News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Flashpoint

August 28, 2011

FLASHPOINT: Howey’s Aug. 21 column was inaccurate

Elected officials accept public debate. Americans are well served when journalists research a story, present facts and offer readers the opportunity to be informed and perhaps to pass judgment. But, when reporters label a falsehood as a fact, the reader is victimized.

Brian Howey’s recent column in this paper (Sunday, Aug. 21, Page D4) concerning my role as state treasurer and as candidate for the United States Senate victimized readers through its errant reporting and bias. 

Mr. Howey began by writing of my personal finances. Three weeks prior, during an interview with a national reporter, I disclosed that I had sold a significant portion of my stock portfolio due to the market uncertainty resulting from the debate over the budget deficit and the likely credit downgrade. Mr. Howey wrote: “Mourdock unloaded his personal stock portfolio on Aug. 2, the day Congress passed and President Obama signed the debt ceiling deal.” That’s wrong. The order to sell my stock was placed well before Aug. 2 and in fact occurred over several days.

Mr. Howey, who has criticized me previously, apparently thought innuendo was in order and attempted to smear me by including in his article: “The Washington Post reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether certain market participants learned of the downgrade before its announcement.” Fact: Standard and Poor’s announced publicly weeks before the downgrade that if $4 trillion wasn’t cut from the federal budget a downgrade would occur. Call me a prudent investor because I believed them.

Mr. Howey then outrageously wrote: “As the Indiana pension funds Mourdock presides over lost 11.2 percent of value since June — or $1.2 billion, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal …” Mr. Howey has since acknowledged that the Indianapolis Business Journal never published such a statement.

Mr. Howey has stated that the quote should have been attributed to an article by Eric Bradner, a reporter for the Evansville Courier & Press. On Aug. 11, the Evansville Courier & Press printed a story by Mr. Bradner stating that the Standard and Poor’s Index was down 11.2 percent since the end of June and if that loss were applied to the Indiana Public Retirement System, the loss would be $1.18 billion. However, Mr. Bradner never assigned any responsibility to me, never mentioned my name in the article and never stated that I presided over the Indiana Public Retirement System.

Mr. Bradner checked his facts and reported correctly. Mr. Howey has falsely claimed a source for a quote that never was made and has falsely linked me to the Indiana Public Retirement System over which I have absolutely no authority.

Mr. Howey, a veteran reporter, either made the rookie mistake of assigning to me a role in the management of the Indiana Public Retirement System without checking the facts, or he deliberately wanted to link me to a billion-dollar loss. Given his prior criticisms of me, I’m neither shocked nor surprised at his actions in attempting to paint the negative picture. However, Mr. Howey provided a huge disservice to readers who expect facts and honesty.

But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, it gets worse.

Mr. Howey also wrote of my recent call for the firing of Treasury Secretary Geithner. Before making that public statement, I researched the issue and determined that Sen. Lugar voted against the confirmation of Mr. Geithner. During a TV interview on the story, a reporter shot back with “but Mr. Lugar voted against the Geithner confirmation.” I nodded my head affirmatively on camera and said:  “He did. Well he gets a chance to lead now …” In his written text, Mr. Howey reported my response as “He did? Well he gets a chance to lead now…” By altering my affirmative and definitive statement to a question, Mr. Howey clearly wanted the reader to believe I was neither prepared nor knowledgeable. Another shameful disservice to readers.

Mr. Howey’s criticisms of me began two years ago when I fought to stop the confiscation of Indiana pensioners’ funds in the Chrysler bankruptcy. He disagreed with my actions and had the right then and now to disagree with me. But still, two years after the fact, the fundamental reporting is wrong. He wrote that Chrysler stock had been purchased. No, secured debt was purchased, not stock. This is a critical distinction in this important story.

Mr. Howey continued: “The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case.” Wrong again. On Dec. 14, 2009, the nation’s High Court granted our petition in the case and acted immediately to vacate the decision of the lower court that led to the approval of the Chrysler bankruptcy plan. He may not have approved of my actions but the facts cannot be denied and ought to be reported. Facts are stubborn things.

I sincerely believe reporters have tough jobs as facts are not always easily discernible. I do not expect perfection. I accept fair criticism. Mr. Howey’s recent article demonstrates that facts and context weren’t convenient to the story he wished to sell.

Readers deserve facts and truth. Mr. Howey left them badly wanting.

Richard Mourdock is a candidate for the Republican nomination to Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat now held by Richard Lugar. Mourdock is also treasurer of the state of Indiana.

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