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WI: Dem spokesman makes news — and not in a good way

By   /   June 12, 2012  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

Graeme Zielinski

MADISON — Graeme Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, may be on vacation this week, but that’s not stopping him from making news.

After barring Wisconsin Reporter writer Ryan Ekvall from the party’s convention Friday, Zielinski was the star of a column by The Capital Times’ Jack Craver on Monday titled “Combative Dem spokesman Graeme Zielinski pushes the envelope.”

Spokespeople, by the very nature of their position, are often quoted in the news.

But it’s highly unusual for spokespeople to become the news themselves, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim said.

“Spokespersons are supposed to be heard but not seen,” said Heim, adding that he didn’t know enough about the Zielinski news to comment specifically on it.

Carver’s column detailed Zielinski’s pattern, as spokesman, of lobbing accusations and insults at those he dislikes, including members of the media, political scientist Charles Franklin, Republicans and other Democrats.

Zielinski’s responded to Craver via Twitter on Tuesday:

  • “@JackCraver I’m sorry for pointing out that you were in kindergarten or. rather, in utero when I started in journalism,”
  • “@JackCraver I’m also sorry we removed you from our press list because of your infantile tantrums,”
  • “@JackCraver But mostly I’m sorry for your total dishonesty, which may get you to a point you want to be, but will ruin you in the end,”
  • “@JackCraver (P.S., when you write little drive-bys, it’s traditional to actually CONTACT the intended victim.)”

Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, Craver told Wisconsin Reporter, “I’ll just say very simply that he said repeatedly that I didn’t try to contact him, and that’s not true. I left a message on his phone, and I emailed him, and he hasn’t responded to that.”

Zielinski also hasn’t responded to requests for comment, on other topics, from another Capital Times reporter in the past week, Craver said — which the writer said is a recent development.

“He was pretty much answering his phone, I think, in the days leading up to the (recall) election,” Craver said.

Wisconsin Reporter was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Zielinski via email, voice mail and text message Tuesday afternoon.

An automatic email reply from Zielinski said, “I’m off most of this week. If you are a member of the working press and it’s ‘Scott Walker got indicted’ urgent, please text or call since
I won’t be checking email. Otherwise, hang tight.”

Wisconsin Reporter also tried to reach DPW chairman Mike Tate, but was told he is traveling around the state. A message left for Steven Potter, the communications assistant at the DPW’s communications office, was not immediately returned.

Ekvall’s run-in at the Democratic Party convention was the latest in a string of verbal altercations between Zielinski and Wisconsin Reporter since he objected, last summer, to an article regarding the state’s economy.

Zielinski, whose essential argument is that Wisconsin Reporter shills for the Republican Party, threatened to try to stop newspapers from running Wisconsin Reporter’s news coverage and get the capitol press association to revoke Wisconsin Reporter’s credentials.

He also barred Wisconsin Reporter from covering a recall-related event in October.

After blocking Ekvall from the convention Friday, Zielinski tweeted, “@wisconsinreport I dare you losers to let me into your ‘news’ meetings, and then we can talk, you ridiculous tools.”

In response, Wisconsin Reporter has invited Zielinski three times to attend the news meetings. He has yet to respond.

Heim said these sorts of battles often occur, but behind the scenes. Typically, press people become the subjects of stories when they are hired, fired or resign.

Facebook and Twitter have a hand in bringing out these issues, he said, and the recent spate of recalls might be to blame, as well, for increasing tension.

“It sounds like something that just happens when you have a bitter defeat that some people are mad about,” he said.

 

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