I’d heard this before from other reporters: CNN and NBC News had allegedly passed on it, and so did The Advocate. Yet once Jason Brad Berry and I put the story and the documents online, the very publications that had once dismissed it as a non-issue were suddenly interested. It became a major part of the final two weeks of the Senate campaign between Cassidy and Mary Landrieu. Ethics complaints were filed locally and nationally. LSU was forced to launch its own internal investigation. And it even earned me a profile in my hometown newspaper, The Town Talk, and a handful of interviews on the radio.
I’ve been an outspoken critic of the legacy media for several years, and while I do not entirely fault the national press for not prioritizing the story of a Congressman’s missing time sheets, I thought that the Louisiana state media’s refusal to even report on the issue was negligent, offensive, and a complete abdication of duty. Of course, I am proud of my work on this story and humbled and honored by all of those from Louisiana and elsewhere who have reached out to express their appreciation. It was and it still is an important story.
A few hours after I spoke with the national journalist, I met up with another reporter, a friend of mine, at a bar in the Marigny in New Orleans. “What do you think the LSU audit is going to say about Bill Cassidy?” he asked.
“It’s going to exonerate him,” I said. “It’s not in LSU’s best interest to implicate a sitting United States Senator. They need all the help they can get, and they don’t want to pick a fight with anyone in power.”
He agreed. Jason Brad Berry had been telling me the same thing for months. In fact, I’d wager that almost anyone who pays attention to Louisiana politics would have made the same exact prediction. It was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion: A public university that had been paying a United States Congressman, now a Senator, for work it never sufficiently documented had absolutely no reason or obligation to admit wrongdoing. Besides, LSU didn’t hire an outsider to investigate; they investigated themselves.
On Wednesday, when LSU released its internal audit, the Louisiana media failed once again. Here is a sampling of the headlines that appeared on some of the state’s biggest news websites: