David Zurawik

Ed Schultz warns Wisconsin voters of robocalls telling them no need to go to polls

UPDATED Tuesday 1: 30 p.m. with confirmed reports of voter-suppression robocalls.

While I have had many issues with the partisan nature of Ed Schultz's coverage from Wisconsin in the last year, I have to admit that Monday night the MSNBC host appeared to be providing an important public service to voters of that embattled state.


During an interview with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate challenging Republican Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall vote, Schultz asked about reports of robocalls telling potential voters that if they had signed petitions to recall Walker, there was no need to go to the polls Tuesday, because their votes were already registered.

That kind of dirty-tricks-you-can-stay home robocall is only too familiar to Maryland voters thanks to political consultant Julius Henson who last week was ordered by a federal judge to pay $1 million dollars to the state for initiating such calls on behalf of failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich on election night in 2010.


As Henson's behavior shows, such attempts at voter suppression are only too real, and the press best serves democracy by getting information to voters as early as possible about the nature of such crooked calls.

Barrett said he heard "six or seven reports" of such calls Monday and while he had not "confirm" the swource of them, he was convinced enough of their existence to record his own robocall explaining the importance of voters not believing any phone call that told them they could stay home.

After the interview was abruptly ended when Schultz lost his connection from Madison (where he was) to Milwaukee (where Barrett was), he took extra time to make sure everyone watching got the message.

"Let me be very clear," he told viewers. "You have to vote tomorrow for your vote to count." He re-iterated that having signed the petition was not the same as actually going to a polling place and voting Tuesday to recall the controversial governor.

I have to say I was dismayed to hear Schultz say Walker was invited but would not come on his show -- just as I was later dismayed to hear Greta Van Susteren tell her Fox News listeners that Barrett was invited, but he declined to come on her show.

In the case of these two channels, I blame them as much as I do the politicians. Both of them have behaved in such a partisan manner that there is little reason for any politician to trust that they will be treated fairly by them.

Tuesday's recall vote is a big, big moment in this nation's history whether most of the population outside of Wisconsin knows it or not. I hope every working person and everyone who thinks they are a member of or aspires to the middle class knows it, because their future will be affected by what happens in the dairy state Tuesday.

As someone who grew up in Wisconsin and got his first job out of graduate school there as press secretray and speech writer for the lieutenant governor, I weep for what Wisconsin's politics have become.


Schultz will be live from Wisconsin Tuesday as will Van Susteren and Bret Baier, who were both live from Wisconsin today.

I wish I could tell you about a reliable, fact-based source of information that would have live-up-to-the-minute reports to follow Tuesday once the polls close, but I cannot confirm any such operations to my satisfaction at this point.

I had hoped Politico might be doing something on  C-SPAN again, but I was informed by Politico that is not the case.

CNN will have Dana Bash and Ted Rowlands  on the ground in Wisconsin. Bash consistently delivers exactly the kind of trustworthy reporting I want on such a major story. But if I have to get Bash's reporting filtered through a host like Erin Burnett, forget it. I would rather bounce around the Internet checking out such sites as that of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel where I started my newspaper career in 1974.

Check back here Tuesday for any updated information or changes from the news channels and websites as to what kind of coverage they will offer Tuesday night.  I hope some of them do step up and offer the kind of effort this vote deserves --  whether or not they think they'll find a national audience.

Read a Tuesday morning account from Salon of one such call



And here's a

at politico from Tuesday afternoon.