What started out as a local reporter’s routine interview with a Michigan Democrat challenger to Republican incumbent Dan Benishek, turned into political intrigue after the interview was published and the candidate’s campaign implied that an impersonator had commandeered his cellphone and said very bad things about ObamaCare.
According to Betsy Woodruff of NRO, who spoke with the managing editor of the paper in question, “something funny seems to be going on” in that Michigan congressional race.
On Wednesday of last week, Jerry Cannon (the Democratic challenger) sat down for an interview with Garrett Neese, a reporter for Daily Mining Gazette, to discuss his congressional bid. Neese is the paper’s most experienced reporter, and has been writing there for ten years. He recorded the interview. Afterward, Cannon handed him his business card so he could touch base with any follow-up questions.
The next day, after listening to about 15 minutes of the audio recording of the interview, Neese called the cell-phone number listed on the card Cannon gave him to ask a follow-up question. The reporter wanted Cannon’s take on Obamacare, as well as the unemployment-insurance extension, which they hadn’t covered in the initial interview.
Details here are important, so bear with me: When the reporter called the number, the call was answered by a person whose voice sounded the same as Cannon’s. The reporter greeted this person as Mr. Cannon and mentioned the previous day’s interview. The person responded to that greeting, and the two chatted about Cannon’s stance on the Affordable Care Act. The person who answered the phone — remember, this is a person whose voice sounded exactly like Cannon’s, who answered the cell phone whose number was listed on a card Cannon personally gave the reporter, and who responded to “Mr. Cannon” — said this:
“I don’t like Obamacare. It’s been a disaster for me. I want to go back to the way it was before.”
(Whoa. I don’t know about you – but I get the impression that this is an impersonator very experienced and skillful in the dark arts of political sabotage.)
Woodruff goes on to note that Cannon has the backing of the DCCC who recently said this: “We’ve been working on [health-care reform] for 100 years and a lot of these ideas started with the Republican party and there’s been fits and starts and stops about how to get this done and it’s finally put into place, and the worst thing that could be done is say ‘let’s throw it all out.”
Or as Cannon’s impersonator would say – “I want it to go back to the way it was before.”
At about noon on Thursday, the paper published the interview with the anti-ObamaCare quotes, and Cannon’s campaign immediately leaped into action, calling the paper between 1 and 2 p.m. to insist that Cannon had not spoken with the reporter over the phone which they claim was turned off when the reporter called.
The paper then took the story down, rather than just remove the disputed quote.“Surgically removing quotes is not something that you want to do,” Wilcox tells NRO, explaining the paper’s decision.
On Friday, the paper put a story on its website including quotes from Cannon explaining a very different position on the Affordable Care Act than what was articulated over the phone. That story also includes this in its second paragraph: “Campaign manager Ted Dick said Cannon had not been the person speaking in the call, and that the phone with the number provided to the Gazette had been turned off during the time of the call.”
So this is either a case of a Democrat campaign engaging in damage control (aka lying) after a candidate made unguarded and inconvenient comments, or as Woodruff surmises, “there is a mysterious Cannon impersonator floating around northern Michigan, answering his cell phone and planting false quotes about him that would be politically damaging.”
That’s a serious and shocking offense, if true. Maybe the NSA can look into it.