Michigan Newspaper Reporter Fired for Voicemail Remarks Deriding GOP Senate Candidate John James

November 6, 2018 Updated: November 6, 2018

A local newspaper in Michigan has fired a reporter who made inappropriate comments about Republican Senate candidate John James, expressing a strong bias against the Michigan political newcomer who’s in a close race with incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Huron Daily Tribune reporter Brenda Battel left a voicemail message for James, seeking to set up a post-election interview, and she apparently thought she had hung up the phone. But the call didn’t disconnect, and her disparaging comments were captured in the recording.

“Man, if he beats her. [Expletive] John James. Phew. Jesus, that would suck. I don’t think it’s going to happen though,” she said in the voicemail.

Battel also mentioned that James is “hard to get a hold of.”

“I hope he doesn’t win for that reason, too,” she said.

The newspaper announced Battel’s firing on Nov. 5.

“I have listened to the voicemail left by Brenda Battel to Mr. James’ campaign, and find no reason to defend this behavior. Brenda Battel’s employment has been immediately terminated,” Kate Hessling, editor of the paper, said. “The Huron Daily Tribune sincerely apologizes to Mr. James and to the public. These statements do not represent the views of the Tribune as a whole, nor do they reflect the actions of a responsible journalist.”

James Story

Even considering James’s noteworthy surge in popularity and impressive credentials, he has been largely ignored by the media, especially when compared to Democrat Beto O’Rourke in Texas.

A West Point graduate, James led two platoons of Apache attack helicopters during the Iraq War. He even put a silhouette of the iconic chopper at the forefront of his campaign logo.

Republican Senate candidate in Michigan John James during his military service
Republican Senate candidate in Michigan John James pictured in a helicopter cockpit during his military service. (John James for Senate)

After eight years of service, James returned home and joined his family’s logistics company. The business, which James runs together with his father and brother, has increased its revenue by some 300 percent and created 100 jobs since 2012. James earned his master’s degree in supply-chain management and information systems from Penn State University and a master’s of business administration from the University of Michigan.

President Donald Trump, who narrowly won Michigan in 2016, endorsed James in a July 27 tweet, calling him “spectacular.”

“Rarely have I seen a candidate with such great potential. West Point graduate, successful businessman and a African American leader,” Trump said. “John is strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, our Vets and our Second Amendment. He will be a star. He has my full and total Endorsement!”

At the time, polls were showing James 18 points behind. On Nov. 5, that gap collapsed to two points—within the margin of error—in the last-minute Change Research poll.

“We’ve closed the gap by the grace of God and our grassroots army,” James told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Nov. 5. “The excitement here is amazing.”

Battel and Bias

Carlson played Battel’s voicemail on air, cutting out the expletive remark.

“I guess she doesn’t like you,” he commented.

James said Battel’s comments reflect “the uphill battle” he and others have faced due to the bias in “progressive, liberal media.”

“Because I don’t fit in anybody’s little black box or little white box. I don’t fit in the little red box or the little blue box,” he said. “I’m red, white, and blue, baby.”

Trump has dropped James’s name in no less than seven tweets and two interviews, not to mention at rallies.

In a Nov. 5 tweet, Trump called the candidate “a spectacular young star of the future.”

“We should make him a star of the present,” he said.

Stabenow outspent James by nearly 2-to-1, although the gap was somewhat narrower when counting independent spending by political action committees. All in all, nearly $17 million flowed to Stabenow’s campaign, compared to about $10 million aiding James, according to OpenSecrets.org.

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