MADISON, Wis. – If you were still laboring under the happy dream that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is an objective, unbiased source of news, Thursday night must have been a wake-up call.
That’s when the publication went full-on sleaze in a factually faulty story that many tabloids would think twice about before printing.
“As a private attorney, (Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice) Rebecca Bradley represented in a child placement case the former chief operating officer of the law firm where both had previously worked — and with whom she acknowledged having had an extramarital affair,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper reported.
One problem: the salacious story is highly misleading on a couple of fronts. Bradley’s ex-husband in a statement says he told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter it wasn’t true. The newspaper printed it anyway, without including Gordon Bradley’s defense of his ex-wife.
He released a statement Friday, correcting the record. The Journal Sentinel as of Friday afternoon had not had the decency to print it.
“I am Gordon Bradley. Rebecca Bradley and I were married for 8 years and divorced in 2004.
I am outraged by the story in the Journal Sentinel accusing my former wife of having an extra-marital affair.
Not only is their headline a lie, they knew it before they printed it.
I told their reporter Patrick Marley that we were separated at the time of the relationship when he emailed me about it yesterday. They didn’t even bother to print my quote.
Running a false headline is both malicious and despicable.
Rebecca is truly a kind, gracious and generous person. We remain close personal friends. Our marriage just didn’t work out but we still very much love and respect one other. That’s why it pains me to see the state’s largest newspaper determined to assassinate her character.
None of this phony Scarlet Letter reporting should come as a surprise.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has shown its hand in its disparate coverage of the conservative justice and her liberal opponent for the Supreme Court seat, Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. It’s clear that the newspaper that has spewed so much hatred over the past several years against Republican Gov. Scott Walker is going after his appointee to the bench, while handling with kid gloves the liberal candidate who falls in line with the newspaper’s ideological slant.
“The Journal Sentinel has become a pawn of Joanne Kloppenburg and her liberal Madison friends who will say and do anything to tear Rebecca down. And apparently the Journal Sentinel has decided to run any story they are fed, whether it’s true or not,” Gordon Bradley said in the statement.
It took three reporters to collectively produce the smear piece. The story doesn’t say how long it took the reporters to wash their hands of journalistic integrity.
Beyond making sure the lurid claim of “extramarital affair” was in the headline and the lead, the Journal Sentinel, presumably, was trying to convey a sense of ethical conflict in the story.
“The circumstances of the child placement case are surfacing amid Bradley’s campaign for a 10-year term on the state Supreme Court against Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. The election is April 5. The court is responsible for policing the professional conduct rules of attorneys, and much of the justices’ time is spent on determining whether lawyers treated their clients appropriately,” the story declares.
Except the reporters were told by multiple sources and the court records conclude that there were no ethical problems with Rebecca Bradley’s representation of a man she previously had been romantically involved with.
Bradley’s current attorney, Dan Kelly, told the reporters what they already knew. “This is a closed question. A court has looked at it,” Kelly said. “It is not in dispute.”
The Journal Sentinel begrudgingly conceded the point while asking Kelly and others whether the relationship with Rebecca Bradley’s client “had been sexual.”
“A judge rejected the attempt to bump her on ethical grounds, according to the public filings,” the Journal Sentinel dream team wrote.
Earlier this week, the “watchdog” lapped up 24-year-old columns that Rebecca Bradley had written for her student newspaper, handed over to mainstream media reporters by the left-wing One Wisconsin Now at a Capitol news conference. The columns expressed Bradley’s anti-gay sentiments at the time and made incendiary statements about people who suffer with AIDS and voters who supported Bill Clinton.
Bradley has said she is embarrassed about the columns and has apologized for their offensive content. She also said her viewpoints had changed since she was a young and, at times, intemperate college student.
The Journal Sentinel made that issue front and center again in its latest hit piece.
“The matter raises questions about the vetting process used by Walker, who has acknowledged he was unaware of college newspaper writings by Bradley in which she condemned ‘queers’ and addicts for essentially killing themselves through their conduct,” the article asserts.
As a former Milwaukee police officer and “one of the people who knows Rebecca best,” Gordon Bradley urged readers to reject the Journal Sentinel’s “outlandish accusations.”
“The best way to reject the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s outrageous behavior is to support Rebecca Bradley for the Supreme Court,” he said.
Perhaps Rebecca Bradley put it best when cornered by a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter: “I’m not sure what you’re talking about or what you’re trying to do to me,” she told the newspaper.”There were motions filed in that case and the judge dismissed them and that’s all I have to say.” She has since likened the newspaper to the National Enquirer.
“The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel should be ashamed of itself and you can put that on the record.”