Does a media outlet have a requirement to disclose if a writer is an employee or a contributor? This question was raised by Congressman Mo Brooks after a series of negative, and he argues inaccurate, columns by AL.com featured columnist Clete Wetli. Wetli has been a columnist for years at AL.com, but recently received a payment from Brooks’ Democrat challenger Peter Joffrion.
Congressman Brooks’ campaign’s press release lays out the argument that the payment may be affecting Wetli’s topic selection:
Former Democrat Party Chairman Clete Wetli writes weekly guest editorials for AL.com and The Huntsville Times. AL.com discloses Wetli’s partisan bias by stating, “Clete Wetli is a liberal political activist living in Huntsville and a regular contributor to AL.com.”
Through May 22 of this year, Wetli wrote 20 AL.com editorials. As would be expected of a left-wing activist and former Democrat Party chairman, Wetli’s 20 AL.com editorials regularly attack conservatives, Republicans or President Trump. None of Wetli’s first 20 editorials in 2018 attacked Alabama GOP Congressman Mo Brooks.
In stark contrast, since May 29, 75% of Wetli’s columns (six of eight) attack Congressman Brooks.
Why this matters:
Credibility matters. The former owner of Yellowhammer News once said, “AL.com is a sports blog with a liberal bias,” so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that most of their columnists lean to the left. The problem is when there appears to be a conflict that is not disclosed.
I have repeatedly noted that Congressman Mo Brooks helped me in my legal battle with former Attorney General Troy King, that he performed my wedding ceremony in 2016 and I will mention here that he and his wife attended the Baek-il for my son, Grant, last week. Those disclosures are not required as there is no direct payment for services. According to Brooks, the same cannot be said for Wetli and Joffrion.
No one believes that Wetli shouldn’t be able to write, or write on these particular issues. But, at a minimum, AL.com should disclose Wetli’s relationship to the Joffrion campaign.
Listen to the interview with Congressman Mo Brooks here: