The Media and the Don Siegelman Case

In the 2000’s, the former Governor Siegelman of Alabama filled the news. Early on, Alabama local papers painted a picture of a corrupt Governor Siegelman in contrast to the “values” candidate Republican Bob Riley. Siegelman was poised to be hog-tied and branded as another corrupt democratic politician. Then the tide began to turn as national media, smelling something rotten, began to look more closely at the story.

National and local newspapers began to question corruption in the Federal Courts and in the election process.  Magazine articles featured evidence that the Department of Justice was growing more political, firing Attorney’s General who would not prosecute political enemies. Popular television shows questioned why Governor Siegelman being tried: Was is for being a criminal or for being a Democrat? National and local bloggers picked up the story and kept us current as alarming new issues developed.

The cast of characters were 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 “finger prints” were everywhere in the case, was never tried.  He ignored several subpeonas and denied on television that he even knew about the case until he read about it in the newspaper. Despite feeling hounded by the media, Rove successfully evaded testifying in court:  executive privilege was sited. However, he did resign, leaving office under a cloud of suspicion.

Illustrating the beneficial role of the media, Karl Rove  dedicated 8 pages in his autobiography, Courage and Consequences, to the case. While he clearly preferred that the Siegelman case fly under the radar, he was compelled to address the case.


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.”