By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Recently, Governor Kay Ivey’s “chief” legal counsel Bryan Taylor took to social media to explain to his followers how to spot a fake news account. He also conducted a Twitter poll that asked if people believed Yellowhammer News, AL Today, or The Alabama Political Reporter were credible news sources.
The idea that any news report that doesn’t fit with a particular group’s or person’s pre-conceived narrative of a person, event, or thing is “fake news” is not new. It is perhaps just a bit more pervasive due to the proliferation of news outlets that carpet bomb the public 24-hours-a-day. But, blaming the messenger is always a line of defense for the scoundrel; because it works.
When covering a movement, be it political, ideological, basically, any actions taken on the public stage, the media is always subject to calls of bias, ignorance, or outright lying. To say that some in the media are at times unfair, uninformed, or favor a particular narrative, is a legitimate complaint. But, even in those instances to call it fake is, well, dishonest.
There is little doubt that the national media, as a whole, is piling on the Trump administration. When attacked, the tendency, even for reporters, and editors, is to strike back. But, as always, we at APR are focused on what happening here at home.
There are those who wrongly believed that APR has a personal beef with former Speaker and convicted felon Mike Hubbard. It was only personal to the extent that he tried to put us out of business, and tried to discredit our reporting. It’s the same with Taylor. If Gov. Ivey’s legal counsel were suing John Archibald or Steve Flowers, we would take the same position, because an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
But this is not the first time APR has stood alone against forces in State government, who would mute our reporting, or try the destroy our business. APR labored long and hard for four years to expose Hubbard’s corruption while others in the news media stood by, with some even giving Hubbard aid and comfort.
Taylor sued us three years ago, and we never made a public announcement or attacked Taylor during those years, choosing to let the situation play out quietly in the courts, knowing we would prevail. However, when Gov. Kay Ivey tapped Taylor as her closest legal advisor, the matter rose in its importance, especially since Taylor had not informed Ivey or her staff about the lawsuit. Even then, rather than going public, APR appealed to Gov. Ivey’s office asking to discuss the issue in private. According to our sources, Ivey’s private and political confidant, Will Sellers, brought Taylor on board. Sellers, who is said to be a candidate for a Federal judgeship in the Trump administration, has otherwise been, at least publicly, absent from the workings of the administration.
Why Sellers felt Taylor was the best lawyer in the State to serve Ivey, or what connection Taylor has to Sellers is unknown. There are rumors, as always, that there is an underlying relationship between the two men not readily visible. Most believe that former Gov. Bob Riley is behind the union of one of his most faithful acolytes and the Ivey Administration. Before becoming Ivey’s legal counsel, Taylor found work as chief legal advisor for Acting Finance Director Bill Newton. Newton only informed former Gov. Robert Bentley of Taylor’s hiring after the fact. Seller’s brother-in-law Rex McDowell served as Assistant Finance Director under Newton. Both men were ushered out soon after Clinton Carter was named Finance Director. The Department of Finance confirmed that Taylor never informed Carter of his lawsuit against APR, even though as a high-ranking public employee his legal actions could result in the State being enjoined to the litigation. After Carter had become aware of Taylor’s lawsuit, Taylor filed for a gag order to be placed on APR. Within days of joining the Ivey Administration, Taylor asked that the hearing for the gag order be moved to an earlier date. We again asked Gov. Ivey’s office to have this handled privately, and they ignored our request.
Toward the end of April, APR received a call from a member of Ivey’s inter circle, asking that we consider a settlement proposed by Taylor. This was strange news, as we had not heard of an offer to settle. The individual seemed shocked having been informed by Taylor that a settlement had been offered. Taylor has served as his own counsel in this suit against APR but has also relied on his former partner, Steven Brom. The day after Ivey’s confidant called APR to encourage a settlement, of which we had no knowledge Taylor’s attorney called our attorney offering a vague outline of conditions.
The following day, APR’s attorneys spoke with Brom again describing conditions. Since the second call around April 27, APR’s lawyers have not heard from Brom or Taylor. However, those within Ivey’s circle confirm that Taylor has informed Gov. Ivey and Chief of Staff Steve Pelham that the matter has been settled.
Ivey’s staff says she reads news reports. If she or Pelham read this one, be assured, APR’s attorneys have only been contacted twice in April and, as one of our attorneys said about the case being settled, “That’s BS.”
For three years, APR allowed the case against it to move quietly to a legal resolution. Taylor failed to tell his bosses at Finance and the Governor’s office about the suit. APR made several requests for a meeting with Ivey Administration which were denied.
Our original report on Taylor was factual; he didn’t like it, so he sued. His boss at Finance found out, and he sought a gag order. Then he asked for an expedited gag order once he joined the Ivey Administration. Now he wants to give lessons on how to spot fake news and conduct polls on who is a legitimate news outlet?
So, allow me to offer a brief primer for those who want to identify a frivolous lawsuit.
1. It is filed by a thin-skinned public official who draws up a complaint while having a temper tantrum.
2. It is filed by a lawyer representing himself (President Abraham Lincoln said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”).
3. The person filing the lawsuit wants it sealed so that employment records cannot be seen.
4. The lawsuit is hidden from his employer.
5. The lawsuit, if filed by the chief legal advisor to the governor, who takes to social media in the wee hours of the morning to defend the indefensible.
6. Lastly, the suit is filed by Bryan Taylor against a news outlet that survived Hubbard’s attacks to see him convicted on 12 counts of felony public corruption, related to stories that this news organization broke.
As far as a Twitter poll: I might suggest “Who is the bigger fool? Gov. Ivey, who appointed Taylor? Will Sellers, who got him the job? Or Ivey’s chief of staff Steve Pelham, who doesn’t know when he’s being lied too?
As for fake news verses real news: it’s not difficult to spot the difference. To recognize real news, just see which soft-skin politician rails against it. Fake news? Well, I’ll leave that to one of the three news outlets Taylor polled.
As for the Ivey Administration, it doesn’t have a clue, because they don’t know what they don’t know. To paraphrase President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns.. there are known unknowns… and unknown unknowns.”
At APR, we never fake the news because we almost always know the unknown unknowns, that people in power don’t want known.