Hunting `paper' tigers

The Political Game

Press: Ehrlich speaks of the `hostile' print media in biting terms.

April 22, 2003|By Tim Craig and David Nitkin | Tim Craig and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

FORGET Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says his biggest nemeses these days are the area's two largest daily newspapers.

Ehrlich has incorporated his disdain for The Sun and the Washington Post into his stump speeches, telling audiences that the print media are treating him unfairly and have it out for his administration.

During an address last week to students at Towson University, Ehrlich called The Sun and Post "two very hostile newspapers."

"You have hostile daily print media with very hostile editorial boards," Ehrlich said to Professor Richard A. Vatz's class on persuasion.

Ehrlich told the class he is relying on other forms of media to get his message out.

For example, on the final day of the legislative session Ehrlich scheduled three hours' worth of one-on-one interviews with television and radio reporters. The governor and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele also frequently appear on talk radio programs.

Ehrlich and his advisers say it is a smart strategy because newspapers have less influence now than they did in the past.

The governor believes his view was validated by last year's election: He won, though both papers endorsed Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. He still speaks angrily about The Sun's endorsement of Townsend, particularly irked by the line: "Mr. Ehrlich's running mate, state GOP chairman Michael S. Steele, brings little to the team but the color of his skin."

"Newspapers are still relevant and you still deal with them, but where do people get their news?" Ehrlich asked the class. "Television and with my base, radio."

He later added, "On radio, there is no filter. It's direct and there is no middle entity either friend or foe."

The governor has also been heard telling high school students they should not pursue a career in print journalism.

The frequency of Ehrlich's criticism of newspapers has left some print reporters bewildered by his open hostility toward their profession.

When asked Wednesday if he was declaring war on the two big dailies, Ehrlich said, "It's not declaring all out war, it's simply understanding the philosophical bent of the newspapers and dealing with it." But he quickly added, "I would say the war was declared by the newspapers."

Survey bill now a matter of checks and balances

A polling company that conducted a survey on slot machines for black lawmakers is still unpaid, and Del. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore is stepping up his accusations against Del. Obie Patterson, the Prince George's County Democrat who is chairman of the legislative black caucus.

In a letter to pollsters Penn, Shoen and Berland, Rawlings said he is willing to testify against Patterson if the research company decides to sue.

The firm conducted a $65,000 survey in predominantly black districts of voter attitudes toward slots. Patterson has said neither the black caucus nor a related foundation agreed to foot the bill, but Rawlings said there was a verbal commitment that would stand up in court.

"I am eager to settle this issue and am available to serve as a witness for any action that you might pursue," Rawlings wrote.

Rawlings said in the letter that Patterson has received $47,999.66 in checks meant for the poll. "We also have a commitment to meet the remainder of the $65,000 expense with a single $15,000 commitment and a contribution from Senate Budget and Taxation Chairman Ulysses Currie. To date, Chairman Patterson has failed to deposit any of these checks," Rawlings wrote.

Rawlings said yesterday that the President's Roundtable, a group of black business executives, contributed about $22,000 for the poll. He would not disclose the rest of the donors.

Patterson and Currie did not return calls for comment.

Democratic dark horse planning to ride again

He's ba-aack. The retired grocery clerk from Silver Spring who embarrassed Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in last year's gubernatorial primary by capturing 20 percent of the vote despite being outspent 2,300-1 is considering taking on another Democratic heavyweight.

Robert Raymond Fustero said last week that he is considering a primary challenge next year against the state's junior U.S. senator, Barbara A. Mikulski.

"Who knows, it might be that a certain niche of Democrats are looking for a change," Fustero said in an e-mail to The Sun.

100-day math adds up differently for Ehrlich staff

Counting correctly remains a weakness for the Ehrlich administration. They miscounted the number of votes on their side to approve environmental secretary nominee Lynn Y. Buhl. They overestimated their support on the Ways and Means Committee for slots. And now their numbers are off again.

Ehrlich staffers are preparing a series of events for Friday to commemorate the governor's first 100 days in office. But actually, Thursday is the 100th day -- if one starts from Jan. 15, the day of his inauguration.

His staff, however, says Jan. 16 should be considered Day One. "We are using the first full day of the administration as the starting point," said spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "We did not count wrong."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.