Yesterday a friend reminded me to look back to a Norm Coleman press conference held nearly a month ago, and in particular to some comments Coleman made about his wife and reporters that seemed opaque at the time. It turns out Coleman’s queries from reporters about his wife’s job didn’t spring up just a week ago, as he’s claimed.
The ostensible subject of the October 10 confab was Coleman’s announcement that, owing to a change of heart occasioned by Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, his campaign would no longer run negative advertising. (By purest chance, polls released just before Yom Kippur had indicated the ads were killing Coleman.) But Minnesota’s senior US senator also used the presser to try to tamp down the internet buzz about allegations that a friend and fundraiser named Nasser Kazeminy had bought clothes for Norm at Neiman-Marcus at some point in the past. The event was tightly controlled; as Paul Schmelzer wrote at the time, reporters from Minnesota Independent and The UpTake were not allowed inside to tape it.
Let’s look at some relevant excerpts of Coleman’s prepared remarks as released by the campaign at the time. (The full transcript is reproduced here.) I’ve added emphasis
My second decision was to make an appeal to basic fairness and respect when it comes to coverage of our personal lives.
Over the last several days I have received a fresh batch of questions from reporters, fueled by blogs, about personal issues concerning my finances, my family and my wife….
Families and personal issues are out of bounds and must stay that way. And, from this Senator and father and husband – they are off bounds – and out of bounds. In recent days, outrageous questions and insinuations have been lodged against my wife about her employment. My wife’s job has been disclosed as required under the ethics laws of the United States Senate. My wife is a certified and licensed insurance agent – she works for a living – and her employer is pleased with her work – and she is pleased with her job.
And that’s all anybody is entitled to know.
Questions about my wife – about my children – about their private lives, jobs, work and school – are just that – private. And, they will remain that way….
Let’s be clear about this: On October 10, Norm Coleman volunteered on the record that “Over the last several days I have received a fresh batch of questions from reporters, fueled by blogs, about personal issues concerning… my wife.” He later explained the subject of those questions: “In recent days, outrageous questions and insinuations have been lodged against my wife about her employment.”
In other words: Contrary to his claims to media on Friday and yesterday, when Coleman a) said that the media (specifically, the Star Tribune) first received information about the claims “last week,” and b) implied that this late, low blow could only have been the work of the Al Franken campaign, Coleman — by his own account — had been asked by reporters about these allegations sometime around the first week of October.
The fact Coleman knew what was coming much sooner than advertised sheds no light on the matter of Coleman’s likely innocence or guilt, but it sheds a lot of light on his claims of an 11th-hour Franken ambush in recent days — put plainly, his characterization of how this story came to light and what it probably means is false. Norm told us himself, on October 10, that reporters were asking after his wife’s job in early October. And he didn’t ascribe it to the Franken campaign. In fact, the outward purpose of that entire press conference was to call for an end to negative campaigning on both sides.
This revised time-frame also lends more credence to the blogosphere conjecture in recent days that Coleman’s own 11th-hour lawsuit against the Franken campaign, announced on this past Wednesday, was a preemptive gesture to wrest the news cycle away from news of that other lawsuit that Coleman had known was coming.
Which, we should note, worked like a charm:
I’ve been unable to find video of the press conference anywhere, though there are a couple of brief clips of Coleman’s remarks in this KSTP-TV report from that night.
UPDATE: After I published this item, I phoned Aaron Landry of MnPublius to ask for his help in tracking down a reference link I couldn’t locate. Instead he pointed me to something far more interesting and more germane: At an October 8 press conference (here’s a Publius post with transcript) that’s been widely viewed on YouTube — the one in which Coleman rep Cullen Sheehan repeated the same boilerplate response about whether Nasser Kazeminy bought suits for Norm Coleman — Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Pioneer Press asks Coleman about his wife’s job at Hays Companies.
REPORTER: What about his, uh, Laurie, Mrs. Coleman’s job at Hays Company? Do you know what she did there?
CULLEN SHEEHAN: Again, they have disclosed everything they need to disclose on the Senate ethics forms.
REPORTER: So the Senator will only go according to the Senate ethics laws, rather, rules rather than answer questions?
CULLEN SHEEHAN: He has done everything that he is required to do, Rachel.
And here’s the video.