On early Monday morning, 6:54, in the midst of the Bridgegate network and cable TV media feeding frenzy engulfing Governor Chris Christie, CNN reported an “Exclusive” story that “federal officials” were investigating whether Christie had “improperly used” some of the Sandy Relief money used to produce the Stonger than the Storm tourism ad campaign. The source of the “Exclusive” was Congressman Frank Pallone.
Within the hour, Pallone had widely released a statement to the media and posted it on his federally funded website, that contained the information reported “Exclusively” by CNN.
That should have been the media’s first clue that Pallone is not trustworthy. He offered an exclusive to CNN, and then spread, the story, like a crack whore needing another fix.
But no, the media lapped up the story. It led the 8 am hour of most network morning news shows, and dominated the the political news of the day as an “additional federal investigation” that Christie was facing.
The story was a lie. Not an exaggeration. A lie.
MMM was the first media outlet to fact check the story. We started doing so immediately upon reading it on CNN.
The horse had left that barn, as the story was being widely reported. But the story “smelled” as Pallone said about the #STTS ad campaign later in the day in front of a bank of TV cameras. We called Pallone’s office asking or documentation that a HUD investigation was taking placed. The congressman’s spokesman, Ray Zaccaro told us there was no documentation and that the HUD Inspector General’s Office wouldn’t give us information on an ongoing investigation.
We called and emailed HUD anyway. We asked: “Is this audit anything other than what would occur in the normal course of events regarding any HUD grant? Is there a separate investigation into the Stronger Than The Storm in ad campaign?”
Eventually a spokesman from the HUD Inspector General’s Office, Ian O’Connor, got back to us and said, “We received a request from Congress and are performing an audit to address those concerns.”
We followed up, asking O’Connor if there was anything out of the ordinary about the audit and if all congressional requests are accepted. He replied, “We have no further statements.”
But yesterday the HUD Inspector General himself, David Montoya issued a statement today, according the NJ.com, debunking the timing and content of the story Pallone sold to the media in the early hours of Monday morning.
“An audit was initiated in September 2013 to examine whether the State administered its Tourism Marketing Program in accordance with applicable departmental and Federal requirements. This is an audit and not an investigation of the procurement process. We expect to issue our audit report expeditiously. We will have no further comment until the audit report is issued.”
You didn’t hear that reported on TV. Did you?