Timing, tapes and Clintonian grammar

062104clintonbill2I assume there will be many posts today on the Rev. Ted Haggard's fall. It seems to me that there are still questions about what, precisely, is on the telltale telephone answering-machine tapes. There seem to be quite a few undefined pronouns. Meanwhile, here is the most crucial news breaking this morning in Denver media:

... (The) acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, said in an e-mail sent to parishioners late Thursday that Haggard admitted to some of the accusations:

"It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true," Parsley said in the e-mail.

"(Haggard) has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation," the e-mail continued.

In terms of media coverage, the most interesting angle to this story is the timing.

Here is the crucial question, one that echoes questions about media coverage of the fall of former Rep. Mark Foley: Just how long did KUSA-TV and/or others sit on this story before breaking it mere days before a crucial election? Why did journalists do this? At the request of the accuser?

You can expect this to be discussed at length in evangelical circles today and, perhaps, on talk radio. If there is silence on the conservative talk-radio shows, that will say a lot.

Meanwhile, conservative Democrat Mark Stricherz -- a friend of this blog -- is sure to ruffle some feathers in the comment pages with this take on the story:

Evangelical Leader Takes a Page, Or Two, from Bill Clinton

As a rule, I am not inclined to believe a male escort who, less than a week before an election, claims on a local TV station that the head of the National Association of Evangelicals paid him for sex. ... But check out the denial from the accused, the Rev. Ted Haggard:

I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver," said Haggard. "I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."

Note the use of the present tense. The Rev. Haggard didn't say he has never had a homosexual relationship, nor that he has always been steady or faithful to his wife. He said he is steady and is faithful. That is exactly the language that Bill Clinton used in his first national interview, with Jim Lehrer, after L'Affaire Lewinsky broke.

Maybe Rev. Haggard misspoke. Maybe he once cheated on his wife, just not with a male escort. But I suspect he's guilty of some sexual misconduct. Which if true probably sinks the Republicans' chances of holding onto the Senate.

I'm not sure about that last line, because I am not sure that this story will have much of an impact in red-zip-code zones in Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri.

More later, I am sure, from all the gang here at GetReligion.

UPDATE: Here is a link that claims to have the text of the semi-confession email sent to members of New Life Church. Here is part of the text from the Rev. Ross Parsley:

As you've likely heard by now, Pastor Ted has voluntarily placed himself on administrative leave as New Life's senior pastor to allow our external board of overseers to work effectively. ... Since that time, the board of overseers has met with Pastor Ted. It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.

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