DOMELIGHT: Attacking messengers doesn't change truth

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

Gov. Brian Kemp has done it again.

Instead of just answering challenging questions he lashes out at reporters. 

Will he ever learn?

Will he ever grow into the office? 

When questioned about a report from the U.S. coronavirus task force that painted a bleak picture of the state’s response to the pandemic, Kemp failed to address the report, respond to its assertions and answer the questions — instead he just attacked the press for what he thinks is unfair reporting. 

He lamented that the press focuses on what he calls the “bad numbers,” while he wants reporters to focus on the “good numbers.”

Essentially, he wants the press to be his public relations department and to help him spin the news in his favor. 

He clearly wanted the coronavirus task force report to remain hidden and kept from the people of Georgia. 

He was more concerned with what he called the leaking of the document than he was with the contents of the report. 

Reporters working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution were simply doing their jobs and doing what good reporters do. 

They were working to uncover and reveal the truth. 

And they did. 

No one, including Kemp, questions the veracity of the report they cited.

Kemp just doesn’t like the fact they got their hands on a copy of it and dared to tell the public what it said. 

With a quarter of a million people having contracted COVID-19 in Georgia and 5,000 people having died, the governor should expect some hard questions every now and then. 

The people of Georgia deserve answers to those questions. 

In an AJC report, Editor Kevin Riley said, “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarized a White House report that said Georgia has the highest rate of new cases in the nation. The article included information about a recent decline in new cases and hospitalizations, and in positive test rates. Nearly 5,000 Georgians have died of COVID-19, as our readers know from the statistics we publish daily on our front page and at Attacking factual news reports won’t change the course of this pandemic in Georgia.”

Riley is exactly right.  

Attacking the messenger doesn’t change the truth. 

Kemp seems to want a state-run media that will only publish the propaganda of his administration. 

The unflattering government report drawing the ire of the Republican governor came from the Republican administration’s task force, assembled by a Republican president. All the newspaper did was report on it. 

The newspaper did not make up the report, the numbers or the facts.

Kemp accused the media of trying to scare people.

Scare people with what? 

With the words of the president’s task force?

With data?

With facts? 

With truth?

Imagine that, the dastardly press is trying to scare people with truth. 

The AJC should be commended, not condemned, for getting its hands on the report and revealing it to the public. The general public has the right to know the business of government and right now there is no greater need to know than the need to know the truth about this public health crisis. Government should never withhold, or try to withhold, such essential public information. 

High office demands accountability and that includes answering questions, even the hard ones. 

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times and The Tifton Gazette. He is the president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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