There has been much written about fake news, the fakestream media and what some have called the “Enemedia.” There have been hundreds if not thousands of articles exposing false news stories designed to target political figures by other political figures using the media as the preferred “weapon of choice.”
Fake news kills. It kills careers. It kills peoples lives. It can ultimately kill our Constitutional Republic.
Sometimes journalists unwittingly become part of a conspiracy to take down public figures. Such was the case of Jilda Unruh, former investigative reporter for WPLG ABC Channel 10 News in Miami. The “target” was Herbert Cousins the former Inspector General for Miami-Dade Public Schools.
Francisco Alvarado in an August 2007 Miami New Times article wrote:
For more than two decades, Herbert Cousins headed field offices and trained undercover FBI agents. In 1990 he led a group that arrested Miami cult leader Yahweh ben Yahweh and 15 disciples of his sect on racketeering and capital murder charges. “I risked my life on a number of occasions to get the job done,” Cousins explains.
So in 2003, he was an easy choice for a group of lawmen tasked to recommend a candidate to become the Miami-Dade school board’s first inspector general. In May of that year the board unanimously awarded Cousins, who is also a former teacher and principal, a $140,000 annual salary and the power to weed out waste and fraud.
Unfortunately Cousins no longer holds the title, thanks in part to Rudy Crew.
[ … ]
In a civil lawsuit filed March 6, Cousins alleges Crew conspired with several others to plant unflattering stories in the press that eventually forced him out. He is among four former high-ranking school district employees who have sued the Miami-Dade superintendent in the past two years.
Crew wanted Cousins out, Cousins claims, because “I refused to allow him to interfere or control my office’s investigations.” [Emphasis added]
So how did Jilda Unruh, an Emmy Award winning investigative journalist, get involved in the Herbert Cousins case?
In the March 21, 2006 Sworn Statement of Michael Hoover Lawson is the following conversation concerning Ms. Unruh and Mr. Cousins:
Q. What did she [Unruh] have to say?
A. She said that Joe Garcia from the school board had called her while she was on vacation with her nieces and nephews. She was shocked over that. He wanted her back immediately to run a story on Herbert Cousins, and from what I can remember, the story involved Herbert Cousins, supposedly a business he was running while working for the school board. She felt Joe Garcia felt something needed to be done to the point of Herbert Cousins and that everyone needed to be aware of it.
Q. So Garcia was asking her to come back from vacation to run this story attacking Herbert Cousins?
Q. And that’s what she told you?
A. That is what she told me. He [Garcia] wanted her to come back in town and get this thing done. [Emphasis added]
The following is the Sworn Statement of Ana Rivas Logan, former Miami-Dade School Board member, concerning Ms. Unruh and Mr. Cousins:
Q. Now, shortly before the issue of renewing his [Cousins] contract came up for a vote by the Board, in early August of 2005, were you approached by Jilda Unduh, of Channel 10?
Q. And did she [Unruh] tell you certain things regarding Mr. Cousins’ effectiveness, and make accusations of corruption, related to Mr. Cousins?
A. Yes, she did.
Q. Could you describe those for us?
A. We were at a meeting, Board Members have to meet in the Sunshine. We were having a meeting to discuss — I don’t remember the exact matter of the meeting. But she [Unruh] walked into the meeting, which the media — the media — it’s open to the public. She walked into the meeting and came right for me, with a binder in her hand. The binder had tabs. And she asked me, you know, was I aware that Mr. Cousins was basically — in effect she was stating the number of cases he had closed, which was a very normal number. And then she also asked me if I knew that he had, had a company, and was using School Board employees to run this company, the School Board time. So the implication there was he was not doing his job, as refers to working for the Board, he was using resources to carry on his private business that he had at the time. And so she kept pointing to the binders, as a source of information, or corroborating paperwork. And I asked her, “Can I please see that?” And she immediately turned around and went on to ask another Board member information. But, you know, it was suspicious, she wouldn’t give me the binder, if it was fact.
Q. And she did this right before the vote on the extension of the [Cousins] contract: correct?
A. Yes, absolutely.
Q. Now, would it be fair to summarize her discussion against Mr. Cousins as being he was highly ineffective and he was engaged in corruption, by using School Board employees for a personal business?
Q. And were those discussions — did you — presented to you in that fashion — did you change your vote, regarding the extension of his contract?
A. I absolutely changed my decision regarding Mr. Cousin’s contract. I found her accusations and what I thought was, you know, was research: was investigative reporting.
Q. And have you come to be — have you become aware subsequently that certain of the accusations that she made were completely false?
A. I have since become aware of that. And I became aware that while I was a Board Member, that the accusations were totally inaccurate.
Q. Now, we’re talking about the accusations made by Jilda Unruh?
A. Yes, the accusations make by Jilda Unruh. [Emphasis added]
Politically motivated character assassination is nothing to be shrugged off as not real. It happens at every level. Whether politicians on the Miami-Dade School Board, to members of Congress against the President of the United States. Fake news kills careers, destroys lives and can lead to even worse.
Fake news is real, it is dangerous and it discredits the media and undermines our political system.