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#SC2018: Catherine Templeton Fires Back Against #FakeNews

Charleston Post and Courier report pits unnamed sources against on-the-record ones …

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For several months now, we’ve been operating under the assumption that Chicago-based political operative Tim Pearson – the lead strategist for South Carolina governor Henry McMaster – is secretly in cahoots with McMaster’s top rival for the “Republican” gubernatorial nomination, Catherine Templeton.

An outlandish concept?  Maybe … but maybe not.

But at this point, there doesn’t seem to be any other rational explanation for how Templeton effortlessly beats back every punch McMaster throws at her.

Like she knows they’re coming …

Anyway, we floated this theory last month after yet another McMaster “punch” against Templeton – related to her income tax returns – backfired spectacularly.

Prior to that, McMaster punched at Templeton for receiving insider contracts from state agencies – an exchange that only wound up drawing attention to his own insider deals, which involved heftier sums, longer durations and much shadier circumstances.

It backfired, in other words.  And that was before Templeton punched back.

This pattern has continued throughout the campaign.  Every time McMaster has punched Templeton … she’s hit back harder.

“We’re honestly beginning to wonder whether Pearson is sabotaging his client … and McMaster is just too dumb (senile?) to know it,” we wrote last month.

Honestly … with the exception of a four-month-old Twitter rant, what has Pearson done for McMaster?  Except to steer a candidate who was all but assured of a resounding victory in this year’s GOP primary into a pitched battle for his very political survival?

Because that’s where we are …

Anyway, this week Templeton’s enemies thought they had finally uncovered a winning punch to deliver against her: Unsourced, unsubstantiated allegations that she had been fired from her job as director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) by former governor Nikki Haley.

These claims were published in a “story” this week by reporter Andy Shain of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.

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According to the anonymous sources cited in Shain’s report, Templeton “was pushed out from her job running the state’s health agency in 2015 by (Haley).”

Specifically, these sources claimed “Haley fired Templeton after her attention-grabbing antics” as SCDHEC director – including a well-publicized visit to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) during which she posed as a flu victim at the height of the Ebola scare.

Templeton’s so-called “antics” allegedly “irked” Haley, according to Shain’s sources – who “asked not be identified because they were not authorized to share the information.”

Ordinarily, we could see running a story like this … ordinarily.

Sure it’s anonymously sourced, but according to Shain the people he spoke with had “direct knowledge” of the situation.

Sounds credible, right?  Sure … we hear from well-placed sources like that all the time.  And we’ve broken tons of big stories using anonymous sources.

There’s just one problem in this case.  The one person who actually had “direct knowledge” of the situation – Haley – explicitly told Shain his sources were wrong.

Meanwhile Allen Amsler, the former chairman of the SCDHEC board, also made it clear to Shain his sources were wrong.  According to Amsler, Templeton stepped down from her position at the agency “as planned when Haley’s first term ended in early 2015.”

In other words, both the governor (who appointed the SCDHEC board) and the board’s chairman told Shain his story was bunk.

Yet he ran it anyway …

That decision surprised several reporters who spoke with us after reading Shain’s piece.

“What in the hell was he thinking?” one of the reporters told us.

We get that politicians (and political appointees) lie.  Especially Haley.  And we get that it’s the job of reporters to print what they believe to be the truth – even if those in power tell them it’s not so.

But in this case, it seems Shain should have (at the very least) gone back to his sources and asked them to substantiate their claims in light of receiving multiple on-the-record statements to the contrary from those who had direct knowledge of the events in question.

He didn’t do that … and neither did his editors.

He just ran the story …

Of course our guess is this #FakeNews report will not wind up hurting Templeton.  In fact, the episode afforded her yet another opportunity to portray herself as the target of the Columbia establishment.

“It is yet another sad day in journalism when a reporter gives shadowy unnamed ‘sources’ with an obvious political agenda the same credibility as on-the-record statements from Ambassador Haley’s office and multiple leaders of our state with firsthand knowledge,” Templeton’s campaign manager R.J. May III said.  “It’s clear what all of this is about: the establishment Good Old Boys are terrified of Catherine returning to Columbia with an even bigger blade on her buzzsaw.  Catherine was proud to stand with governor Haley before, proud of what they accomplished together for South Carolina, and eager to accomplish even more as our next governor.”

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