Augusta, MAINE – Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett issued the following statement in response to the Maine Republican Party’s lack of a denial that they are heavily involved in – if not completely behind – the “news” website the Maine Examiner:
“We continue to believe – even more strongly now – that our claims are entirely founded, and we look forward to the Ethics Commission’s investigation of them.
“While the Maine Republican Party desperately strains to attack us and the press, what they cannot do is distract the people of Maine from their dishonest, shady, and likely illegal behavior. Maine people value honesty, and they don’t appreciate being misled – and that’s exactly what Jason Savage and Garrett Murch have done at the Maine GOP through their antics and lies with the Maine Examiner.
“If the Maine Republican Party wants to retain any sense of integrity, Chair Kouzounas will see to it that Savage and Murch no longer remain a part of their organization.”
BACKGROUND: In the Maine GOP’s response, Chair Kouzounas asserts that her party’s actions do not constitute a violation of campaign finance law. The Maine Ethics Commission will decide that.
However, it is important to note that in her statement, Kouzounas does not defend Jason Savage or Garrett Murch and does not deny that the Maine GOP is behind the Maine Examiner. This is particularly important, given that earlier this year in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News, Maine GOP Communications Director Garrett Murch said he did not know who ran the website:
- Bangor Daily News: “This anonymous Maine ‘news’ site may have tipped a big election”:
“Garrett Murch, a spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, which pushed Maine Examiner posts on social media and in party emails denouncing Chin, said he didn’t know who ran the site and declined comment after being asked if the party coordinated with them.”
So, did Garrett Murch really not know that his boss, Jason Savage, was operating this website? Or did he just lie directly to the press about it? Either way, it doesn’t bode well for Murch and Savage.
Additionally, Chair Kouzounas argues in her statement that the GOP did not peddle fake news. This is not true. A Maine Examiner story attacking Democratic State Senator Justin Chenette falsely asserted that he was paid commissions by the Biddeford Journal Tribune, the only daily newspaper based in York County. However, the Biddeford Journal Tribune – in a publisher’s note – directly discredited the story:
“Publisher's Note: Justin Chenette is employed as a digital advertising executive with the Journal Tribune. When Justin was hired, we agreed that Justin would not receive any commission for political advertising by himself and his campaign. The Journal Tribune does not endorse Justin as a candidate or any individual political positions.”
The Cambridge Dictionary defines fake news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.”
The Maine Examiner's stories aren't jokes – most of them are just plain old fake news.
Below is the text of the news release issued by the Maine GOP: