Reporting on a new Republican radio ad attacking Senator Tammy Baldwin, Gannett reporter Bill Glauber again did not mention the newspaper chain’s own reporting of the senator’s attempted cover up of the scandal at the VA hospital in Tomah.
Instead, Glauber’s story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is written as if the criticisms in the ad are only charges by the Republican Party rather than facts reported by Gannett newspapers.
“They called it ‘candy land,’ the Tomah Veterans Affairs hospital that was over-prescribing opioids to veterans,” the ad by the Republican Senatorial National Committee states. “Good people got hurt, even died because of its actions.”
“Washington politicians like Baldwin and her staff knew this was happening and swept the problem under the rug,” the ad continued. “The inspector general report uncovered the scandal. Tammy Baldwin buried the report. Whistleblowers tried to tell Tammy the truth but Tammy Baldwin’s office told them not to talk to the press.”
Instead of providing readers with the context that supports the ad, Glauber frames it solely as a Republican attack.
“Republicans accuse Baldwin of failing to act in 2015 on problems at the facility,” Glauber wrote. “Baldwin disciplined top aides for bungling whistle blower complaints about the facility, including sitting on an inspector general’s report.”
But it isn’t just Republicans accusing her. Gannett newspapers reported her cover up at the time in multiple articles in the Green Bay Press Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Surprisingly, Glauber fails to give his own newspaper chain credit for their coverage of the scandal before the current election cycle.
The Green Bay Press Gazette broke the story in January 2016:
A whistleblower who learned in November that Baldwin had had a copy for months and hadn’t acted, repeatedly emailed her office asking that she do something to help the veterans at the center, according to copies of the emails obtained by USA TODAY.
In them the whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — asked that Baldwin call for an investigation, that she push colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee to take action, and that she help bring the issues in the report to public attention. The report had not been made public, but Baldwin’s office received a copy in August.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice broke the story of the attempted cover up by Baldwin’s office when a top aide was fired and offered a severance package with a non-disclosure agreement:
No Quarter [Bice] reported that Baldwin canned Baylor on Jan. 22 in response to the growing controversy at the troubled Tomah VA Medical Center. Baylor made $80,000 in 2014.
But Baldwin and her staff won’t even acknowledge terminating Baylor. More important, they won’t disclose the proposed five-figure severance deal offered to Baylor that would have required her to keep quiet about the Tomah mess.
Both newspapers are part of the Gannett newspaper chain, along with the USA Today. Stories are often shared by newspapers within the chain.
In reporting on the radio ad, Glauber also did not provide readers with the context regarding the Democratic Party’s defense of Baldwin.
“Playing politics with the problems at the VA is wrong,” Gluaber quotes Gillian Drummond of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
This is the second time Drummond has said this without being called on it. Yet they used Baldwin’s recent visit to Tomah for political purposes and the Democratic Party has attacked Kevin Nicholson on the VA issue. Glauber did not report on the contradiction.
In response to an email inquiry whether an editor had told Glauber to soft-pedal criticisms of Baldwin, he replied, “Thanks for reaching out. There will be a full airing of the Tomah scandal over the next 15 months. These were a couple of daily stories very early in the campaign.”