Times Union Watch: Rex Smith, the Editor of the Times Union, Channels Franz Kafka

It is interesting how a story can morph. In a recent post in my Times Union Watch series I pointed out that reporter Wendy Liberatore had incorrectly stated that Mayor Meg Kelly had no opponent in the fall election. In fact, Tim Holmes has secured the Republican mayoral line for this year’s election.

Unbeknownst to me, Todd Kerner, the Chairman of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, forwarded that blog post to Rex Smith, the editor of the Times Union, also expressing concern about these errors and voicing his frustration in general with Wendy Liberatore’s reporting.

In response, Rex Smith supported Ms. Liberatore’s report and also denied that Mayor Kelly had an opponent. Avoiding even referencing Tim Holmes’ name, he said that the “possible candidate” had not announced and was not even sure that he was going to run. He ended by saying “Please do not accuse us of bias with factually incorrect information.”

Kerner, who is an attorney and has done quite a bit of election law, was amazed at this response. Kerner pointed out to Rex Smith that Tim Holmes is indeed a candidate whether he has announced or not because

“(1) he filed petitions and did not decline during the declination period, and (2) he has an active filing with the NYS board of elections.”

Kerner added “He is on the ballot therefore he is opposing Meg Kelly.  Period.  If you don’t believe me call the Saratoga County Board of Elections or even the NYS board. ”

I called Mr. Holmes himself. He had been unaware of the article but was unequivocal regarding his commitment to run for mayor.

I wrote to Rex Smith advising him of this and received an email from Ms. Liberatore. She wrote that her understanding was that Holmes had not decided whether to run or not and that unless she heard from him (rather than me), she would continue in the belief that he was not running.

I cop to being a little snarky because I wrote back saying it appeared that the only way she would be convinced of his candidacy would be either his announcement or seeing his name on the ballot this November.

The matter was soon settled as a few minutes later she was CC’d on an email from Mr. Holmes announcing that he was indeed a candidate for mayor of the city of Saratoga Springs .

In his correspondence with Rex Smith Todd Kerner writes that he is “shocked that the TU can say that Meg Kelly has no opposition” and asks for a retraction/clarification. At this point there has been no reply from the TU.

I feel compelled to continue being snarky by pointing out that Rex Smith is on a weekly WAMC show on which he offers his expertise on how the media should comport themselves.

Below are the relevant emails. They are not long and they have a certain comic aspect to them.


To: Rex Smith

From: Todd Kerner

Subject: Liberatore Article

Date: June 15, 2019

This blogger has now made it a cause to point out Wendy’s issues. You should stay with this as you can see even moderates are not happy with her reporting. It’s tainting the TU as being biased. Too bad because I have been a reader for 30+ years and have been an avid fan.


Todd M. Kerner, Chair

Saratoga County Democratic Committee

From: Saratoga Springs Politics <comment-reply@wordpress.com>

Date: June 15, 2019 at 8:18:13 PM EDT

To: tkerner1@nycap.rr.com

Subject: [New post] Times Union Watch

Reply-To: Saratoga Springs Politics

John Kaufmann posted: “In a story in today’s edition of the Times Union, Wendy Liberatore refers to Billy McTygue as William McTague. She also writes that Mayor Meg Kelly is running unopposed. In fact she is being challenged by Republican Tim Holmes.”


From: “Smith, Rex” <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>

Date: Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 12:10 PM

To: “Todd M. Kerner” <tkerner1@nycap.rr.com>

Subject: Re: [New post] Times Union Watch

Sorry for the misspelling — no excuse for that.

But the blogger is incorrect to say that the mayor has a Republican opponent. The possible candidate named here has not announced, nor even decided whether or not to run. Please do not accuse us of bias with factually incorrect information.


From: Todd Kerner <tkerner1@nycap.rr.com>
Date: Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 2:56 PM
To: “Smith, Rex” <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Subject: Re: [New post] Times Union Watch




Tim Holmes is a candidate for Mayor of Saratoga Springs.  He will be on the ballot.  He filed his petitions and they were certified.  To say he is not a candidate is just not accurate.  Whether he has made a formal announcement or not is irrelevant.  Also, to say he has not decided to run is wrong for two reasons:  (1) he filed petitions and did not decline during the declination period, and (2) he has an active filing with the NYS board of elections.

I have done quite a bit of election law and am shocked that the TU can say Meg Kelly has no opposition.  I would ask for a retraction/clarification.

In addition, this is why I called you weeks ago, that Wendy’s reporting and her selection of stories is biased.  When she does stories they often contain errors. The errors seem to always be on the side of her acquaintances.   Not surprisingly her coverage of Saratoga Springs is symbolic of that.  I have never complained or called you in all my years as county chair, but I must confront her reporting and will not let it go unchallenged.   I am surprised though that in this day when newspapers are fighting social media to stay alive the TU would allow itself to be no different than many social media outlets.  I guess the fact people are talking about her stories, not about the substance, but about the bias shown is irrelevant to the number of hits to her stories.  I am just disappointed in the TU that instead of taking a look at her writing you would double down and defend it.

If you have any doubt whether Meg Kelly is opposed, you should confirm that with either the Republican or Democratic Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County.

I am also available to any reporter or editor at the TU.  I will not talk to Wendy as I have no faith in her reporting.  I believe this is becoming more common throughout the County.  That is a disservice to the readership of the TU, including me.




Todd Kerner commentary:

I cannot believe that he says because the person under NYS ELECTION LAW who is on the ballot is not an opponent because he has not announced or decided to run.  I am flabbergasted that he does not know under the election law that when someone petitions after the declination period you cannot get off the ballot except in limited cases.  Nonetheless he is an opponent.  They are closing the ranks at the TU.  I am not letting drop as this is to easy to show how wrong their reporting is in SS.


To: Rex Smith
From: John Kaufmann
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019
I am the blogger referenced in Todd Kerner’s emails to you.

In your email to Mr. Kerner you state:

“The possible candidate named here [JK: TIm Holmes] has not announced, nor even decided whether or not to run”

Tim Holmes cares deeply about our city.  His decision to run was neither frivolous nor impulsive.

Following reading your email, I contacted him.  There was nothing equivocal about his response.  He is fully committed to his campaign and plans to announce his candidacy at what he considers the appropriate time.  I am sure if you contact him using the email above or by phoning him, he will confirm this.  I do not know where you received your misinformation.
Running for office in the current environment is not an easy or pleasant business.  I would urge you as a courtesy to Mr. Holmes to correct the record on this matter.
Thank you for your attention,
John Kaufmann
To: John Kaufmann
From: Wendy Liberatore
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019
That’s not what he tells me. Until he tell me, I can’t use what you say.
To: Wendy Liberatore
From: John Kaufmann
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019
The fact that Mr. Holmes is going to appear on the ballot as the Republican candidate for mayor would seem to most of us sufficient so we would not write a story saying Meg Kelly has no opponent.  I guess for you and Mr. Smith you will have to wait until his announcement or until you get a copy of the ballot this fall.
To: John Kaufmann
From: Wendy Liberatore
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019
I will look at the ballot. But at this point, he is still being coy with me.
To: Wendy Liberatore
From: Todd Kerner
CC: John Kaufmann, Rex Smith. Tim Holmes
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019

Do you know under NYS election law once petitioning is done and the 3 day declination period elapses you are on the ballot.  Do you know this year that was moved up to March.  Mr. Holmes filed petitions for Mayor and did not decline the nomination.  He is on the ballot therefore he is opposing Meg Kelly.  Period.  If you don’t believe me call the Saratoga County Board of Elections or even the NYS board.   By the way, Is it true that the GOP commissioner also refuses to speak to you because of the same issues we are discussing.  

I have tried to be professional and point out the mistakes and also talked to you about the bias in your reporting.  I then went to Rex Smith to discuss this continued concern. If anything it is worse now than ever.  
It does not matter what Mr. Holmes may have said to you or not. We have election laws that say he is on the ballot and cannot come off unless certain circumstances are met (death, etc).  So why would you not phrase your article to reflect the laws of this State rather than your misguided beliefs.  
 Todd M. Kerner, ChairSaratoga County Democratic Committee
To: Todd Kerner
From: Tim Holmes
CC: John Kaufmann, Wendy Liberatore, Rex Smith
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019

I am on the ballot for the November election as a candidate for Mayor, on the Republican line, having filed appropriately as the NYS BOE would attest.

I am glad to do so to offer an alternative for the municipal position. I very much respect the incumbents and others who volunteer themselves for such service.
We are all working in Saratoga Springs to maintain and improve this phenomenal city. 
I appreciate some of the difficulties of running a press operation.
Thanks all.
Tim Holmes
From: John Kaufmann
To: Wendy Liberatore
CC: Rex Smith, Tim Holmes, Todd Kerner
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 16, 2019
I hope the email below (which you received [Holmes Email]) is sufficient proof to you and Mr. Smith that Mr. Holmes is running for the mayor of Saratoga Springs.
I also think you would benefit by checking with the Saratoga County Board of Elections now about his status as a candidate rather wait until the ballots are issued just before the actual election.

8 thoughts on “Times Union Watch: Rex Smith, the Editor of the Times Union, Channels Franz Kafka”

  1. I think the very definition of irony is Wendy Liberatore questioning the ethics of others. On her best day, she’s a two bit hack with only marginal ability to write. On her worst, she’s an outright liar who uses excessive artistic license when reporting “facts”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t see any reference to bias in your original post. Therefore, the response seems very defensive.

    *Richard* Richard Sellers Saratoga Springs, NY sellersrichard@gmail.com

    On Sun, Jun 16, 2019 at 9:33 PM Saratoga Springs Politics wrote:

    > John Kaufmann posted: “It is interesting how a story can morph. In a > recent post in my Times Union Watch series I pointed out that reporter > Wendy Liberatore had incorrectly stated that Mayor Meg Kelly had no > opponent in the fall election. In fact, Tim Holmes has secured the Rep” >


  3. Thank you JK.
    And this story is precisely why we only subscribe to The Daily Gazette.
    A little less bias.
    And of course: Best puzzles & daily color comics in the capitol region!!


  4. Ms. Liberatore has a strange agenda. I wonder what motivates her, and why does Rex Smith not pull-her-up, as any sensible boss should? I do hear Mr. Smith defend the New York Times and the Amazon Post on WAMC as if all their reporting was impeccable, which of course it is not, so I obviously just answered my own question. From the days of Judith Miller, the embedded reporter in the beginning of the second Iraq invasion, to the salacious mis-reporting from Syria about chemical attacks, etc, or the false narrative and perpetuation of lies regarding Maduro and Venezuela, the NYTimes has failed us all. To their credit though, the NYT did post some forensic-video reporting yesterday that debunked a number of their previous stories, especially about the Israelis killing peaceful medics in Palestine, and proof that Maduro’s government did not set the aid trucks ablaze, as all news services reported in block-narrative fashion..


  5. Times Union = CNN…. Liberatore = Jim Acosta. All the same biased media of the day pushing their own agenda. Facts and truth have no meaning. Always trying to reshape the thinking of the people to get what they want…..by any means necessary!


  6. I just read those emails again and my god they are PAINFUL. The TU just doubles down on their bullshit at every opportunity. Paging George Hearst … your paper has gone off the rails!


  7. Robin, I share your dismay at the kind of coverage of Saratoga politics we are seeing from the TU. It seems this Hearst owned newspaper is returning to its roots. As many readers will remember the Hearst media empire took off with their coverage of the Spanish War, much of it sensationalist and fabricated, but effective in selling newspapers and stirring up the public to support a war resulting in thousands of deaths. This coverage spawned the term “yellow journalism” something that can, I think, be applied to the TU today. I’ve included below entries from Wikipedia on both the term “yellow journalism” and its origins and the practices of Hearst papers in the 1890s. Much of what is said in these entries sounds to me like a description of today’s TU coverage.

    “Several forces within the United States were pushing for a war with Spain. Their tactics were wide-ranging and their goal was to engage the opinion of the American people in any way possible. Men such as William Randolph Hearst, the owner of The New York Journal was involved in a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and saw the conflict as a way to sell papers. Many newspapers ran articles of a sensationalist nature and sent correspondents to Cuba to cover the war. Correspondents had to evade Spanish authorities; usually they were unable to get reliable news and relied heavily on informants for their stories. Many stories were derived from second or third hand accounts and were either elaborated, misrepresented or completely fabricated by journalists to enhance their dramatic effect.”

    “Yellow journalism and the yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales.[1] Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.[2]
    The term was coined in the mid-1890s to characterize the sensational journalism in the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. The battle peaked from 1895 to about 1898, and historical usage often refers specifically to this period. Both papers were accused by critics of sensationalizing the news in order to drive up circulation.”


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