That Mike Jones Is Good, But He's No Caesar

Is the deputy mayor's wife beyond reproach, and who started these rumors, anyway?

Though Slay stresses that he wasn't making the comparison, when asked to compare the Jones imbroglio with conflicts of interest that surfaced in the administration of former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., Slay recalls that a mayoral aide for Bosley, Tim Person, drew flak when he played a role in awarding an airport contract to Sverdrup Corp. after his wife had done subcontracting work for Sverdrup on a previous, unrelated project: "He got fired for it. It was much more tenuous, if you want to compare them -- and that's not what I'm doing," Slay says.

So, for now, the list of refugees from Room 200 includes Tom Villa, Nancy Farmer, Toby Paone, Julie Stone and Karen Isbell -- and then there's the revolving-door departures of members of the press-liaison staff: Ed Bushmeyer, Monica McFee, Ed Davis and John Boul. But Jones says he's staying in the bunker. Look out for incoming.

SCOOP CITY AND THE CHERRY BOMBER: When a newspaper pats itself on the back, it's best not to overreach. Take the Howard Mechanic piece in the Sunday, April 9, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mechanic was the Washington University student who fled St. Louis in 1972 after being convicted of tossing a cherry bomb at firefighters when the campus ROTC building burned. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Mechanic bolted, took another name and led another life until he was uncovered in Arizona in February. Mechanic hadn't granted any interviews since his arrest, although several newspapers, including this one, made requests. So when the P-D published, under reporter Paul Hampel's byline, what it called the first interview "Mechanic has given to a newspaper" on April 9, the paper seemed to have scored a good old-fashioned scoop. The story was picked up by other St. Louis media that day, including KMOX (1120 AM). The only problem was, Mechanic's jailhouse interview was first published in the Arizona Republic -- on April 8. What happened? Mechanic lawyer Tom Hoidal says he decided to make his client available to both newspapers at the same session. Unlike Hampel, Republic reporter Dennis Wagner told his readers that the "52-year-old inmate spoke with two reporters." But here's the real kicker: According to Hoidal, neither paper actually scored the first newspaper interview with Mechanic. That distinction goes to the New York Times, which Hoidal apparently didn't tell Hampel or Wagner. "That should be coming out in the New York Times Magazine this coming Sunday," Hoidal says. And one more thing -- Mechanic is 52, not 51, as the P-D stated. No big deal? Maybe not, but why the misleading info on the self-promotion?

AT LEAST THEY WEREN'T HOLDING SOUTH CAROLINA FLAGS: After his senatorial opponent, Gov. Mel Carnahan, was outed for doing a blackface minstrel skit in 1960 at a Rolla Kiwanis social event -- wait, let us ponder for a moment the weirdness of that scene -- U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft tried to downplay the significance of his acceptance of an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, the South Carolina school criticized for its opposition to interracial dating and its attacks on the Roman Catholic Church. But let's face it -- "Bob Jones U." sounds like a bad Jeff Foxworthy joke: "You know you're a redneck when you get a honorary degree from Billy Bob Jones University." Ashcroft has kept a low profile with regard to this peculiar honor. But wait -- here's a snippet from Ashcroft's Christmas card, sent to donors and fellow travelers, giving John's highlights for the year: "Lots of time fund-raising ... commencements -- Evangel U. & Bob Jones U. ... singing senators ... with Janet introduced 165 Howard U. frosh to Senate ... greeted Pope John Paul II in St. L ... At least you have to give Ashcroft points for audacity for putting in the same ellipsis-littered sentence Bob Jones U. and a mention of his wife's teaching at historically black Howard University; Bob Jones and Pope John Paul. Where will the dichotomies end? Well, for Carnahan the weirdness seems to have ended 40 years ago. As for Ashcroft, we'll have to wait until next Christmas.

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