Internal emails released this week show members of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN-05) 2016 Minnesota House campaign committee attempting to “shut down” a story “as we do with the Strib.”
“Strib” refers to the nickname used for The Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest newspaper. The shocking emails were obtained by Powerline from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, which discovered the emails during its investigation into Omar’s campaign finance violations.
As Powerline notes, the emails were written following the outlet’s publication of an August 12, 2016 story questioning Omar’s marital status—the first story discussing Omar’s alleged marriage to her brother.
In response, Omar’s campaign committee temporarily hired Ben Goldfarb as a crisis communications manager.
“Does anyone on the team have a relationship with Blois?” Goldfarb wrote in an August 15 email, referring to Blois Olson, best known in media circles for his popular newsletter, Morning Take. That morning, Olson had linked to Powerline’s article in his newsletter.
“Someone should probably reach out to talk off the record and shut it down with him as we do with the Strib,” Goldfarb continued. “I don’t know him, but can do it if nobody has a relationship. And we can tighten up the statement today in case it does spread and we feel like we need to broadcast something later today.”
Goldfarb was attempting to craft a statement addressing the allegations against Omar, but admitted in a later email that “it’s impossible without making it even more confusing.”
“It just doesn’t work in writing,” he continued, noting that he’s “talked to the Strib and they are generally in a good place.”
“They get that there are not 2 legal marriages and are not pursuing the brother angle, but have pieced together that the person she is legally married to is not the father of children, on the website, etc. They are asking for confirmation of that,” Goldfarb wrote. “I think this gets us the best result of a closed case in the Strib that we can then point people to and say no more comments.”
Olson addressed the emails Thursday morning in his newsletter, claiming “no one ever reached out” and “we weren’t ‘shut down.”
“This is the type of reporting that other media should be doing, which is why there continues to be fair criticism about local coverage of Omar and others,” he added.
“I knew literally none of these people. It’s SOP to call a reporter and try to soften or kill a story,” The Star Tribune’s J. Patrick Coolican wrote on Twitter. “But I wrote up the powerline post in hotdish and we ran a story about the allegations the next day or two. We were the first local news outlet after powerline to do so.”
I can't recall a campaign/candidate/state official who DIDN'T try to push back, soften or otherwise get in my face about a story they weren't going to like. Legendary calls where I got shouted at by one GOP operative (you know who you are) ahead of a story.
— Brian Bakst (@Stowydad) June 13, 2019
The day after Goldfarb’s emails, City Pages, which is owned by The Star Tribune, published a story with a headline of: “Right-wing rumor makes Ilhan Omar’s marital status a news story.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Leaked Emails” by Jeff Kolb.