Philosophical corporate media question: If the biggest potential whistle-blower since "Deep Throat" dies an untimely death and the mainstream media doesn't cover it, did it really happen?
Last Friday evening, Michael Connell, a top IT consultant to Karl Rove, the Bush administration and the Republican National Party died when his single-engine plane crashed into a vacant house in Ohio. No one else was on board. Connell, Rove's IT guru, created the alternate email system for the White House -- the one about which the Bush administration claims an untold number of emails were destroyed -- and was set to testify as a key witness in a lawsuit claiming fraud in the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio, in which he was alleged to have helped electronically flip votes.
It is Tuesday morning, four days after Connell's plane fell from the sky. What could possibly be the mainstream media's justification for so conspicuously ignoring a story of this magnitude?
According to a LexisNexis search conducted by MediaBloodhound, the extent of US national media coverage, in which Connell is both named as the man who died in the crash and is at least acknowledged to have worked for the Bush administration, consists of one 130-word Associated Press story. It called Connell a "Republican media consultant who helped operate campaign Web sites for President Bush and former presidential nominee John McCain." It also reported, "Connell was the CEO and founder of Cleveland-based New Media Communications, which built campaign Web sites for Bush and McCain, according to the company's Web site. The site says the company also worked with the Ohio Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and other political groups."
That's it. The rest of the information regarded details of the plane crash.
All suspicions of foul play aside -- and while none are being alleged here, it would be neither responsible nor logical, given the context, to rule anything out until more facts are known -- consider what we already do know.
Investigative journalist Larisa Alexandrovna has since gone public that Connell was a major source in her investigation into the email system he set up and related matters. Pertaining to the "destroyed" White House emails, she said that "what Connell is alleged to have done is move these files to other servers after having allegedly scrubbed the files from all "known" Karl Rove accounts."
Alexandrovna also wrote, "I have reason to believe that the alternate accounts were used to communicate with US Attorneys involved in political prosecutions, like that of Don Siegelman" and "Mike was getting ready to talk. He was frightened." She said she visited Connell's home and he'd confided to her that he was being threatened, "something that his attorneys also told the judge in the Ohio election fraud case."
We have the email that attorney Cliff Arnebeck sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey on July 24, 2008, expressly requesting protection for his client: "We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to 'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations." (Read full email here; scroll down after jump.) Five months passed; Mukasey never provided protection.
19 Action News in Cleveland reported that Connell "was apparently told by a close friend not to fly his plane because his plane might be sabotaged." Calling Connell's death "untimely," 19 Action News reporter Blake Chenault also reported, "And twice in the last two months Connell, who is an experienced pilot, cancelled two flights because of suspicious problems with his plane."
Connell was allegedly a linchpin in the biggest maze of White House scandal this country's ever seen, yet the national news media is a no-show.
What caused Connell's crash is only one piece of this story. One that, as in many such stories, may or may never be confirmed. Pilot error? Aircraft malfunction? Weather conditions? Foul play? Suicide? Heart attack? A thorough investigation needs to take place. Part of what the media should be doing is making sure that happens.
But everything that has already been confirmed, having nothing to do with the crash, should also have the national media covering this with at least as much gusto as "BlaggoGate" or, say, Britney's comeback or Brangelina's pre-nup. So far, though, in a replay of journalistic fecklessness rife during the Bush years, mum's the word.
UPDATE: Apparently, not long after I posted this piece, CBS/AP actually published a fairly substantive article (h/t Brad Friedman) on the Connell story. This is encouraging, and CBS and the AP deserve credit for getting the ball rolling in the mainstream. Let's hope such coverage builds and doesn't end here. We'll definitely check back after some holiday cheer and see how this shakes out in the coming days.