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Did The Associated Press Stalk Rick Berg's House Too? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   

Earlier this week, on Wednesday afternoon, campaign staffers for U.S. Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp gathered in Mandan, ND, to celebrate at the home of their winning candidate.  It was an unplanned, informal, invitation-only event.  At some point Associated Press reporter Dale Wetzel showed up at the residence where Heitkamp and her family lives. Wetzel showed up and started shooting pictures and video of the people who arrived and/or departed.  

For context, keep in mind that Heitkamp had given a speech at 2:00 a.m. that morning, before a crowd that was still a couple hundred strong.  After finishing the speech, talking to friends and family and heading home, Heitkamp couldn't have gotten in to bed before 3:00 a.m.  And that's being optimistic.  

Right around noon on Wednesday, we at NorthDecoder.com were the first to break the story that Berg and his math team had decided it was time to give a concession speech.  Keep in mind that if Heitkamp had gotten to bed at 3:00 a.m., this news was breaking nine hours later.  I imagine she might have been sleeping at some point in there.  At least I hope she got some sleep.  

Wetzel clearly decided Heitkamp owed him an interview -- or something -- as he showed up at her campaign office and her home. I don't know what time he got to her home, but it doesn't really matter.  When he was unsuccessful in finding her or extracting a statement from Heitkamp, Wetzel "camped out" in front of Heitkamp's house.  (And, no, he didn't set up a tent, roll out his sleeping bag, set out lawn chairs, start a campfire, heat up a can of baked beans, or fire up his Coleman lantern.) While there, Wetzel shot video and took pictures of staffers and friends as they walked into the private gathering. He got right up in their faces with his camera(s), and asked questions. By all accounts, Wetzel was intrusive and offensive. But, dammit, Wetzel was going to get an exclusive if he had to be a complete ass to everyone on Heidi's staff to get it.

By 3:31 p.m., Wetzel had already gotten to a computer written an entire story, submitted photographs, his story and photos were (presumably, though I don't know this) approved by someone, and the story was circulating on the AP Wire.  Some copy editor (presumably) gave it the title "Heitkamp Hides Out After Winning ND Senate Race." The story included three photos Wetzel apparently felt were newsworthy. They were photos of the front of Heitkamp's home and of her closed campaign office. The story went out on the AP wire, accusing Heitkamp of going "into hiding":

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — After scratching out a victory in North Dakota's hotly contested U.S. Senate race, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has gone into hiding.

Heitkamp was refusing to talk to reporters Wednesday. She passed along messages through campaign workers that she's taking Wednesday off to be with her family and will answer questions Thursday.

San Francisco Chronicle

Again, this story had been written, published and circulated on the AP Wire 13.5 hours after Heitkamp had given her early morning speech (at 2:00 a.m.), and then (see above) might have gotten to bed by 3:00 a.m., or 4:00 a.m. and slept -- I hope -- until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m.

I'm going to "guess" that Wetzel left Heitkamp's home around 3:10 p.m.  Somehow he got the story about Heitkamp "hiding out" written and published by 3:31 p.m., which I think is probaby 12.5 hours after she went to bed earlier that morning.  Let's assume, too, that she got a healthy 7 hours of sleep.  She would have slept until 10:00 a.m. or so.  Let's give her an hour to grab a shower, eat breakfast and read the news online (or the paper), so that's 11:00 a.m.  That's only an hour before we broke the story about Berg conceding.  

That's when things probably got crazy for Heitkamp. Do you think, maybe, she had some things to do at that point? Maybe some phone calls with her campaign staff?  Discussions with staff and consultants about possible recounts?  Calls to/from family members and some close supporters?  Maybe a phone call with someone at the DSCC?  Maybe a couple calls with media and fundraising consultants?  Perhaps a phone call -- or, as it turns out, two -- with Rick Berg?  Maybe some discussions and planning for the statewide tour she was going to do?

My point?:  Maybe Heidi had more important things to do than to talk to Dale Wetzel -- who was stalking her family's home -- during the first 3 or 4 hours after she woke up that morning.

Early Friday morning, a friend of mine wrote something on his Facebook wall about Kevin Cramer and the Farm Bill. (I don't know how "public" the Facebook post is, but here's a link.)  A Republican friend took exception to the comment, writing only, "After two days, it starts anew. . .. Well played Bob!"  I couldn't help myself, so I responded.  Here's what I wrote:

The local AP writer waited almost half a day to accuse Heidi of "hiding out" because she wanted to let her staff (and herself) take less than 24 hours outside the spotlight after being up until 3:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. They set up camp outside Heidi's house, shooting pictures and video of friends and family as they came and left, desperately looking for something worth writing about. It was offensive, on a grand scale. By comparison, Bob's 2 days seems like an eternity.

Wetzel saw what I wrote and took exception:

Dale Wetzel   It's offensive to seek an interview with a newly elected US Senator? What freaking planet are you living on, Chad? By the way, there was no "camp." There was no "They." It was me. You have no clue what you're talking about.

The idea of thinking it was okay for Heitkamp to, perhaps, want to be left alone for a few hours was so crazy that I had apparently been transformed into an alien from another planet. I responded:

Not the Fox news planet. Were you at the Victory Party Wednesday morning at 2:30 or so when she spoke? I honestly don't recall seeing you there. Her family lives in that house, Dale. You parked out front and shot pictures and video of my friends as they were walking in. I know what I'm talking about. I know about the whole "public figure" thing. I know exactly who was there, Dale. I have pictures. I'll hope for better from the AP in the future, because they've done better at times in the past. 

I wonder how many times you've done that at John Hoeven's house when he wasn't available for half a day.

And Dale:

Dale Wetzel OK, Chad. Show me the "camp." There was just me. Show me the video. You can't. There isn't any. Was I at the party at 2:30 a.m.? No, I was working in the office, and in any case Berg hadn't conceded the race yet. That didn't happen until noon Wednesday. That was why I was looking for comment. Againt, you have no idea what you're talking about. You have no proof because there isn't any. Put up or shut up. Not available for half a day? It was closer to 48 hours.

Having been challeged to "put up or shut up," I posted this photo on my own Facebook wall (which probably was confusing to people who hadn't seen what I'd posted under Bob's comment):

DaleW

I added this caption to the photo:

Sometimes "set up camp" doesn't mean you've got tents, camp chairs, a coleman lantern and a fire pit. — with Dale Wetzel.

(For the record, the time-stamp in the meta-data for this photo says it was taken at 3:06 p.m. Wetzel couldn't have been there much longer than that, as his story went out on the wire at 3:31 p.m.)  

And I "tagged" Wetzel in the photo.

And here's the rest of our exchange, after that:


Josh [last name deleted to protect the innocent] Pretty sure that guy is peeing.
Dale Wetzel You asked about Hoeven -- I've never had a situation with him where he locked his campaign headquarters and wouldn't answer his phone for 48 hours.
Mary  [Last name deleted to protect the innocent] Don't they understand she needed some time to decompress? Crimony! Bunch of vipers.

Chad Nodland  This isn't Hollywood, Dale. It's Mandan, North Dakota. Your actions were over the top.
Chad Nodland And you don't work for the National Enquirer.
Dale Wetzel  Sure, seeking comment from a new US Senator is just like the ol' National Enquirer. Do you even realize how ridiculous that sounds? What was over the top is locking the campaign headquarters, throwing a party at the senator's house and telling me that A), she wasn't there and B), she wanted some privacy. Good grief.

Now, I want to talk about this.  

Five hours after Heitkamp woke up that morning -- and I'll admit I'm assuming she got seven hours of sleep, and that might not be true -- the Associated Press took the position that Heidi Heitkamp was "hiding out."  

Rational people should be offended by that.  It's ridiculous, biased, absurd, asinine reporting, without even getting into the fact Heitkamp owes nothing to the North Daktoa media.  But -- since you asked -- let's get into that a little, too.

Consider how biased North Dakota's media was to Heitkamp and all Democrats this year, as always.  No North Dakota newspaper endorsed Heitkamp. In fact, none of them endorsed any Democrat for U.S. Senate, U.S. House or Governor. Not one.The Fargo Forum and its other papers published a huge gush-fest for Rick Berg the week before the election, after publishing ridiculous polling numers showing Berg up by 10 points.  Wetzel himself wrote a story, published at 5:30 p.m., the evening before election day, called "5 things to know going into the 2012 general election in North Dakota."  One Republican candidiate should have to report one of Dale's five things as an "in kind campaign contribution."  (In case you're wondering which one, it's the one with the theft conviction (later scrubbed from her record) who lied to her family about possibly having breast cancer, so she could get breast augmentation surgery; later calling the surgery a gift from her deceased mother; none of which was reported on by Dale Wetzel.)

Were I Heidi Heitkamp, I'd treat North Dakota's media like North Dakota's media has treated her. I'd ignore them. I would find other ways to get my news out. She had a fantastic new media component to her campaign, and maybe she should just stick with that once she's in the Senate. She got no favors from Wetzel or anybody else in North Dakota's press, though Berg, Cramer, Dalrymple and all the other Repubicans certainly did.  Heitkamp owes nobody in North Dakota's media any favors.  And she didn't owe Wetzel the exclusive to which he thought he was entitled, so much so that he stalked her home.  

But we can't even attribute the five hours Wetzel wasn't able to get his "exclusive" from Heidi to her treating the press badly.  It was FIVE HOURS.

You'll see in my Facebook comments that I asked Wetzel how many times he had stalked John Hoeven's home. His dishonest response was that Hoeven had never locked his campaign office and refused to answer his phone for 48 hours.  Well -- besides the fact that it wasn't 48 hours; it was five hours -- I have a theory on this.  I think Wetzel thought it was okay to go to Heitkamp's house and harass her because Heitkamp is a woman. He never would have gone to a male U.S. Senator's (or senator-elect's)  house and harassed guests walking into his house.  We can predict that because history is a pretty good guide.

I'm sincerely convinced this is a gender thing.  I think Wetzel thinks he can stalk a woman U.S. Senator (elect) and get away with it because she's a woman.  I can think of no other explanation.  His "48 hours" claim was obviously nonsense, considering it had been less than 14 "real" hours and more like 5 if you count hours Heitkamp was awake.

I think Dale needs some time off. Maybe it's a good time for a two-week vacation. Maybe that would be a good opportunity to get a more reasonable perspective on things. And maybe he could also make time for some elimination of bias" training.  

Couldn't possibly hurt.


Comments (3)add comment

Michael J. Gaarder said:

...
I have to ask who the heck this Darren Gibbins is due to I have never heard of him, and yet he claims to be a major force in the “News” business. Reading all the posts on FB he seems to like the word assume in too many phrases so I would ‘assume’ his awards he is bragging about are also probably another fantasy of his! Interesting reading though with his ego, and arrogance just shinning though in each and every sentence! It is almost like arguing with that one kid in school that “knows everything”, yet has yet to experience his first beer but knows every brand and which one is best!

By the way I kind of lied, reading his fatuous babble wasn’t really interesting, it actually bored me so bad I had to go get a cup of coffee to keep awake as it almost put me to sleep.
 
November 13, 2012
Votes: +0

Marty again (same guy as the other two) said:

...
Can we all agree - Wetzel included - that the issue isn't the camping out and/or thinking he's entitled to an interview, but that he ran a story asserting Heidi had "gone into hiding." (Noteworthy also that Wetzel didn't write that "Republicans accuse Heidi of ... [going into hiding]" as is his usual form.)

But I think I know what happened. I watched the local news the day after the election, and they ran a clip showing the reporter chasing Berg to his pickup at 2:30 in the morning, when Rick had said that he didn't have anything further comment.

IF it was fair game for the tv station to make Berg look bad by showing the reporter chasing him out to his pickup at 2:30 a.m., then I suppose, arguably, it would have been fair game for Wetzel to write this accompanying story about his failed attempts to land an interview with Heidi. Retribution of sorts. Balance.

But the truth is, neither of these were fair game. The TV station was wrong to run that stupid video of the reporter chasing Berg for an interview at 2:30 a.m..

There is a station in Minneapolis - Fox 9 I believe - that does this every chance they get -- they'll try to track down an interview regarding some embarrassing story, and if the person is not willing to talk to the reporter, they will run that footage of the person refusing comment. Bill O'Reilly used to do this, I believe. Michael Moore has gotten rich doing it. It makes for some good entertainment.

But it is not "news."

Wetzel should know this. He responded in kind to the TV footage of Berg not talking to the reporter at 2:30 a.m.. He should have been above it.

And he is above it - he does know better. He knows he is not the story; he knows it is not "news" that a reporter doesn't get an interview. He can fight all he wants about whether he was camping out, but in doing so I believe he's trying to change the subject from what he is truly embarrassed about: he knows he shouldn't have written that story.
 
November 15, 2012
Votes: +0

nimrod's password said:

...
I want to know if Kevin Cramer is at work in Bismarck as PSC Commissioner, or if he is in DC at freshman orientation.
 
November 16, 2012
Votes: +0

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