The stage was set for a whopper of a negative campaign hit on Hunt, who was oblivious to the coming public-relations nightmare. Indeed, Hunt told me, while he has read WhoisCraigHunter.com throughout the race, he didn’t necessarily take its warnings seriously. The feisty blog, which is friendly to Hunt’s campaign, had repeatedly predicted the Schroeders would use their influence with KCBS-TV reporter Dave Lopez and staff members at The Orange County Register to launch a last-minute smear campaign against Hunt.
“It sounded interesting, but I wasn’t worried about it,” said Hunt, who has the endorsement of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and routinely wins over crowds at public events. “Then I get a call from Lopez, who tried to wreck my 2006 campaign for the Schroeders, and I said to myself, ‘Wow, the WhoisCraigHunter.com folks were right.’”
On May 24, I broke the news that a union representing Santa Ana cops had yanked its Hunt endorsement because of the Lua case. Later that day, Lopez weighed in. His report, which led the 6 o’clock news in the massive LA-OC television market, wasn’t flattering about Hunt.
“I watch Lopez’s piece, and I see the face of Susan Kang Schroeder talking, and then I see Paul Walters talking,” said Hunt, who was also interviewed for the piece. “Amazing. The Schroeders got their hit piece. They fabricated an issue, and then got a reporter who would relay that fabrication to the public. Lua is not guilty of that robbery. Lopez didn’t even bother to say that the Schroeders are backing Hunter and Walters is backing Hutchens. He wanted people to think he’d found two neutral, objective sources for his hit piece. What a joke!”
When I reached Lopez, with whom I’ve worked in tandem on several occasions, he said that his station doesn’t allow him to comment on stories, but he did offer that Hunt’s complaints are “too ridiculous to comment on.”
Nicol, Lua’s lawyer and a company commander in the U.S. Army reserve, defends Hunt’s role in the case.
“I called Bill and told him I believe that this client, Lua, is innocent,” Nicol said. “Bill has an excellent reputation for doing great PI work. He said he’d check it out. After looking at all the facts, he said, ‘This kid is innocent, and he’s not a gang member.’ In more than 90 percent of the cases I’ve hired Bill, he’s come back and said, ‘Your client is guilty. You better plead him out.’ Bill tells it like it is.”
Hunt’s conspiracy insinuations make Susan Kang Schroeder laugh.
“I wasn’t behind anything,” she said. “I did what I always do. I answered a reporter’s questions about a case. It’s that simple. Bill Hunt needs to own up to his actions.”