The Media and the Don Siegelman Case

In the 2000s, the former Governor Siegelman of Alabama filled the news. Early on, Alabama local papers painted a picture of a corrupt Governor Siegelman(D) in contrast to the “values” gubernatorial candidate, Republican Bob Riley. In a suspicious contested election, Bob Riley beat Don Siegelman. When Don Siegelman decided to run again, the polls showed he would beat Bob Riley. That is when Federal Prosecutors convicted Don Siegelman of bribery. The prosecution was full of irregularities. The national media, smelling something rotten, looked more closely at the story.

National newspapers and local bloggers questioned the corruption, not at the state level, but at the national level. Magazines featured evidence that the Department of Justice was politicized. Republican Attorney’s General who would not prosecute political enemies were fired. Popular CBS 60Minutes asked, “Was Don Siegelman convicted for being a criminal or for being a Democrat?”

National and local bloggers picked up the story and kept the reading public current as alarming new information revealed new questions and allegations.

The cast of characters was colorful. We learned that convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, confessed to “wargaming” the election of Don Siegelman while he was cheating the Mississippi Choctaws. The case continually revealed breathtaking corruption in high places in Alabama politics. Despite the media coverage, famous politico, Karl Rove,  whose “fingerprints” were everywhere in the case, continued to elude investigation.  Rove ignored several subpoenas. When asked, he stuttered a denial on television that he even knew about the case until he read about it in the newspaper. Despite being “hounded” by the media, Rove successfully evaded testifying in court:  executive privilege was sited.

Nevertheless, he did resign, leaving office under a cloud of suspicion.

Illustrating the role of the media in raising uncomfortable questions in the case, Karl Rove dedicated 8 pages in his autobiography, Courage and Consequences, to Siegelman. He clearly preferred that the Siegelman case flies under the radar, he was compelled to address it.


Rove penned, “I wouldn’t normally dignify the charge [of arranging the Siegelman prosecution] by raising it again, except that it was aired repeatedly, in seventeen editorials in the New York Times, on 60 Minutes, and in nearly fifty segments on MSNBC, despite my repeated denials that I had anything to do with the prosecution.”