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Anatomy of a scandal

Crowd-sourcing the news trail
By PHILIP EIL  |  October 9, 2013


At 6:23 p.m., Providence Journal State House Bureau Chief Kathy Gregg (@kathyprojo) tweets: “Just received email invite from RIRepublicans to ‘2nd Amendmt Celebration/A family day at the range.’ Prizes includ Smith&Wesson/Beretta.”

At 7:04 pm, posts a story, “R.I. GOP Raffling guns, Shooting Supplies to Raise Money,” written by Gregg. It begins: “WEST GREENWICH, R.I. — Looking to win an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle? Buy a $5 raffle ticket from the Rhode Island GOP.”


The ProJo runs a print-edition cover story, “GOP Gun Raffle Riles Ranks of Both Parties,” written by Gregg, in which eleven local politicos (or their spokespeople) comment on the raffle. Reactions range from Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox (“To glorify the use of an assault rifle for political profit is insensitive to the victims of gun violence and their families, especially those in nearby Newtown, Conn.”) to Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry (“I’m unsure why this is a news story. Although I suppose putting it in the press will bump up ticket sales and help raise more money for the RI GOP.”)

An online Associated Press story, based on the Journal’s coverage of the raffle, is picked up by the Boston Herald, the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and various other sites nationwide.

Later that day, Gregg reports on that Governor Lincoln Chafee’s spokeswoman, Christine Hunsinger, calls the raffle “inappropriate” and “tone deaf.” Hunsinger also calls specifically for Republican State Representative and RI GOP finance director Doreen Costa to “explain why this is a good idea, why these kinds of weapons are being raffled off . . . [at what] I believe is being described as a day of family fun.’’


Rep. Costa issues a press release responding to Governor Chafee. “I want to know why the governor is focusing on a raffle when he should be focusing on putting people back to work, investigating 38 Studios, lowering taxes, [and] building business-friendly legislation with the General Assembly,” it says, in part.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4’s Dee DeQuattro reports the RI GOP has “sold all 3000 tickets to the controversial raffle of an AR 15 semi-automatic rifle.”

On, Kathy Gregg reports comments that Republican House Minority Leader Newberry posted on a “GOP Facebook page”: “Regarding the gun raffle: Kindly stop talking about it publicly. Be quiet . . . If someone from the press asks you to comment on something, anything at all...Your answer must always meet the following criteria: A. It cannot make you look like an idiot. B. It cannot make a fellow GOP official, candidate etc. look like an idiot. C. It cannot make the RI GOP look like a bunch of buffoons.”


The New York Times runs an editorial, “Raffling Off Assault Rifles,” specifically addressing the RI GOP raffle that ends with the sentence: “Grotesque gun raffles are more proof of the gap between the anguish of the citizenry at repeated shooting sprees and the complacency of the politicians who do so little to address them.”

On News Radio 920 WHJJ ‘s“Lock, Stock, and Daria” show, host Daria Bruno, joined in studio by Rep. Costa and RI GOP Finance Committee Chair Stephen Tetzner, says “The liberal diatribe, as we know, is so over the top . . . they’ve tried to hijack this event and turn it into the lies. But I think that by doing that, it actually promoted the event.” At another point, Tetzner says, “If we had [raffled] a different firearm, I think they still would have come after us.”

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