Mecham aide blames R&G publisher for state’s political chaos

January 27, 1988

By DON HARRIS
The Arizona Republic

Gov. Evan Mecham’s press aide delivered a blistering attack Tuesday on the publisher of The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette, charging that he is “personally responsible for a large part of the political chaos which now exists in the state.”

Ken Smith, in a letter lo Pat Murphy, said “my worst nightmare” would be to have the newspapers drive Mecham from office and you be rewarded with journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize.

“You have abused your position and have abandoned your responsibility for truth and fairness,” Smith wrote.

The letter was prompted by a column by Murphy in the Perspective section of Sunday’s Arizona Republic.

“Even more unfortunate, your vitriolic personal crusade against the governor has provided, by example, the marching orders for your editors and reporters,” Smith wrote.

“It is a sad commentary and probably accurate observation that you wield more power in Arizona than does Evan Mecham. Not one person has ever voted for you, but the target of your campaign was duly elected by the voters.”

Murphy said the First Amendment entitles Smith to “express himself in any form he wishes.”

He called the letter another attempt by the Mecham administration to shift attention away from the governor, who is facing the prospect of a recall election, possible impeachment and criminal charges.

“The press is simply trying to report on the behavior of a governor who has been accused of criminal misconduct, abuse of the public trust, manipulation of funds for personal use, and possible malfeasance in office,” Murphy said.

Noting that Smith asked him to retract statements made in Sunday’s column, Murphy said, “l‘m not retracting anything. You can’t retract an opinion.”

In his column, Murphy wrote that Smith is preparing to write a book on Mecham’s administration.

“But,” Murphy wrote, “just as it was difficult to find faithful Nazi servants of Adolf Hitler in postwar Germany, many of those who served unblinkingly during the dark days of Evan Mecham’s reign may choose to deny that they had any hand in one of the most shameful episodes of Arizona history.”

In his letter, Smith said Murphy‘s column characterizes him “as being at ‘the high point. of an otherwise meager career’ and (goes) on to compare me with ‘fallen Watergate figures’ and ‘faithful Nazi servants.’ Your shots at me are inaccurate, undeserved and damaging.”

Later in the letter, Smith said, “For the record, I am not a Nazi. Further, I am no more of a Watergate-like figure than you are the publisher of the Washington Post.”