Devon Mathis Assistant Tries to Intimidate Reporter

Devon Mathis has an Assembly Ethics Committee investigation of him going on.  His ex-wife filed five child abuse complaints.  His donors asked him to stop drinking so much and “partying”.  Yet, his aide decided to try to get the local paper in his district to stop reporting on him.

“But this case is different, and I think you deserve to know about it as our readers. In the 20-plus years I’ve worked in this business, I’ve never seen such a blatantly personal attempt by a powerful person to intimidate a reporter and push her off the trail of a story.

It’s particularly revolting that the spokeswoman for an elected official accused of sexual improprieties with women would try to railroad a woman working on the story with innuendo that she has embarrassing dirt on her. Mathis should personally and immediately disavow such tactics if he wishes to maintain any credibility on the subject of relating professionally to women.”

Is Mathis also the bully of Sacramento?  Ask the editor of the Visalia Times-Delta for an answer to that question.  Is this how we want our elected officials to act?

Capitol

Editor: How Mathis’ representative tried to intimidate a T-D reporter

Silas J Lyons, Visalia Times-Delta , 11/17/17

 

Around mid-day Tuesday, Times-Delta reporter Sheyanne Romero got a text with a question.

Romero, as many of you know, has been working with Local News Editor Eric Woomer to investigate allegations against Assemblyman Devon Mathis, who has been accused of sexual assault as well as harassment, sexism, child abuse and excessive drinking at public functions. Through all the controversy, Mathis has been secluded from both constituents and the media and has spoken to us only through Jennifer Jacobs, a political strategist who owns a consulting firm called Sunshine Strategies.

Sacramento police on Thursday said they have dropped a sexual assault investigation involving Mathis because investigators “were unable to substantiate that a crime occurred.” An independent investigation for the Assembly Rules Committee also is underway, although committee staff has declined to comment on it.

It was Jacobs who sent the text to Romero, and her first question made it clear she wanted to turn the tables:

“Have you ever been at a social/fundraising event in the district with Devon?” she asked Romero.

“Yes, several,” was the reply.

Jacobs: “Did he come on to you or act inappropriately?”

Romero: “My interactions with the Assemblyman have been minimal.”

The tone changes:

“So it went from several to minimal. Ok. The Wall Street Journal will be contacting you.”

Jacobs again, moments later: “And the New York Times. They are both doing a story.”

Romero, not taking the bait: “I’ve been to several events he’s been at. We cover lots of events. We had minimal contact at those.”

Jacobs: “Discuss it with them. I’ve seen video that shows a different story. Either way. You can talk to them.”

We often don’t get into the backstory of what goes on behind the scenes in our reporting. Especially on controversial pieces, it can be a lot like watching water polo – you have no idea how hard people are kicking just below the surface.

But this case is different, and I think you deserve to know about it as our readers. In the 20-plus years I’ve worked in this business, I’ve never seen such a blatantly personal attempt by a powerful person to intimidate a reporter and push her off the trail of a story.

It’s particularly revolting that the spokeswoman for an elected official accused of sexual improprieties with women would try to railroad a woman working on the story with innuendo that she has embarrassing dirt on her. Mathis should personally and immediately disavow such tactics if he wishes to maintain any credibility on the subject of relating professionally to women.

If he believes all the allegations about his behavior to be unfounded, he should be working to set a high standard. Instead, his hired strategist provided an excellent example of our still-broken culture and the ways women like Romero have to work harder than men for the same level of respect.

When I called Jacobs to ask her about the texts, she told me there is no video, she wasn’t trying to intimidate anyone, and that we were misreading the situation. She insisted that she’s been a champion for women throughout her career.  But she also sought to justify her tactics by saying both the allegations and the Times-Delta coverage are unfair to her client, who is the victim of a smear campaign by political opponents and disgruntled former employees.

“No, no, no, I did not mean that there was compromising video of her,” she said. “That’s the point. My point was to try to say that there is nothing here. This is not a story.” (At this point, I’d invite you to go back and re-read those texts, which I have reproduced exactly and in their entirety.)

I asked Jacobs about what was clearly an attempt to make it personal with Romero.

“I didn’t mean that, nor would I do that,” she said. “But what I would say is I’m no longer going to just sit around and let people try to accuse someone of something (without evidence).”

Just to be clear, Romero has not been contacted by reporters from national news organizations and I have no reason to believe such a story is any more real than the video Jacobs purported to have seen. And while Romero recalls seeing Mathis at public events both when she worked for the Foothill Sun-Gazette and since she’s come to the Times-Delta, she would remember if anything inappropriate ever occurred. It didn’t.

For her part, she’s going to keep doing her job.

“We don’t take a stake in the game,” she told me. “We are trying to find the truth, and that’s it.”

Silas Lyons is executive editor of the Times-Delta and Advance-Register.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.