Who Was Behind the Walker "Love Child" Smear?
It was one of the ugliest stories in an ugly campaign. Days before the June 2012 recall election, the left-wing blogosphere exploded with allegations that Scott Walker had fathered and abandoned an out of wedlock child during his college days. Within days, the story was discredited, but not before creating a firestorm.
The explosive allegation originally appeared on a blog run by the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative The article, run under the headline,Integrity: The Child Scott Walker Left Behind, quoted a Minnesota doctor named Bernadatte Gillick who told a story about a woman named Ruth, who she said was the mother of the alleged love child. The editors of the "cooperative" ran with the story even though they admitted that "attempts to reach 'Ruth’ and her first husband have been unsuccessful, as phone numbers listed for each have been disconnected, and so far we have not been able to independently verify Bernadette's account."
But even without confirmation, the love child smear quickly became an illustration how a false attack can go viral in a politically toxic environment. Given the persistence of Walker Derangement Syndrome, it is likely the smear will resurface, so it's worth remembering how eagerly the left media jumped on the allegations in 2012. Dozens of websites and twitter feeds, including the national left wing site Daily Kos, ran with the story:
Coverage was not, however confined to the fever swamps of the left. In Wisconsin, the local media also took the bait and scurried to follow the story. As Christian Schneider recalled last week, the story had so much traction that a local television reporter "lifted his microphone and asked, 'Governor, you talked about the truth, you talked about your children, so I have to ask you about an Internet report circulating today that you fathered a child in college and did not stand by the mother.’"
Unfortunately for the Walker-haters, the story quickly fell apart. The Sunday before the recall election, Daily Kos published a retraction of sorts,noting that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice had posted a comment on their website saying that he had spoken with the woman, who had denied that Walker fathered the child.
This is what Bice posted:
Comment to the Daily Kos story:
Daniel Bice June 3, 2012 at 3:15 amReply
I am getting a lot of emails because of this post. Two things: (1) I tracked down and talked to Dr. Gillick’s freshman-year roommate at MU yesterday, and she adamantly denies that Walker is the father of her child. Yes, she got pregnant as a first-year student, but she believes Dr. Gillick is mixing up stories; and (2) I Can Read CCAP has taken a family court suit involving Scott Alan Walker and mixed it up with the governor, Scott Kevin Walker.
When the Daily Kos asked him to verify the post, Bice replied:
Yeah - I got 20-some emails about this apparently bogus rumor. My managing editor suggested that I make what I knew clear to the numerous people calling and writing in based on the prof's email.
We don't generally do stories shooting down rumors, so I went to the blog and posted what I knew.
Minor detail: I am a MJS columnist.
But none of this – the attempted smear, the source or the refutation -- ever appeared in Bice’s newspaper.
Interestingly, Bice’s managing editor, George Stanley, suggested Bice "make what I knew clear" to people who wrote him, but apparently decided not to publish any stories on the botched dirty trick in the Journal Sentinel itself. The failure to follow up the story means that there were no consequences for the last minute dirty trick.
Indeed, after the smear was exposed, the media seemed uninterested in tracing the "love child’ smear’s origin or its dissemination. That’s unfortunate, because the story is, at minimum, intriguing.
The source of the story was no secret. In the first heady days of the bogus smear, left wing blogger Jud Lounsberry wrote:
Yesterday, the University of Minnesota's Dr. Bernadette Gillick was best known as a nationally recognized scientist for her research into how the brain recovers from injuries.
After today, she will likely be forever known for coming forward and telling the world that Scott Walker fathered a child and refused to take responsibility for it while at Marquette.
So who is Bernadette Gillick and what could have behind the last minute smear?