The TB Times: Fair and Balanced Reporting?

February 14, 2022 the TB Times article Two Campaigns for Clearwater City Council Turn Negative begins “The first negative mailer of the campaign season was released last week, with City Council Seat 5 candidate Lina Teixeira telling voters she will fight for residents, not fight in bars.”

Scientology worthy campaign strategy.

Teixeira is snidely referring to an earlier TB Times piece describing two altercations involving Aaron Smith-Levin.

The very first question that needs to be asked concerns the circumstances surrounding exactly how Tracey McManus became aware of these incidents in the first place.

Who provided the information to McManus that resulted in the January 20, 2022 article?

The second is why are these articles written not objectively or without bias, showing the facts as they stand, but rather in such a way that as in the second piece, it would appear to cast Lina Teixeira as a victim of Smith-Levin’s campaign? Is this a knee jerk reaction to pressure by Teixeira’s camp over prior coverage of Smith-Levin?

Monday’s article seems to refute that Teixeira is in any way a sympathetic Safepoint for Scientology, countering comments that have been made by Smith-Levin.

Courtesy: Mike Rinder’s Blog

Teixeira is quoted as saying “This is a pathetic attempt to deflect from his poor pattern of behavior,” Teixeira said in an interview, stating as a downtown activist she has worked with all people to try to bring life to the area.”

There is no “poor pattern of behavior”. Aaron Smith-Levin had two uncharged altercations that while inappropriate, do not create a pattern of poor behavior.

Given the circumstances surrounding the revelation of these events it is important to look further into the details.

January 20, 2022 the Tampa Bay Times published an article about Aaron Smith-Levin who is running for seat 5 on the Clearwater City Council.

Normally such articles are part and parcel of running for an elected office. Journalists comb through potential politician’s backgrounds looking for any hint of dirt or controversy. Public figures must expect to find themselves painted with a shadowed and dirty brush from time to time.

In an era of misinformation truth matters. Especially in the City of Clearwater where Scientology creates an additional layer of menace and malice towards its detractors.

Reporting stories backed by hard, cold evidence is what journalists are supposed to do. When the potential to damage someone’s character exists, facts matter and a fine line exists between News and hearsay.

It is categorically wrong to disrespect women. This blog article is not excusing or minimizing this fact. Nor are we disputing that the Tampa Bay Times has an obligation to print news that affects its viewing area and voters.

The purpose of this article is to correct what appears to be an incomplete version of events that create an image that is unfair and unbalanced. There are questions surrounding the publishing of the Times’ article that are unique to Clearwater and this race for City Council.

That the incidents in question happened is not in dispute. It is the way these incidents are portrayed and the lack of some pertinent information that is concerning.

The photo that leads the article is captioned; “The Clearwater Police Department blurred Smith-Levin’s face when providing the body camera footage to the Tampa Bay Times.”

What prompted the TB Times to ask for the body camera footage in the first place?

“Smith-Levin, 41, was accused of behaving belligerently and provoking both incidents with vulgar insults.”

Smith-Levin is accused of “cat-calls” in the first incident.

While disrespectful, cat calls are not necessarily vulgar.

Pinellas County Sheriff report of the incident never details what was said beyond “cat calls”.

Aaron Smith-Levin was intoxicated and disorderly and as it was Mardi Gras he tossed some beads at the unidentified women. As a result of his actions Smith-Levin was trespassed from the property and he left without further incident. Hardly the vulgarity strewn brawl one was expecting.

The Tampa Bay Times has no foundation for the claim that Smith-Levin provoked “both incidents with vulgar insults”.

It should have been enough to simply report the facts as recorded without stretching the truth.

In the more recent incident, are there any witnesses seen on the body cam footage accusing Smith-Levin of using the word “cunt” multiple times, or even at all?

In fact it is Smith-Levin himself who admits to saying it once after he was assaulted.

Further, Pete Anderson “…said Smith-Levin called his girlfriend a “c–t” but could not recall if it was before or after the altercation”. Surely having one’s girlfriend referred to in such a manner would not be so easily forgotten so quickly?

If Anderson could not even recall when the word was said, then why did he physically attack Smith-Levin? Thus credence is lent to Aaron’s claim that he called the woman “crazy” and Anderson then attacked him.

McManus’ article states that Aaron Smith-Levin was in the bar attempting to collect signatures to have his name placed on the ballot. Would he have started the evening drunk and belligerent whilst attempting to collect endorsements for a place on a ballot for a City Council seat?

He was not yet a candidate at this time. Smith-Levin passed his signature cards out to the patrons only to have Pete Anderson tear up the card and order Smith-Levin to “leave us alone”.

Smith-Levin complied and sat down “4 chairs away”. At this point Aaron was seated at his own table with a couple of friends. It is completely reasonable for anyone to react to being treated rudely as Smith-Levin was.

What is missing from the article is that Anderson’s unnamed girlfriend is a long time acquaintance of Smith-Levin.

She’s also a Scientologist.

More pertinently, this woman is the daughter of two Scientologists, both of which have attested to the State of Clear. She is also the ex wife of another Scientologist.

Referring to someone as “crazy” does not justify being physically assaulted. Especially given Smith-Levin was sitting several tables away speaking to his own group. Anderson took it upon himself to attack Aaron after he’d already removed himself from situation.

Given the circumstances, is it fair to allege that Aaron Smith-Levin “provoked” this incident by using a “vulgar insult”?

He handed out signature cards, was rudely rebuked then physically attacked when he was overheard speaking to his table mates.

Again; how and by whom was the Tampa Bay Times apprised of this incident?

One might conjecture that Smith-Levin’s more Scientology sympathetic candidate would potentially benefit from such revelations. However this is all just that; conjecture. Just something tossed into the ether for consideration.

Teixeira certainly wasted no time using the information on flyers for her own campaign.

Why no mention of Teixeira using 501(c)(3) tax exempt businesses to advertise for her bid for Council seat?

Tracey McManus’ description of Anderson includes his service in Iraq and Afghanistan but leaves out his 2019 arrest for Domestic Related Battery against a woman he was involved with for 9 years.

According to Manatee County Sheriff records Anderson came home from drinking at a bar and proceeded to instigate an argument with the woman. Subsequently he sat on her chest and punched her in the face and chest multiple times leaving visible bruising on her body.

This publicly available information is included here in order to show Truth. To balance the idea of a knight protecting the honor of his girlfriend with evidence that Anderson is capable of assault without provocation.

In the Smith-Levin case, Anderson “declined to confirm if he punched Smith-Levin”. In the 2019 case Anderson “stated he did not punch her but slapped her a bunch of times.”

Aaron Smith-Levin made no secret that he was going to confront Scientology’s influence on Clearwater long before he formally announced his candidacy for Seat 5. His campaign has revealed his popularity, something Scientology would certainly fear.

It bears remembering how COS attacked Mayor Gabe Cazares when he challenged the cult. Their hostility towards Mark Bunker is a much more recent example of how they operate.

Is it reasonable to believe that an altercation between the daughter of high level Scientologists and a deeply despised, outspoken former member being leaked to the TB Times was just a coincidence?

If this campaign has indeed turned negative, it must be asked: how?

As always- consider the source.

7 thoughts on “The TB Times: Fair and Balanced Reporting?

  1. ““I am a Catholic,” she said, distancing herself from Scientology. “I don’t know what else to do, throw holy water at people?”

    said Teixeira.

    Look at you, being used to go against members of your own religion.

    It’s what happens when you write what you’re told, and don’t question the claims you’ve been given to believe by these people. It takes moral and social courage to do such a thing.

    I still hold out hope for you.

    Alanzo

    Like

  2. Nice work Step! Look at Algonzo, come out and have his say, trying hard to stay relevant. Im pretty sure he just wishes he had a pinch of the writing and investigative skills that you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stefani, you really are being unfair to Tracey McManus and the TBT with this analysis. The article was fair and newsworthy. Any candidate in any race should expect scrutiny over an incident like this. Aaron is a friend but that incident is indefensible and should be a wake-up moment from which to learn and apologize.

    In an age when politicians can get elected after bragging about where women can be grabbed “when you’re famous,” it may seem minor in comparison and especially minor when compared to Scientology’s long history of fraud and abuse but Tracey wrote an entirely fair article. Who tipped her off about the incident is irrelevant as journalists get tips from sources every day and it is up to reporters to follow up to uncover facts and editors to decide what is newsworthy and suited to publish.

    The boyfriend’s legal problems may be salacious and interesting but they are not central to the story. A reporter doesn’t take sides, and sources and subjects of stories are not friends of the reporter. As much as I respect Tracey McManus, our limited contacts are professional at best and if I slip up I know her takedown of me will be fair and justified. It’s up to me to not crash and burn.

    I went through my campaign without going negative about any other person in the race, even against my opponent whose campaign manager wrangled the Scientologists to disrupt one of the forums. I plan to run the same kind of campaign for my re-election in two years.

    Lina complained at a council meeting a few weeks back that she has been “cyber-bullied” for the past year. Please. That is like David Miscavige’s three hour diatribe telling our mayor, new city manager and new city attorney how terrible Clearwater has treated HIM over the decades.

    Vice Mayor Hoyt Hamilton demanded I apologize for making a joke on Twitter around Lina’s art-project scandal. I seem to recall a steady stream of powerful and wealthy OT’s lining up to call me everything up to Nazi when I sought to be put on the Downtown Development Board. Hoyt didn’t demand an apology from them for that…nor did I.

    We are going to see a very negative last few weeks of campaigning which is unfortunate but I suggest everyone get their TR’s in and not succumb to the bullbaiting.

    Like

    1. I thought the background of the guy that punched Aaron was important to be included if his service to the country , which wasn’t central to the story either, was included. 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️

      Like

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