The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

06 May 2005

Entrapment Methods Draw Journalistic Scrutiny

Spokane Rocked

Newspapers Smear Republicans With Shady Tactics

A day after bombshell child sex and gay chat room participation allegations against Spokane Mayor Jim West rocked the Pacific Northwest, the focus is now turning to the tactics used to entrap him, as well as the effort to smear other Republicans by association.

Spokane's liberal, family-owned Spokesman-Review, has long had an adversarial relationship with the politically conservative region of about a half-million residents.

Was it fair to purposely lure the mayor into an Internet trap set by the paper? Have ethical boundaries been crossed?

Additionally, is it reasonable for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to use this story to smear all Republicans by association, as anti-gay hypocrites?

If West was a liberal Democrat, the news media wouldn't dream of luring him into a chat room with with a hired 18-year-old male, all to supposedly suggest he molested boys as a scout leader in the 1970s.

While West admits falling into the Internet trap, he denies the main allegations, saying they've been made by two convicted felons. Whether West molested them as boys is unclear and this entrapment provides no insight into that. For now, he's guilty of hypocrisy, not a felony.

Seattle's two daily newspapers took markedly different approaches to both angles of this story, the allegations themselves and the ethics of journalistic entrapment.

While the Seattle Times tread carefully into the matter, understanding the backlash potential, the partisan Seattle Post-Intelligencer seemed downright giddy about the opportunity for a Republican smear-fest.

The P-I was shameless in emphasizing West's GOP ties and "anti-gay agenda" in the very first sentence, while the Times rightly focused on the allegations themselves and immediate civic fallout.

Let's compare:

(Seattle Times- Jonathan Martin- Andrew Garber- Ralph Thomas- 6 May 2005)

SPOKANE — Jim West, the mayor of the state's second-largest city and a powerful former legislator, hunkered down in his City Hall office yesterday as allegations that he molested two boys in the 1970s touched off what one state senator called an "earthquake in Spokane politics."

West strongly denied reports in yesterday's Spokesman-Review newspaper accusing him of pedophilia and of using the perks of his office to entice young men in a gay chat room.

At a noontime news conference yesterday, he called the molestation allegations "incidents that supposedly occurred 24 years ago as alleged by two convicted felons and about which I have no knowledge."

He acknowledged visiting a gay chat line on the Internet and said he had "relations with adult men." The Spokesman-Review hired a computer expert to pose as an 18-year-old in the chat room to help establish West's participation in the online forum.

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer- Chris McGann- Kathy Mulady- 6 May 2005)

Spokane Mayor Jim West, who championed an anti-gay agenda during his tenure as one of the most powerful Republicans in the Legislature, yesterday admitted to using the trappings of his current office to entice what he thought was a young adult man but denied allegations that he molested two young boys more than 20 years ago.

West confirmed to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane that he offered gifts, favors and a City Hall internship during Internet chats with a man he believed was 18. The online pen pal was actually a forensic computer expert working for the newspaper. After the story hit the newsstands yesterday, West sent city staffers a remorseful e-mail.

"I want to sincerely apologize to you personally for the shame I have brought to the Mayor's office and the city," West wrote. "I stumbled and let you down."

The accusations of child molestation stem from The Spokesman-Review's three-year investigation and interviews with two felons who said West fondled them and forced them to perform sexual acts on him when they were Boy Scouts.

Notice the papers can't even agree on whether West admits or denies the chat room allegations?

The P-I also wrongly hedged the lead paragraph to their ethics story, claiming experts were divided on the tactics used, while the Times was clear that this isn't a generally accepted journalistic practice.

Here's how Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times led her ethics story:

The use by The Spokesman-Review of a computer expert posing as an 18-year-old man in a gay chat room raises ethical questions about whether or under what circumstances news organizations should use such techniques.

"I think it's a risk, a journalistic risk, to ask people to believe you're telling the truth when you're engaging in a fictional approach," said Aly Colon, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla., school dedicated to teaching journalists. "The threshold has to be very high."

The paper reported that Spokane Mayor Jim West used his public position to entice young men he met in an online chat room on a gay Web site. The newspaper detailed West's activities at the site.

Here's the P-I version, by Dan Richman:

Ethics experts were divided yesterday whether The Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper acted properly when it hired an investigator to pose online as an underage gay boy, who was then solicited for sex by Spokane Mayor Jim West.

West was targeted yesterday in a major Spokesman-Review story alleging that the mayor has a 25-year history of using positions of public trust to develop sexual relationships with boys and young men.

For part of that story, the paper in November hired a Spokane-based forensic computer expert who has helped track child pornography through the use of online chat technology. The computer expert, whose name the paper did not reveal, posed as Moto-Brock, a 17-year-old high school student, first on the Web site and later on AOL Instant Messenger.

The computer expert, a former U.S. Customs Service agent, kept records of the conversations showing that West offered Moto-Brock a City Hall internship, raising the question of whether the mayor was abusing his office.

The P-I reporter manages to find another instructor from the Poynter Institute to partially defend the Spokesman-Review's practices, but nobody seems to be singing the paper's praises, so how are experts divided?

However this story ultimately plays out for Mayor West, the newspapers in charge of informing the public, outside of perhaps the Seattle Times, cannot be trusted due to personal agendas made instantly clear in their coverage so far.

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly, never one to miss the party, uses this as an excuse for a below-the-belt slam job on Spokane and Eastern Washington.

What does any of this have to do with the allegations against Jim West? It's just another arrogant Seattle attack on a conservative region of Washington state:

Surface impressions suggest that Spokane is a city of propriety, peace and order, "a well-groomed town on a tight leash," as Inland Empire native Timothy Egan dubbed it in his 1992 book, "Breaking Blue."

Look in the city's closets, however, and you'll find secrets divulged in the last 25 years.

The infamous "South Hill Rapist," who stalked Spokane's prosperous neighborhoods from 1979 to early 1981, turned out to be Kevin Coe, son of the managing editor of the now-defunct Spokane Chronicle.

In a bizarre twist, the rapist's imperious and influential mother went to prison after trying to hire a hit man to kill the judge and prosecutor who convicted her son.

Oklahoma-born jazz musician Billy Tipton played at clubs around the country, married and adopted children, and finally settled in the Spokane Valley. A frantic call from Tipton's adopted son in 1989 summoned paramedics to his home.

As the dying musician was laid out, and stripped of his clothes, one paramedic turned and asked, "Son, did your father have a sex change operation?" Both learned, at that moment, the ultra-secret of Tipton's life. "He" was really a she.

Working on a master's degree in the late 1980s -- a history of sheriffs who preceded him -- Pend Oreille County Sheriff Anthony Bamonte came upon an unsolved half-century-old murder. It was the fatal 1935 shooting of a marshal in the town of Metaline Falls. As detailed by Egan, Bamonte uncovered an extensive cover-up involving the Spokane police. It centered on a detective who took bribes, was linked to a theft ring and may have shot more than one man.

Check here, Orbusmax, NorthWest Republican, Drunken Republican of Spokane and the liberal Blatherwatch, for the latest on this saga. Matt of Rosenblog fame has his own analysis now up at Sound Politics.


  • One can remember about 10 years ago when a prominent liberal Seattle figure had serious sexual alligations floating around him. None within Seattle media would touch it. It finally came out to the general public when a local talk show had a guest on his program (a talk show host from Eastern Washington) who happened to mention it. Because the Talk show host allowed the comments to be aired he immediately was fired. And this was a supposedly conservative radio station he was fired from.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 13:55  

  • Mind you I am extremely outraged at what West did. The Republican party of this state would do well to condemn West, make a statement that he is no longer welcome at Republican events, and call for his removal from office. And, West if he has any ounce of decency left should do what Judge Little did.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 14:04  

  • My comments aren't meant to defend West, only to point out he hasn't been found guilty of anything other than being lured into a chat room, by his own admission.

    There's no criminal investigation planned into the accusations of molestation in the 1970s. He may have done it, but this sleazy newspaper investigation doesn't prove anything.

    West could be dirty, but you can't trust these papers to cover it fairly.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 14:22  

  • I realize that and you have a very important point about the lengths that this newspaper has gone to in order to "Get West" while there are many rumors about prominent liberals who are engaging in sex scandals going around that the news media won't touch with a ten foot pole.

    That said the State Republicans should act immediately to distance themselves from West by condemning him in the harshest term possible. Will they they do that? From my observations of the state Republican party my guess would be no.

    And also as one who considers himself a conservative but not necessarily a Republican (certainly not a member of the Washington State Republicans) I am outraged that the state party would have let West rise to as high as he did within the party.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 14:31  

  • Just what West has admitted to makes him dirty.

    But you are absolutely right about the newsmedia. They are trying to smear all Republicans because of what West did.

    Also they are trying to use this to push for the gay rights bill currently before the state legislature. Sure the legislature has closed Sine Die, but there is always next year.

    Even if West is gay, it doesn't mean he agrees with the homosexual agenda as promoted by the gay lobby. One can be gay but still not believe that gays need special rights since they are already protected by the same laws everyone else is.

    One can be gay, but still believe that marriage should continue to be defined as being one male and one female.

    So just because he is strongly against those two issues, it doesn't make him a hypocrite and that needs to be clearly pointed out.

    Not all Gays believe in the homosexual agenda. The news media is trying to make it out that if you are gay then you MUST support special rights. You MUST support gay marriage.

    That said, no gay should have a position of leadership in the Republican Party. If they want to vote for us because they believe in the majority of our issues, that's great, but they they should have no place in positions where they have an influence in directing the direction of the GOP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 14:45  

  • I think the WA GOP should hold off on any actions until more information is available.

    I'm hearing privately from some Republicans who want West's neck chopped off, and I think it's wrong to do that until there's more information.

    Also, conservatives should consider the idea of defending him, too, should that become necessary.

    It's not a crime to be a hypocrite, molesting children is different. On the latter accusation, however, there isn't even an investigation, much less a charge.

    So why do Republicans already consider him convicted of a crime?

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 15:00  

  • How can one defend him? He has admitted to everything but the molestation charge.

    Again, I don't see him as a hypocrite as I don't believe he has ever made any anti-gay remarks. Just because he was strongly against the special rights bill doesn't mean he hated gays and it doesn't make him a hypocrite.

    But he did misrepresent himself. And for that I as a conservative am filled with comtempt for him. His actions are clearly indefensible, and again, I am just refering to the stuff he admitted to. Of course words don't express well enough how contemptable he is if the other stuff is true.

    Republicans should act with one voice and publicly condemn West and call for his resignation. If they don't, then guilt by association will drift into the public's mindset.

    And, not totally undeserved as the Republican party didn't stop him from becoming the leading Republican in Olympia.

    If a ship is sinking, don't get on it. I as a conservative join with those who have called for West's neck. He has betrayed us all and for that he needs to pay.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 16:09  

  • What West did doesn't make him a hypocrite.

    It makes him a pervert.

    But not a hypocrite.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 16:13  

  • There is no way I could ever even consider defending him. West has condemned himself. Just to what he has admitted to it makes him guilty. I join with those who have talked to you privately in calling for West's neck.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 16:17  

  • The only thing he's admitted to is the chat room entrapment. Molestation is a whole different ballgame. If he's guilty of that, I'll be the first to condemn him.

    If Republicans ever concocted a scheme like this to nail a Dem, we'd be raked over the coals.

    Can't believe how easily we are manipulated by the left.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 16:28  

  • I agree that the tactics the newspaper used were sleezy. But he did admit that he has had sex with males. Also, what you said is entrapment, I really have no problem with entrapment. I know it is against the law for law enforcement to do this, though I have never understood why. The only time I see entrapment as being wrong is if law enforcement set up a situation where the person been entraped is made to feel that harm would come to him or others unless he goes along with the illegal activity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 16:57  

  • West used gay chat rooms to find men who he later would have sex with. That has been proven, and West has admitted to doing it.


    Now Republicans need to chop off his head.

    And West, if he has even an ounce of decency left in him needs to do what Judge Little did.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 17:00  

  • He admits to visiting chat rooms and having relations with adult men.

    That's not a crime and there are gay Republican groups that might have something to say about what a couple of people here are advocating.

    It isn't a crime to be gay or for Jim West to have relations with adult men. That's his private life.

    If he's a hypocrite, that's a political issue, for voters to decide where they stand.

    There's a mob mentality at work here, the Spokesman-Review and P-I are manipulating Republicans. Sure is clear who's steering this ship!

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 17:06  

  • First I couldn't really care less what the gay Republicans have to say. They have no place in the Republican Party. And why do they call themselves "Log Cabin" Republicans? What do Log Cabins have to do with sticking their penises up each others asses?

    Second, we need to hold people up to higher standards. It does not have to amount to being a crime in order for it to be wrong does it?

    Crime or no crime, what West did was digustingly wrong. It wasn't hypocritical, but it was perverted, and we need to demand that our politicians hold themselves to a higher level.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 17:34  

  • Are you really saying that how one conducts himself in private has nothing to do with his fitness to hold public office? No we need to hold our public leaders to a higher standard. Higher even than we even hold ourself to.

    That said, I can't even think of ever doing what West did. And yes, I am still talking about the stuff he has admitted. He is one sick pervert that's for sure.

    The Republican legislators should be ashamed that they ever voted him into a leadership position

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 17:49  

  • The ship you are talking about is sinking quicker than the Titanic. The Washington GOP better get on a life raft real fast.

    And the best way for them to do so is to issue an official public condemnation of West as quickly as possible and call for his resignation.

    They might have already delayed too long.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 17:53  

  • Looks like liberals started this whole matter, with the Spokesman-Review's "three-year investigation" to out West as homosexual. Now they sit back and laugh as we fight with each other.

    They still know how to outsmart us, as we beg Democrats for forgiveness for daring to have a closet gay in our party.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 21:13  

  • **as we beg Democrats for forgiveness for daring to have a closet gay in our party**

    A closet gay???
    just one?

    good lord...
    seems as if there are more gays in the Republican party then there are straight folk

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 22:09  

  • Go to hell you liberal punk (I am refering to the last message by an anonymous person).

    Sure ONE guy failed to live up to the standards and values of the GOP.

    I guess that could never happen to anyone in the Democratic Party because they don't have any standards or values to begin with.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 23:05  

  • Yeah, Brian, you got that right. They do have an avantage over us. The advantage of course is that they are unprincipled. They are still supporting a rapist (Bill Clinton) and look how long they stood with Mike Lowry and Brock Adams.

    I really don't know what we can do to counteract that as I don't think standing by any pervert who happens to be a Republican leader is the best way to go. I have no problem with being unprincipled as long as it is to serve a larger purpose, but in this case, standing beside West would only benefit our enemy in the culture war.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 23:11  

  • You are right. The liberal newspaper broke practically every rule of journalitic integrity when going after West.

    And it was certainly motivated by their extreme liberal biases.

    But the problem is that what they found out was true. At least the part about him visiting gay chat rooms and having sex with the males that he would make contact with there.

    This would have been prevented if other Republican leaders in the party would have found some way to force West from office. But you know Olympia, buddy buddy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 06 May, 2005 23:18  

  • I feel like we're going 'round in circles here, but I'll give it another try: I'm not going to move that we expel all gays from the Republican party, in the name of a culture war, or whatever.

    If he wants to meet men in chatrooms, that's his personal business. Did it affect his professional conduct? No.

    His only mistake is in using public resources to visit such a site. That's a no-no, and fair game, otherwise, being gay isn't a reason to resign.

    You'd think in Seattle, they'd be celebrating Spokane's gay mayor, but instead they want his neck chopped off because he's a Republican.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 May, 2005 23:24  

  • When you are a public official very little of what you do is "personal business".

    I do hope that West IS the exception. I really believe that he is, but then again I never expected that he was gay, so I really don't have the contacts in Olympia and elsewhere to determine if this is the case. But I see no sign that he secretly filled Washington State Republican leadership positions with gays.

    I do know we have a few drunks in leadership positions, but I don't think any more gays.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 May, 2005 00:45  

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