Notes for Mecham’s talk to Associated Press editors

The following are notes that I wrote for Governor Mecham for a talk October 16, 1987 in Phoenix to a conference of Associated Press editors from western states. As usual, these thoughts were developed in conversations with Governor Mecham, often in late night phone calls, from which I would do the writing. I thought then, and still do, that Mecham’s talk to the AP editors was reasonable and restrained in his complaints about news coverage of him. But, the coverage of this talk to editors started another brush fire. See the follow-up letter from Mecham to Paul Fannin, former governor of Arizona.

– Ken Smith

— Welcome to Arizona, a state that now has a great number of positive programs, one of which is to end the economic discrimination against minorities.

— As some of you may be aware, I have been in the news lately. Sometimes, the pictures painted of me have been unflattering, distorted and harmful. I’m glad we’re here face-to-face so that you can see for yourselves that I don’t have horns.

— The worst lie about me is that I am a bigot, a racist and insensitive about the problems of racial minorities. This cancerous lie has spread across the country and has not only hurt me personally, but is severely damaging our great state of Arizona.

— I honestly believe that I have done more for minorities in Arizona than all previous governors have done in the three quarters of a century that Arizona has been a state. I am the first governor of Arizona to appoint a black to a cabinet-level position. I am the first governor of Arizona to appoint an American Indian to a cabinet-level position.

— My predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, gave only lip-service to the problems of racial minorities. Even though he had eight years of opportunities, he never once appointed a minority to a high cabinet level position. It pleases me no end to see that Babbitt trails the pack in his laughable bid for President.

— So, why all the fuss about me? I am currently the subject or target of more news stories than any other governor. For example, 60 Minutes will air a segment on me this Sunday. I always hope for the best, but I am not expecting fair treatment. By the tone of his questions, Morley Safer came to Arizona with his script already written and he needed to get me on camera to give the appearance of fairness.

— The root of this feeding frenzy can be placed on the desk of one person: Pat Murphy, the publisher of the Arizona Republic and the Phoneix Gazette. Until now, this has been mostly a one-sided feud. Mr. Murphy has never liked me, and I doubt that he ever will.

— Pat Murphy has directed a campaign against me. The problem is that he is the publisher of the largest newspapers in the state, and the stories published nearly every day for the past year have been picked up by the wire services and spread across the country.

— Pat Murphy now has his tail in a crack. His own career is on the line. He has personally directed the campaign against me to such an extent that after I survive his assault, my hopes are that the Pulliam family which owns the Republic and Gazette will put Mr. Murphy back on the copy desk. In the long run, Pat Murphy’s personal campaign against me will hurt the newspapers’ circulation and advertising revenues.

— Here is one example of Mr. Murphy’s hate for me. A couple of days after the election last November, Pat Murphy paid a visit to the lame duck Governor Babbitt. As he was leaving the governor’s office, Pat Murphy said in a loud voice overheard by a dozen people: “We’re going to get Mecham, the snide little bastard.” That’s his kind of language, not mine.

— Look at this morning’s edition of the Arizona Republic. As usual, there are many stories about me, none of them favorable. The story on the front page says that I had a “secret” meeting with Republican leaders. Well, the truth is that I had a “private” meeting with Republican leaders, as I do regularly. The use of the word “secret” rather than the more accurate “private” is just one more example of the slanted coverage of my administration by Pat Murphy’s newspapers.

— Maybe it should have been done sooner, but we have started fighting back against Pat Murphy and his reporters. I have more requests by state and national reporters than I can possibly handle. So, I am giving preference to reporters who represent major newspapers in other states. My goal here is to get accurate articles about me published in respectable newspapers. My hope is that these articles will have some impact on the professional standards of those editors and reporters who work for Mr. Murphy.

— A couple of weeks ago, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times spent the day with me. This resulted in an accurate profile of me published in the Times last Sunday, and a number of other newspapers across the country. I understand a reporter from the New York Times is in town today, and I will clear my calendar for an interview with him. Last week, a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer spent several days here.

— The Philadelphia reporter gave me an interesting piece of information. He searched a computer file of articles about me in the Arizona Republic. He found that since the first of the year there have been 750 articles which mentioned “Mecham” and “recall.” I would be interested in knowing how many mentioned “Mecham” and did NOT mention “recall.”

— I invite you to send reporters to Arizona to get a first-hand look at me. I also encourage you to have your reporters interview Pat Murphy, his reporters, and some of those involved in the recall effort. I am confident that objective reporting will result in fair and accurate news articles about me and the great state of Arizona.

— I have made some errors. One of my most serious errors was in not paying enough attention to the perceptions of me. Even my most severe critics attack only the style of my administration. There are very few complaints about substance.

— I have said some things which I wish I could take back. One statement was just plain dumb. A month ago, as the Pope was starting his tour of North America, a reporter asked me what I planned to say to the Pope as I greeted him at the airport. I responded: “I don’t know, does he speak English?” Like most other Americans, I have seen the Pope on television reading English. What I didn’t know was whether or not the Pope carried on conversations in English. I did not know whether or not I would go through an interpreter, or whether or not I would be speaking directly to the Pope.

— Again, welcome to Arizona. Please don’t build your perceptions of me based upon articles in the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, which unfortunately have been picked up by the wire services. Look for yourself. When you get back home, send a reporter here for an objective, on-the-scenes appraisal. And, please, ask your reporters to also interview Pat Murphy.