of the people who apologized for Mallahan's subsequent mischaracterizations) if I can speak directly with Mallahan about all of this.

The main thing I would say to Mallahan is this: Read our article, because it doesn't seem like you have.

We're certainly tempted to take back the A+ score we gave Mallahan for a recent press release he sent out schooling McGinn on the tunnel.
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