Two years after being slammed with a $3.5 million libel verdict, the Alabama blog Legal Schnauzer is again peddling salacious accusations of extramarital affairs without providing a single verifiable source.
Roger Shuler, whose fame — or infamy, depending upon one’s view — has exploded in recent years, began posting a story last week claiming Gov. Robert Bentley, 72, has been involved in an affair with his chief political adviser, who is roughly 30 years younger. His story comes on the heels of the announcement Bentley’s wife of 50 years, Diane, has filed for divorce from the governor, citing a “complete incompatibility of temperament.”
As he has done in previous situations, Shuler alleges the “affair” was accompanied by illegal use of public funds, property and personnel and warns readers investigations could be coming. If all that isn’t enough, Shuler actually plastered a picture of the woman, her husband and three young children on the front of his blog under the headline “Robert Bentley’s 2014 campaign paid more than $400,000 to company owned by governor’s mistress.” How nice for the kids.
The affair story has swept the state, luring in mainstream media outlets that want to know who the governor has been boinking. Television, radio, bloggers and newspaper outlets all jumped on the bandwagon as soon as the Schnauzer barked, all claiming, of course, they were going to get to the bottom of things. Never mind first determining whether there is even one scrap of evidence worth mentioning to readers/viewers. You see, in the news business, we don’t always run stories telling you what story we’re looking into, but some do when the Schnauzer barks.
All we know for certain right now is Diane Bentley has filed for divorce, there are rumors of an affair between the 72-year-old Bible-thumping governor and a much younger woman who is his political adviser, and that she has flown with Bentley — as part of a group — to several meetings. That’s it. The judge sealed the divorce documents. And as has been standard for Shuler, all of his information comes from unnamed sources.
So I still don’t understand why people in the media react when the Legal Schnauzer yaps. The guy has lost millions in libel cases, he violates every rule of journalistic ethics and still other media outlets run to repeat his claims by doing a story on a “story.”
Maybe something did happen. Maybe it didn’t. If anyone ever gets to look at that divorce filing and it’s not filled with Mrs. Bentley claiming her hubby is a filthy cheater, there are going to be a lot of media outlets with egg on their faces.
Dish Network users in the Mobile market briefly lost their ABC programming last week and narrowly avoided losing NBC as well this week due to a dispute between the satellite provider and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
On Aug. 25, Dish pulled 129 local TV stations from its nationwide roster, including WEAR/WFGX in Pensacola. WEAR is the ABC affiliate for the Mobile/Pensacola television market. WPMI and WJTC were slated to be pulled Monday if an agreement was not reached. But after some involvement from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, the two sides were able to come to the table and the stations were restored last week after roughly 24 hours off the network. Viewers could still have received the local stations’ broadcasts through use of an antenna.
The heart of the dispute was over retransmission fees being charged by local stations to allow Dish to broadcast those stations’ signals to Dish customers. The removal of 129 stations from Dish’s menu amounted to the largest station blackout in the history of contractual disputes between broadcasting groups and cable/satellite providers.
Wheeler convened an emergency meeting between Dish and Sinclair and by late Wednesday was praising both sides for coming to the table. Though the FCC has typically not intervened in such business clashes, Wheeler said the scope of this blackout was too large to ignore.
“We will not stand idly by while millions of consumers in 79 markets across the country are being denied access to local programming,” he said. “The commission will always act within the scope of its authority if it emerges that improper conduct is preventing a commercial resolution of the dispute.”
The two sides reached a deal in principle last Wednesday, but Dish has asked Wheeler to remain abreast of the process. Dish had filed an FCC complaint against Sinclair previously, claiming the company was violating FCC rules governing negotiating retransmission deals in good faith. After last week’s meetings, Dish asked the FCC to stay any action on their complaint while the companies work on the deal.
Bobby Totsch, general manager for WPMI/WJTC and market director for Pensacola, last week said the issue was simply one in which the two companies were trying to work out a new retransmission agreement and that Dish had chosen to take the matter public. He said at the time WEAR was blacked out that Sinclair remained willing to “negotiate a fair deal with Dish.”
“In the end, this is simply a commercial business transaction in which the parties unfortunately were not able to agree on terms,” he said of the blackout.
The blackout affected roughly 5 million of Dish’s nearly 14 million subscribers.
The increased number of such retransmission battles between multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), such as satellite and cable companies, has led the FCC to begin reviewing its retransmission rules, which are nearly 25 years old. According to industry experts, over the past decade station owners have begun demanding significantly higher fees from MVPDs, leading to inability to reach agreement and, ultimately, station blackouts.
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