Loudoun County Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles), who is running for the 86th district house of delegates seat, was the catalyst of an odd story in the current edition of the Loudoun Independent newspaper.
During a September 15 “executive session” (closed meeting), Miller apparently accused his fellow supervisors of some degree of bias in the selection process for candidates for the vacant county administrator position. The following day, a report of the accusation was leaked both to a Northern Virginia blog and to Independent reporter Jason Jacks.
The substance of Miller’s strange statements in the Independent story might lead one to conclude that Miller himself was the source of one if not both of the leaks, possibly to ensure his accusation received press coverage.
No one will know the truth about what happened in the executive session or how the proceedings might have been leaked until one of Miller’s fellow supervisors speaks out. But a review of the facts is instructive:
During the Tuesday, September 15 executive session: Miller said something about the hiring process and the final slate of candidates for the county administrator job.
Within hours: Dated September 16 but reported as “today,” so likely after midnight that same evening – a story about Miller’s statement appeared on the Crystal Clear Conservative blog:
Today, in unusual fashion, Loudoun County Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) attacks his fellow Loudoun BOS for not having a minority candidate in the final round of recruits for a new county administrator. He referred to other BOS members as being bigots.
Less than 24 hours later: The CCC blog post and quotes from Miller appear in a newspaper story. Though the Independent article is dated “September 17″ on the page, their Website software – Drupal – embeds the actual date each post is begun in the URL.
The story by Jason Jacks was started on “2009-09-16,” the same date as the CCC blog post:
Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) is denying claims made online that he called fellow members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors “bigots” during a lengthy closed-door meeting in Leesburg Sep. 15…
The press and residents are not permitted at these gatherings, but the Crystal Clear Conservative blog said that Miller verbally “attacked” other supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting for not including a minority among the final candidates for the job. The blog also said that Miller “referred to other BOS members as being bigots.”
“That is absolutely not true,” Miller shot…
Though it’s unclear whom the board has interviewed so far since personnel hirings are confidential, Miller did acknowledge that he has concerns about the process.
“I think we should be looking at a more diverse pool of candidates,” he said.
Miller would not comment on whether he intends to pass along his concerns to any civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP.
Now let’s review the facts.
Within a 24-hour period, Miller’s statement from a private meeting the previous day is reported on both the blog and newspaper Web sites, and in the latter story Miller confirmed the substance of the blog report. Although Miller denied accusing the other supervisors of “bigotry,” he then proceeded to confirm he thought the hiring process potentially merited reporting to organizations that police the public sector for racist policies and actions.
Miller’s statements to the reporter comprised a denial that is not really a denial at all – and the substance of the story contradicts its headline. If one attempts to discern the actual point of the Independent article, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s simply a platform for Miller to publicize the political message begun in the private session the previous day.
The essence of Miller’s message is: The board of supervisors conducted a hiring process which gives indications of racism, and which I publicly denounce.
This brings up the question of how the story leaked so efficiently that it evolved into a newspaper report promoting Miller’s message within 24 hours.
The author of Crystal Clear Conservative wrote to me:
My source, who wishes to be unidentified, did not give any indication that Stevens leaked this out to the press for additional attention.
I believe the CCC author would have no reason to lie to me, and her coverage of Miller is generally very critical, so the possibility she conspired with Miller to get him some PR seems unlikely. But her statement above also is worded such that CCC herself does not deny the ultimate source of the leak could have been Miller.
Jacks, a good reporter with whom I am acquainted, did not respond to a request for comment about the story – which is no surprise since he certainly would not say anything about a confidential source and has no obligation to reveal anything to a small-time local blog anyway. So all we have to go on is the that in a short period of time Jacks found the CCC blog post, got the quotes from Miller and turned it into a news story the substance of which is actually contradictory.
Though a great blog, CCC is not exactly Fox News in terms of public awareness, so it’s notable Jacks found the post and whipped up a story so soon after the private meeting.
But it is strange that a local blog post in itself would have been the genesis for a news story. (A local liberal blogger picked up on this point while entirely missing the substance of the Independent article – either as a result of myopia or plain dishonesty).
All kinds of unattributed statements appear on blogs, and one like in the CCC post seems hardly worthy of news coverage. It’s one a reporter, I would think, in most cases would not bother to make phone calls about, and certainly would not have expected Stevens Miller to have any inclination to comment on.
However, the blog post ACCOMPANIED BY a pointed quote from Stevens Miller, delivered as a package, could be considered raw material for a news report. As a news report, it is bizarre; but applying Occcam’s razor, the simplest solution is that Stevens Miller wanted the CCC blog post to be found so he could use it to get his message out.
For now this is all supposition on my part, but even a cursory review of the events must lead one to conclude it worked out very conveniently for Stevens Miller.
A final interesting issue – and one which I believe will become more interesting in the weeks to come – is the utter silence from all the Democrat and Independent supervisors who now have been publicly accused of bias and possibly privately called bigots.
(I am leaving the two Republican supervisors out of the discussion because a Democrat calling Republicans racists is the quintessential dog-bites-man story, and they are just two votes out of nine in the hiring process).
If Stevens Miller had NOT called the other supervisors bigots, and someone had concocted an out and out lie in the leak to CCC blog, one would think somebody out of the entire board would have spoken up to defend Miller from such potent false claim.
One of the supervisors, a Democrat, told me:
I have decided to be quiet in public about this issue, because we are in the middle of the most important decision this Board will make during our tenure. As important as many of the other challenges and opportunities we face are, I believe this one will have the greatest impact of all. We are hiring the top county employee, who will be responsible for wise use of our tax dollars, leadership for all our employees, and stewardship of so much that impacts our lives. I do not want to do anything to jeopardize the process we are undertaking, and because it is done in executive session, I want to honor the confidentiality and sensitivity of a fair process.
Once we are ready to make a decision and announce it publicly, I would be happy to talk.
This is a very reasonable statement and prudent course of action, and none of the supervisors has any responsibility to reveal jack to a local conservative blogger anyway about what happened in executive session. But it’s also hardly a vigorous defense of Stevens Miller against what would have to be considered a scurrilous false statement conveyed to the CCC blog and reported in the only remaining newspaper serving eastern Loudoun county.
I think the absence of a single syllable of public defense of Stevens Miller from his fellow supervisors, and the fact Miller himself echoed the accusation of bigotry in statements the following day, serve to support the notion that he did in fact call the other supervisors bigots.
If this is the case, it is not surprising the other supervisors – for the most part on the liberal side of the spectrum – are silent. In the liberal playbook, the charge of racism is used to stifle debate. It is the accusation that implies such dreadful moral condemnation that once leveled cannot be refuted. Voices must hush, heads shall bow, and the accuser is declared winner of all arguments.
Most sensible people recognize such shallow argument as the patent nonsense it is, sloganeering rather than thinking. When prominent Democrats attempt to employ the tactic on the national stage, the American public now responds with a collective snort of derision.
But reality apparently has not sunk in here at the local level. Looking across the political landscape in Virginia during this state election season, one has to wonder if many of the Democrat candidates have been fooled into thinking they could ride to victory this November on the same wave which carried so many Democrats to victories in elections from 2006 through 2008.
If Stevens Miller believes he can win Tom Rust’s 86th District seat through racial politics, I would suggest he is attempting to ride a wave which crested earlier this year and became a dank ebb tide over the summer.
The Democrat moment was 11 months but also an eon ago – the eon before Democrats showed what they do when they control the federal government. In the learning process since, Virginians have discovered that much of what they were told prior to the historic 2008 elections was a sham.
Making an incendiary accusation that bigotry could have tainted the hiring process in Loudoun County might have temporarily stunned his fellow supervisors into silence, but in my view it is an act of political grandstanding that voters in the 86th district will recognize as a ploy with no basis in reality.
UPDATE: Full disclosure – I am a Tom Rust supporter, as anyone can tell from the ad in our sidebar. But I am also one of the few area conservatives who seems not to have a reservoir of animus toward Supervisor Miller, and I think I’m one of the few who has never written about him here. From my minor communications with him, I have found Miller to be reasonable for someone on the other side of most issues. Racial politics, however, is in my opinion one of the primary scourges of modern culture, and I will call it out when it arises in my neighborhood.