Screengrab via WBFO
Screengrab via WBFO

Cheap Dishonest Shots at Bob McCarthy

by / Nov. 20, 2018 6am EST

On Saturday afternoon, Erie County’s elected Comptroller tweeted the following: 

I didn’t really have to click through to the linked-to Buffalo News article to know exactly who wrote it and what it was. But, I’m a glutton for punishment, so…

I don’t begrudge Mychajliw — one of the most camera-thirsty pols in town — his puff piece. I’m trying here to understand how the Buffalo News can allow itself to be a platform for unilateral, unchecked propaganda, here masquerading as a news story about an ambitious elected who is ostensibly ruffling feathers in his own party. 

But I got an interesting reaction from one of McCarthy’s former colleagues; someone who runs a non-profit that does investigative journalism locally: 

Has Heaney explained why my “cheap shot” was “dishonest”?

Not yet. Not to me, not to the several other people who rose to defend my terse take.

This isn’t some new, haphazard observation I make with no evidence just to throw rhetorical stones. I have for years pointed out McCarthy’s dependable, friendly stenography for powerful conservative males and his dismissal of females, Democrats, and political figures coming up through the ranks. 

In 2014, for instance, someone — most likely East Aurora political consultant and renowned shitposter Michael Caputo — arranged for McCarthy to accompany Donald Trump on his private 757 to Buffalo. There was a big Erie County GOP fundraiser being held at Salvatore’s and Trump was the marquee guest. McCarthy’s resulting column was pitiful and risible. I mocked it at the time, likening McCarthy’s frequent descriptions of Trump’s gilded plane to objectum sexuality. Passages like: 

Dissecting the strategies of a statewide race around an exquisite oak table is exactly the kind of political scene you might envision involving a top Republican like Donald J. Trump, especially when he’s mulling a challenge to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

But when the conversation takes place thousands of feet above New York State, aboard what he proudly calls “the world’s most luxurious airplane,” you get a sense of just how unique this campaign might be.


So during a Friday afternoon interview with The Buffalo News aboard Trump’s $100 million Boeing 757 en route from New York to Buffalo, the Manhattan real estate mogul laid down his conditions in the clearest language yet.


Trump has no problem dwelling on that “very nice life.” Watching a golf tournament on the 57-inch screen stretching across mid-cabin, he casually drops the fact he has won a string of club championships.

“I’m a good golfer,” he said.

But he also thinks the opulence that surrounds him could prove his point.

“People want to see success; I would like to show my financial statement,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who says let’s make a lot of money so we don’t have to cut, even though I know that last part doesn’t sound very Republican.”

McCarthy challenged nothing Trump said; his attacks on State GOP Chairman Ed Cox were met with nothing. No comment from Cox, nothing even to vet whether or not Trump is a good golfer. It was just raw, uninterrupted Trump proclamations, and a star-struck McCarthy writing it all down, with frequent allusions to Trump’s opulent lifestyle and gold-plated things. 

Fast-forward to this year’s Collins-McMurray race, just a few weeks ago I again criticized McCarthy’s careful efforts to promote the profile and propaganda of male right-wing figures. On just one Sunday, the Buffalo News published no fewer than three ridiculously one-sided, Republican-friendly McCarthy pieces. One — amazingly — about Chris Collins’ indicted son’s wedding still being on. Another was a glowing profile of Chris Collins himself — front page of the Sunday paper. Finally, echoing the 2014 ride-along on the Trump jet, Caputo (probably) set McCarthy up to interview fascist wino Steve Bannon on his limo ride back to Prime Aviation, where the nominal populist would catch his private jet back to Teterboro. Like the coal miners do. 

Despite the fact that Bannon insulted McCarthy’s entire profession as the “opposition party”, (McCarthy didn’t try to rebut this slander), the News scribe dutifully transcribed and spat back at his readership whatever propaganda Bannon wanted out there. No facts were checked, no claims were vetted. He just wrote it all down. Example: 

“Man, [Trump] knows China,” Bannon said. “He knew chapter and verse in 2010 about China. I can’t have that conversation with five guys in Washington. They wouldn’t understand what he was talking about.”

I think anyone who pays even casual attention to the Trump Administration knows that Trump may be many things, but he’s no policy wonk. 

Let’s turn back to what noted local journalist Jim Heaney characterizes as my  “dishonest cheap shot” at McCarthy’s “analysis” of Stefan Mychajliw’s involvement with the Collins campaign

Mychajliw, 45, emphasizes his ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail was aimed at preserving the district for Republicans, and that he worked for other candidates too. But he acknowledges his interest in Washington.

Mychajliw was the Zelig of this congressional campaign season, popping up at opportune moments to shed the “Comptroller” mantle and do a quick-change into a Bannonist neo-fascist spitter of malignant talking points. Literally one day he was using transphobic language to insult County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the next he was on the radio, falsely accusing Democratic Congressional candidate and Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray of threatening him. 

After Collins’ indictment, Mychajliw was loudest among the faux-alt-right crowd ready to enter the fray against McMurray. I wrote, 

The campaign strategy has already been polled and formulated. All they have to do is plug in an avatar for the carefully crafted pro-Trump/anti-Pelosi messaging that attacks family man and in-house corporate lawyer—Democrat Nate McMurray—as some sort of antifa radical. Mychajliw, especially, is trying to paint McMurray as some sort of Marxist guerrilla rebel leader slightly to the left of Che Guevara who will feed you a Venezuelan existence. Imagine: a supporter of Donald Trump’s robotically parroting someone else’s talking point about McMurray’s demeanor. To call it insane would be an grave insult to insane people. 

With his oddly aggressive table reads of this season’s script, Mychajliw pivots awkwardly from his putative 2019 Erie County Executive race by simply replacing “Poloncarz” with “McMurray.” Mychajliw tells you absolutely nothing about what he’s for, except one thing: Donald Trump. They love to invoke Nancy Pelosi, who has as much influence on the average Western New Yorker’s day-to-day life as, say, the Ancient Aliens guy, but these people need to play to the WBEN-listener rubes who hate Democratic women from the coasts, for whom they have choice one-word nicknames. 

Not a word of that is inaccurate. QEMFD. But here comes Bob McCarthy, raising Mychajliw’s profile and setting him up for his special election when Collins gets sent to the slammer. 

But after Collins re-entered the race on Sept. 17, Mychajliw shifted into support mode for him and others. He accompanied Assemblyman David J. DiPietro of East Aurora on his rounds, helped town justice candidates and spent several nights a week working the phones for others – earning political chits that may be someday redeemed.

Imagine the hubris of Stefan Mychajliw - largely unknown outside of Erie County — lending his clout in support of DiPietro and Collins out in the rural counties. This junket as DiPietro’s and Collins’ obedient travel companion was wholly self-serving — Mychajliw hasn’t been a journalist for a decade. His name is not a household word in the easternmost parts of NY-27, and if he’s going to run for NY-27 again, he needs to raise his profile. 

“It was a real eye-opener, to be able to talk to voters every day,” Mychajliw said. “It will make me a better candidate in the future, no doubt about it.

“We’re ready to do it now if the opportunity presents itself,” he added.

Oh, I’ll bet it was. I’ll bet you are. 

Again, let’s go back to Jim Heaney calling me out for my “unfair cheap shot”. Here’s a quote from McCarthy’s Mychajliw piece: 

After raising more than $100,000 in three months for the county campaign, he was already aiming at Poloncarz as a “vulnerable, out-of-touch, liberal extremist.”

“He’s more interested in banning plastic bags, the Paris climate accords and allowing grown men to use the same bathroom as my daughter than anything else,” Mychajliw said in July. “I think Mark has totally checked out.

“I’m telling friends and supporters to stay tuned,” he added.

I think that — apropos of literally nothing — pull-quoting and composting Mychajliw’s most dishonest, transphobic, and outrageous attack on Poloncarz and allowing it to fester there on the page, unchallenged, is dutiful transcription of right-wing talking points. It is a pattern, and it should be pointed out. Oh, sure, McCarthy got on the horn to Paladino, who was pissed at Mychajliw for cutting the line in front of him for the opportunity to run for the Collins seat, but he cleaned it up by running this: 

“I don’t think anyone should begrudge me for wanting to advance a political career,” he said, noting that the local political world “blew up” following Collins’ Aug. 8 indictment.

“Everyone’s plans changed that day,” he said.

Mychajliw is an excellent retail politician, but as Comptroller he doesn’t set policy. He has never, ever served as a representative. He’s never passed or drafted a law, and he’s never really had to set forth a platform of policy positions because that’s simply not what a comptroller does. Call me crazy, but the newspaper reporter might have pointed out that fact. So far, Mychajliw’s only policy is to talk shit about other politicians who take strong stands on policy, and regurgitate things fed to him by campaign consultants. 

And it’s not just Republicans — McCarthy has also been a reliable mouthpiece for Conservative fusion party operative Steve Pigeon. Seriously. Click that link and read that piece I did during the Preetsmas series, as the walls closed in on Pigeon and his collaborators. I wrote,

As recently as May 24th, the Buffalo News’ political columnist, Bob McCarthy, dutifully did Steve Pigeon’s bidding, producing an opinion piece that amounted to faithful stenography of a longtime source’s spin. In this case, it was Pigeon spinning about why he had ended what had until recently been a likely mutually beneficial relationship with a Rochester-based law firm. Pigeon told McCarthy it had nothing to do with any investigation — but the state and federal raids came literally four days later. 

But don’t take my word for it. Ask Angela Marinucci, a Democrat who ran for Erie County Clerk this year against political opportunist Mickey Kearns, 

This is from Marinucci’s expanded comment: 

…let’s review how the Buffalo News treated our race:

I sat in front of the Buffalo News Editorial Board, made up of four 50+ year old white men for 35 minutes explaining my plans for the Clerk’s Office & my opponent’s fiscal irresponsibility. I quoted, without notes, exact statistics & Ed Board comments FROM THE BUFFALO NEWS to show how the office was being mismanaged.

When the Buffalo News endorsed my opponent, they wrote 2 sentences about me — belittled me by calling me a “rookie” & referring to my COLLEGE internships from 15 years ago while praising my opponent’s demonstrably false claims about how he’s running the Clerk’s Office.

Here is how this “rookie” with the college internships contrasts her experience with Kearns’: 

I am a published attorney, graduate of a Tier 1 law school, running for a quasi-legal position who earned the endorsement of our Lieutenant Governor, our County Executive, no less than 7 local town Supervisors / Mayors and 2 Council Presidents, numerous town board members across the county, and many community leaders. My opponent ran on being a former garbage man career politician who was an “independent” voice in Albany because he flip flopped party loyalty so many times.

When Marinucci turns to our mustachioed hero, watch out. 

This morning Bob McCarthy wrote a column once again belittling me. He claims that my opponent won with a “hefty cushion” & said my “last-minute” ads feature me “flipping pancakes”, with no mention of my qualifications which featured prominently in my ads. Apparently, math isn’t Mr. McCarthy’s strong suit. I outraised my opponent & my campaign was able to finance a 2 week TV ad buy as well as a substantial digital buy, more than double what my opponent was able to buy (spending every dollar in his campaign account) — but he did put is smiling face on a racist Willie Horton-style political mailer.

“Reporting” such as this encourages the worst among us. Failing to even acknowledge my credentials is part of the reason why a man commented “Stay home & raise your kids” on an article from the Buffalo News just three days ago saying my race was too close to call. It’s part of the reason why I receive comments & messages on my campaign FB page saying things like “hell no!!!!!!!” & “the only thing going for you is that you’re a woman.”

THIS is why it matter that we have women in positions of power. Shame on Bob McCarthy & shame on the Buffalo News. I am disgusted.

It’s true that I took a “shot” at McCarthy, but the debate here is whether that shot was “cheap” and/or “dishonest”. There’s my explanation; there are the facts that inform my opinion that Bob McCarthy is a dutiful Republican stenographer. Meanwhile, Jim Heaney hasn’t responded to anyone’s request that he explain precisely how my critique of McCarthy was cheap or dishonest. 

Maybe it was Heaney’s unexplained, undefended shot at me that was both cheap and dishonest.