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Months Later, The News & Messenger Drives By

By Greg L | 23 October 2009 | Jeanette Rishell, Blogs, 50th HOD District | 26 Comments

Months after the story broke, the News & Messenger finally devoted all of four sentences to a controversy between a candidate for the House of Delegates and this local blogger that involves First Amendment issues, homosexual conduct and free porn.  What local journalism has sunk to in these days of fiscal retrenchment, while biased editors who will do anything they can to prevent printing a story that casts liberal Democrats in a bad light is tragic.  No wonder local papers are closing up shop all over.First, the part of the story that seems to create more questions than it answers:

The race has also seen controversy. This summer, the Rishell campaign tangled with Greg Letiecq, who runs the local blog Black Velvet Bruce Li.

Letiecq, a frequent Rishell critic, posted to YouTube a video slamming Rishell campaign manager Ilana Kaplan-Shain.

It used images from Kaplan-Shain’s profile on the social-networking site Facebook and suggested she was morally deficient.

Kaplan-Shain asked YouTube to take the video down, but it was eventually restored.

After reading that, I suppose most readers of the News & Messenger understand less about what happened than before.  For the edification of those who might actually want to understand what happened, here as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.

The video about Jeanette Rishell’s campaign manager referenced, but not described in any way in the story is a good place to start:

Yes, Jeanette Rishell hired as her campaign manager a woman who had advocated for free porn in a university library, written approvingly of fleeting homosexual relationships, and had celebrated a picture on her public Facebook page of a used condom discarded in a toilet from her “awesome” hotel.  She still has that campaign manager.  After I posted this video, “Friends of Jeanette Rishell” filed a complaint with YouTube alleging copyright infringement and demanding the video be taken down.  As it turns out, the basis for her claim was that her campaign owned the picture of the used condom and I was using it without permission.  Not only was that claim utterly laughable (ever see a political video criticize someone while using their images before?), but to have her campaign make this claim rather than campaign manager Ilama Kaplan-Shain personally was an absolutely stunning blunder.  Since when does a campaign claim ownership of disgusting pictures for the purposes of filing a copright infringement claim?

You’d think that someone running for office might understand the First Amendment.  Media, even bloggers, have pretty wide latitude to use evidence of a candidate’s history to inform the public, and that latitude definintely extends to the campaign staff they hire.  Just how does one demonstrate in a video that Jeanette Rishell hired a campaign manager who had gleefully posted a picture of a used condom without actually showing the picture in question?  This question falls under what is called “fair use doctine” in copyright law and for a candidate to be so completely ignorant about such fundamental things as laws protecting free speech is pretty shocking.  I can just imagine the results of this kind of incompetence at work in the General Assembly as they craft the laws that affect our daily lives, with Jeanette Rishell polluting the mix.

That blunder by the Rishell campaign prompted me to post a second video to highlight Jeanette Rishell compounding her mistake, because such patent idiocy cannot possibly go unanswered:

Of course once the laborious process that YouTube uses to deal with copyright infringement claims completed, Jeanette Rishell lost, and YouTube restored the video.  The whole exercise ended up making Rishell look terribly stupid and got the attention of the local media, which promptly wrote not one story on the subject until months later.  Meanwhile, the number of views for the video have gotten to about a third of the number of people who cast ballots in the 2007 election, so even without the attention of the “watchdog” media, the word is getting out there.

So here we’ve got a real scandal in a campaign, sort of a Van Jones at the local level story, a candidate’s campaign that tries to misuse copyright law in order to protect her campaign from criticism, and a campaign manager with a pretty sordid history that the candidate won’t let go.  Long ago, newspapers would build empires with political scandal of this caliber, but that was back in the day they actually committed journalism rather than focus on applying tourniquets to the vast flow of red ink that’s leaking off their financial statements.  The local press takes this story, which might actually constitute “news” in the opinion of many of their readers, and reduces it to a bland dispute between a blogger and a candidate, not telling the public anything about what the dispute actually involved.  What public service.

When the Rishell campaign sends out a wacky press release about the NAACP debate chock-full of fabrications, the News & Messenger runs a story on that the next day, another follow-up story, and an editorial and a second editorial after that.  When the Rishell campaign gets caught making bad personnel decisions then tries to misuse copyright law in order to protect itself from that criticism there’s nothing but a drive-by mention months later.  Yeah, and we’re supposed to rely on the media to help make us smart voters.

The next time the News & Messenger complains that the electorate may not be adequately informed about the choices they’re asked to make, we ought to trot out stories like this one to explain why that’s the case. 

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  1. Anonymous said on 23 Oct 2009 at 10:00 pm:
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    Here is the famous ilana kaplan shain, at the far right in the blue shirt/skirt combo.

    has rishell dropped out? I can’t see her website.

  2. Anonymous said on 23 Oct 2009 at 10:01 pm:
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  3. Porkulus said on 23 Oct 2009 at 10:36 pm:
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    Kaplan-Shain has really let herself go. The older pictures of her are a lot better. Too bad to see a fairly nice looking girl go to pot like this.

  4. Gnarly said on 23 Oct 2009 at 11:07 pm:
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    I’ve been wanting to say this, but held back all this time. It was wrong and dumb to attack the campaign manager. It had no relevance and it distracted from the message on why Rischell’s approach is wrong for Virginia.

    I have to admit, the group of campaign managers who were winning GOP races throughout the 80’s and 90’s would’ve never survived in the You Tube/Facebook era.

    If …and I mean a big IF in this race….this had been a serious race with a credible challenger, this debacle would have just sucked so much air out of the debate and put a monkey wrench into seriously winning an election.

    I just think it’s always best to keep your eye on the ball and focus on the issues and not so much on the person, personalities, or in this case ..college highjinxs.

  5. Charles said on 24 Oct 2009 at 12:10 am:
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    I would totally agree with you, except for the Rishell campaign claiming direct ownership of the picture. At that point, it became news.

    Because you have to ask, how much did they pay the campaign manager to take possession of the picture, and do her campaign contributers know what she is using their money for?

  6. Kevin C. said on 24 Oct 2009 at 12:13 am:
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    GL said, “…biased editors who will do anything they can to prevent printing a story that casts liberal Democrats in a bad light is tragic. No wonder local papers are closing up shop all over.”

    I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, THIS is what happens when the CLOWNS run the circus!

  7. Gnarly said on 24 Oct 2009 at 12:22 am:
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    I see your point, but I’m not sure people will come to the polls to vote against the candidate that employed “used condom girl.”

    If we’re going to start winning the war of ideas, let’s follow the lead of what our statewides did this year at EVERY level.

  8. Anonymous said on 24 Oct 2009 at 1:52 am:
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    I have to say I feel bad for the young staffers on the Rishell campaign.

    It is not hard to find an entry level political job, especially when one is commuting distance from Washington, D.C. Intern in a congressional office, think tank, or PAC. Why young, ambitious people who want a career in politics would work on a house of delegates campaign (really, a HoD campaign can get by with 2 volunteers), let alone a perpetually losing campaign for a batty woman is a total mystery.

    Rishell staffers: notice that big city near here with all the marble monuments? It’s called Washington, D.C. - get a job there!

  9. Anonymous said on 24 Oct 2009 at 1:54 am:
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    Greg, this just shows how powerful your blog is. I cannot believe the paper mentioned you. Not smart on their part IMHO not unless they want to help drive more people to your site.

  10. MaaddMaaxx said on 24 Oct 2009 at 2:01 am:
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    Guys, the issue of the campaign manager goes directly to the candidates judgment…or lack thereof.
    If you can’t trust her to hire competently, how can you trust her to vote competently.

  11. The Patriot (Got E-Verify???) said on 24 Oct 2009 at 7:41 am:
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    Gnarly…you missed the whole point of why Greg posted about the campaign manager. Rishell made statements about “family values”, etc….when you look at the company she keeps and the way in which they carry on in their daily activities (particularly someone like a campaign manager who is involved in her campaign for “family values”) those activities are contrary to the message she is delivering.

  12. DPortM said on 24 Oct 2009 at 7:58 am:
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    Yet another rape of a 13 year old girl…

    No driver’s license, DWI, surely an illegal alien. See the photo – and he is listed as White Caucasian (Non-Hispanic) in Court Records…


    A Manassas man has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl who police say is a family member who lives at his home.

    Arturo Lopez Velasquez, 32, fled the area Wednesday after police obtained arrest warrants for him. He turned himself into authorities in Alabama on Thursday, said Prince William police spokeswoman Erika Hernandez.

    He was charged with two counts of rape and was held without bond. He is awaiting extradition to Virginia.

    The U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force assisted in tracking Velasquez, added Hernandez.

    His arrest follows another case where police said a 12-year-old Dale City girl was raped by two of her family members, earlier this month.

    Police charged a 27-year-old man with rape and a 53-year-old man with sexual battery and object sexual penetration on Oct. 15. The two men lived with the child in a home off of Hemingway Drive, police said.

    Both men are scheduled to appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

    —Uriah A. Kiser

  13. Gnarly said on 24 Oct 2009 at 8:58 am:
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    The Patriot,

    I UNDERSTAND the whole point of why the campaign manager was being attacked…..yea, yea…judgement, family values, etc. My point is simply, does it move votes? My contention is, not many. I’d even go as far to say, had this been any other race, if you go after the manager, there might even be a backlash effect. Plus, I’ve just always thought as a campaign rule that anybody other than the candidate should be off limits for attacks, but apparently those days are long gone.

  14. Not Dexter Fox said on 24 Oct 2009 at 10:05 am:
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    If a candidate can’t make good personnel decisions, they can’t make good legislative decisions. This whole “protect families” thing from Rishell is bunch of BS.

    As for the paper once again not covering local stories, what did you expect? Were they going to magically become an actual news outlet right before the election or something?

  15. Karla H said on 24 Oct 2009 at 11:51 am:
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    Greg, your site here kicks @ss!

    1. You cover great, local newsworthy issues. Meanwhile the aunties are covering the release of Microsoft’s latest OS.
    2. You post any comments immediately. Meanwhile the aunties fire back a little note that says “awaiting moderation”. And, of course, if the post does not match their ideology they discard it. Typical lib mentality… censor what you don’t like.

    I sent them a note that said they should select a site name that is positive. One that reflects their ideology. I guess they did the best anyone could have done, because their site is nowhere near as good as yours.

    Keep up the great work, Greg!

  16. Ron Homan said on 24 Oct 2009 at 1:52 pm:
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    The local rag has been going down hill for some time. It has gotten worse when they hired the recent editorial guru. I look for them to shut down operations before too long. I for one will not renew my subscription as it would be difficult to get the remainder of your subscription cost back when they go into bankruptcy.

  17. citizenofmanassas said on 24 Oct 2009 at 1:57 pm:
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    If you look at the FBI hate crime statistics, hispanics can only be victims of hate crimes, they are not listed as a separate ethnic/race group under the offender list.


  18. citizenofmanassas said on 24 Oct 2009 at 7:28 pm:
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    Do you think it is ever a good idea to go after a campaign manager? Say for example, if the campaign manager is a criminal? While I agree the focus should be on the candidate, to say people connected with the campaign should be off limits is, imo, wrong.

  19. Gnarly said on 25 Oct 2009 at 12:54 pm:
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    citizenofmanassas ,

    A manager that’s a criminal is a completely different hypothetical here. Of course you would, but is that even close to the situation here? I was surprised when another blog tried to point out that a previous campaign manager for Bob McDonnell is in prison…convicted of serious charges. It was met with a big “who cares?”…and….”not relevant.” These things are not always a political plus to bring into the mix.

    My point is…you have a small window of opportunity to focus and get your message out in a campaign. Would you cloud the environment with attacks that don’t move votes in a substantial way? Isn’t that the purpose of a campaign…moving votes from undecided into your column?

    You have to pick your battles and chose your line of attacks carefully. Of course, blogs like this can do whatever they want….and then people like me can add my two-cents worth on whether it was worth it or not.

    Again, it doesn’t matter in this race since it was destined to be a blowout from day one. While the ‘used condom girl” thing was funny at first, if this had been a serious challenge in a tight race it just would have been a waste of time and energy that clouded up the message that needed to get out.

  20. citizenofmanassas said on 25 Oct 2009 at 1:11 pm:
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    Did Jackson go after the campaign manager, or just the blogs? The fact it’s one of Bob’s former manager does mean its a none story, since hes a former manager and not a current one. Bob can’t control what might happen in the future.

    But, the reason why I asked if you think it is OK to go after a member of the campaign in any situation, is just that. There are times when it is appropriate and times when there is no need if the staff has not done anything to warrant attention. The fact Rishell was pushing family values and she does a poor job of vetting her staff is relevant to the campaign. She simply showed poor judgment, and that as someone else pointed out is something that needs to be highlighted.

  21. Gnarly said on 25 Oct 2009 at 2:17 pm:
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    I’m not sure I understand that question “Did Jackson go after the campaign manager, or just the blogs?”

    Anyway….again…I have just come to the conclusion that it doesn’t gain you anything politically for going after a staffer. There are exceptions, as you pointed out, if there is an instance where a manager is a criminal and other such extreme situations. Most of the time, if you have an awful staffer on the other side, you’d want that person to stick around for the campaign’s entirely instead of having a hand in getting the person fired.

    That’s all I care about…what works to get votes and what doesn’t. Going into personal attacks is a double-edged sword that should not be considered lightly. Even against a candidate, it can sometimes work well, but mostly can backfire.

    This attack on Richell’s campaign manager was just fodder and cheap entertainment for insider ball people. I’d say it didn’t move votes one way or the other. It sucked the air out of everything for a month when all that ridicule could have been pointd DIRECTLY at Rischell, because Lord knows there’s plenty there without messing with a staffer.

  22. citizenofmanassas said on 25 Oct 2009 at 8:54 pm:
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    Let me rephase the question. Did Jackson Miller go after the campaign manager or did the attack come from this blog, and others?

    I think you are making too much of this. It’s a local race, and as you pointed out, the outcome is pretty much known, and has been for some time. It’s hard to say how this might have affected the race if it were the first time they met, etc.

  23. Gnarly said on 25 Oct 2009 at 10:03 pm:
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    Yes…I gotcha. Point well taken.

    You are correct too…I tend to dissect the mechanics of a campaign at every level. My theory is that in every campaign, we can always learn about what works and what doesn’t for when it really counts. We are in a transition period where blogs and viral videos are becoming a potent force n all campaigns. I think there is alot to be learned going forward. Maybe I do over-analyze it all sometimes….I just always think there is alot to learn in every race.

    I would have enjoyed Rischell being blasted out of the water for exaggerating her resume for example…not the silly “condom girl” stuff. If there’s ever a tight, hard fought race, I just want everyone to look back and not have to say..”if only we had concentrated on more important issues.” That’s all.

  24. Kevin C. said on 26 Oct 2009 at 3:15 am:
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    I’d like to personally thank Paul Nickles for not only PROVING that I’ve been right all along, in that he’s NOTHING but a LOW LIFE, PROFESSIONAL LIAR, but proving now that he’s also INSANE!

    According to a letter in today’s (26OCT09) local rag, NUT JOB Nickles is trying to make it look, in an IDIOTIC, INSANE commercial, like Rich Anderson broke the law?

    Talk about a FEEBLE MINDED atttempt to DIVERT attention away from his OWN ARREST RECORD!

    Hey STUPID (talking to Nickles now) that’s YOUR mug shot they’re holding down there in North Carolina!

    The DRUNKEN, BRAWLING, HALF-WITTED MORON, Nickles, being TOO STUPID to mind his own business, was ARRESTED for ASSAULTING a (FEMALE) police officer, resisting arrest and OBSTRUCTION of Justice!

    What kind of PATHETIC LOSER lawyer is ARRESTED for OBSTRUCTION of JUSTICE? To answer my own question, NUT JOB Nickles!

    Whether or not to vote for Nickles is no longer a question or a concern, we should be DEMANDING HIS RESIGNATION!

    He’s INSANE !

    Paul F. (for FU**STER) Nickles should be FORCED to RESIGN !!!

    He’s not MENTALLY COMPETENT to represent us in Richmond!

  25. Gnarly said on 26 Oct 2009 at 6:00 am:
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    We see you’re still undecided in the Anderson/Nichols race. Election Day is coming….time to pick a side!!..lol

  26. citizenofmanassas said on 26 Oct 2009 at 9:38 pm:
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    Agree with your last point. Jeanette has been blasted by the MJM, and of course every Jackson Miller mailer is highlighting her flip-flopping and seemingly wanting to have it both ways on the same issues. She’s a horrible candidate.

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