Here's the background: On Tuesday, Orange County DA spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder took the extraordinary step of sending an agencywide email that not only challenged the ethics of LA Times reporter Christine Hanley, but also urged county prosecutors to use “extreme caution” when dealing with her.
Schroeder's Sept. 26 email is available here.
Today, Steve Marble, editor of the Orange County edition of the Times, defended Hanley, who has spent several months investigating Schroeder and her husband, Mike Schroeder, a top adviser to DA Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Mike Carona. Marble called Susan Kang Schroeder's actions a “shocking personal attack” by a public official.
Susan Kang Schroeder's letter to her staff about our reporter Christine Hanley was full of errors and misstatements. It was a shocking personal attack, and particularly inappropriate coming from the public official responsible for press relations at the district attorney's office. It is also worth noting that the letter falls into a running pattern of attacking reporters engaged in investigative work. Christine is a veteran reporter and The Los Angeles Times has complete confidence in her integrity.
Sources say Times management sent a private communication to DA Rackauckas, calling Schroeder's email a “serious breach of ethics” and requesting a meeting.
Early Wednesday evening, Schroeder confirmed that the DA has agreed to a one-on-one meeting with Marble. How much progress can be made is unclear. Rackauckas relies heavily on Schroeder for media strategy and rarely deviates from her stance. And for her part, Schroeder isn't backing down.
She issued the following statement:
I like and respect Steve Marble. I regret that he is forced to defend a reporter whose actions are indefensible. I gave Ms. Hanley a 22-hour written notice to give her side of the story. She declined. I detailed specific misconduct by her in my letter to the Orange County prosecutors who work in my office. I am puzzled that the content of the letter would be “shocking” to Mr. Marble. On multiple occasions I have met with him to discuss Ms. Hanley's actions and to implore him to investigate her conduct.
I would hate for the readers to be left with the false impression that Mr. Marble was ambushed with any of the facts I included in my email yesterday. But instead of conducting an investigation into her actions, the LA Times has made a sweeping, general denial. During the 26 hours they spent before responding to my letter, they did not entertain even the possibility that any of the allegations could be true. Instead, the Times resorted to calling me names and attacking my integrity.
The Times claims that I have engaged in “a running pattern of attacking reporters engaged in investigative work.” If so, why have I cooperated and offered quotes to other media outlets and publications that have written unflattering and negative things about the District Attorney's Office and me? Is “investigative work” within the Times a euphemism for fabricating facts, breaking promises, and behaving unethically?
We are very disappointed in the Times' response, but we are always hopeful that they will stop being defensive, cease in the name-calling, investigate the facts, and agree to change their behavior. The Orange County District Attorney looks forward to meeting with Mr. Marble.
And the rest of the country thinks LA has all the fun.