Published on Monday, October 22, 2001 in the Sydney Morning Herald
Media Suppress the News that Bush Lost Election to Gore
by Charles Laurence in Washington
The most detailed analysis yet of the contested Florida votes from last year's presidential election - with the potential to question President George Bush's legitimacy - is being withheld by the news organizations that commissioned it.
Results of the inspection of more than 170,000 votes rejected as unreadable in the "hanging chad" chaos of last November's vote count were ready at the end of August.
The study was commissioned early this year by a consortium including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times and the broadcaster CNN. The cost was more than $2 million.
Now, however, spokesmen for the consortium say that they decided to postpone the story of the analysis by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago for lack of resources and lack of interest in the face of the enormous story after the September 11 attacks.
Newspapers were saying last week that the final phase of the analysis, counting the 170,000 votes, had been postponed.
"Our belief is that the priorities of the country have changed, and our priorities have changed," said Steven Goldstein, vice-president of corporate communications at Dow Jones, owner of The Wall Street Journal.
Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times, said: "The consortium agreed that because of the war, because of our lack of resources, we were postponing the vote-count investigation. But this is not final. The intention is to go forward."
However David Podvin, an investigative journalist who runs an independent Web page, Make Them Accountable, said he had been tipped off that the consortium was covering up the results.
He refused to disclose his source other than to describe him as a former media executive whom he knew "as an accurate conduit of information" and who claimed that the consortium "is deliberately hiding the results of its recount because [former Democrat vice-president Al] Gore was the indisputable winner".
He also claims that a New York Times journalist involved in the recount project had told "a former companion" that the Gore victory margin was big enough to create "major trouble for the Bush presidency if this ever gets out".
"The goosiness, the sensitivity, that the press which organized this analysis is now showing to publishing the results and the persistence of questions about the Florida ballots raise questions," said Dr John Mason, a professor of political science at William Paterson University, in New Jersey.
"There is a sensitivity over the legitimacy of this president."
National Opinion Research Center staff have been puzzled by the idea that the media would lack the resources because, they said, they had computer programs already designed and fitted for the final count.
The Telegraph, London
Copyright © 2001 Sydney Morning Herald