One might have gotten the impression that The Advocate, which through some relatively dumb luck and some old-school business practices here and there has managed to put itself in a position to dominate the state’s two largest newspaper markets, has it out for as many prominent people as it can find in Louisiana this week.
After all, there was the head-scratcher of an attack campaign the paper ran on Gayle Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, over the fact she had communications with the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans years ago when the Archdiocese was justifiably enmeshed in controversy over priests suspected (or more) of sexual abuse. Attorneys for the victims of pedophile priests in the Archdiocese’s employ have ramped up that controversy by demanding emails from third parties who engaged in assisting the Archdiocese in managing the fallout, and the Advocate jumped in with repeated stories on the question.
This despite the fact there is nothing particularly remarkable about an organization like the Catholic Church having powerful allies willing to assist it in preserving its good name in the face of allegations like that. Most reasonable people would understand that while the pedophile priest issue is a major problem within the Catholic Church and needs to be stamped out, and while it’s also quite reasonable to criticize the church for not moving more decisively to excise that problem and make recompense to those victimized by the sick perverts who abused the cloth to do the devil’s work with those children two things are fairly obvious.
First, the Catholic Church is by no means the only organization with a pedophile problem. It’s arguably worse with respect to public education, and other institutions – like Hollywood, for example – are far more shot through with pedophiles protected by higher-ups.
And second, the Catholic Church does things other than molest children. Lots of those other things are quite laudable. In fact, many would say those things are vitally important to the health of Western civilization.
So, again, nobody should be too bent out of shape if Gayle Benson and Greg Bensel, who is the Saints’ communications director, try to lend a hand in helping the Archdiocese of New Orleans deal with the public-relations horror of a pedophile priest scandal. It doesn’t mean anybody in the Saints’ organization supports pedophile priests, and it doesn’t mean the Saints were trying to help cover up the problem. If the Church seeks advice from people they would believe can help them effectively communicate to the community, and those people are Catholics who don’t want the Church destroyed, this is not, per se, a bad thing.
Except The Advocate has sold it as such, and has run stories making this whole thing seem very salacious. The Saints’ organization, we’re told, has gone absolutely nuclear over the paper’s treatment of Mrs. Benson this week.
And then tomorrow, we understand, the paper is preparing a hit piece on Jeff Landry, in which it actually aims for his brother Ben, a CPA in Broussard who has done management work for a company or two the Attorney General owns. As we reported earlier today, what the Advocate would seem to have on Ben Landry doesn’t look worthy of any great expose’ – basing a hit piece on the word of someone in federal prison for fraud is suspect as an evidentiary matter, and the effort by Jon Simerman and Bryn Stole, unless they uncover some smoking gun we would guess is unlikely, looks like flailing.
Why all this bomb-throwing by the paper?
Well, last night there was this…
In a FOX 8 exclusive, a source tells us prominent businessman and Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate co-owner John Georges may have participated in behind the scenes communications involving the Archdiocese’s release of credibly accused pedophile priests.
According to court records filed by the attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims, the Saints, team owner Gayle Benson, and communications executive Greg Bensel were not the only local, influential people with deep ties to the Archdiocese that were involved in managing the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis.
The filing says “the list of organizations and individuals revealed in the documents the Saints and Archdiocese seek to conceal from the public is nothing short of shocking.” It goes on to say “more than several influential members of this community from the state, federal and private sectors, as well as the local media, were also involved.”
Again, a source tells FOX 8, Times Picayune and New Orleans advocate co-owner John Georges is one of those influential members of the community involved.
FOX 8 spoke to Georges Tuesday afternoon on the phone.
“Your source is incorrect,” Georges said. “You said a source said that I was one of the members of the media. I had no contact with the Archdiocese during the period in question.”
Attorneys representing alleged church sex abuse victims as well as the Associated Press have been fighting to have emails between the Archdiocese and the New Orleans Saints made public.
And this parting shot, for which Fox 8 New Orleans’ Kimberly Curth gets a high-five…
We don’t know if Georges had direct communication with the Archdiocese. We should note the Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate has reported extensively on the church sex abuse scandal as well as Saints executives assisting the Archdiocese with crisis management.
And there you have it.
One would find it more than a little suspicious that the Advocate’s reporters were busily throwing dirt on as many prominent people they could find this week when it’s quite likely Georges’ name would turn up in the same light as Gayle Benson. It’s almost as if the paper was attempting to throw up a smoke screen around its boss-man, so as to obscure any bad publicity he might get out of the fight over those communications.
Again, the fact Georges might have weighed in with advice for the Church as to how to handle the PR about the pedophile priest issue is not particularly newsworthy, as whatever Gayle Benson might have said is not newsworthy. If they’re prominent Catholics or friends of the church and they have an interest in seeing it survive the pedo issue so as to preserve the good things the Church does, that’s not a bad thing.
What would be a bad thing, if appearances don’t deceive, is John Georges having his reporters throwing other prominent Louisianans under he bus so as to obscure his own bad publicity over these supposed e-mails. That would be a thing worthy of stripping whatever residue of credibility the paper might have, and therefore make any sanction the public might like to impose on the Advocate’s fiscal sustainability fully justifiable.