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‘Team Portantino’ Threatens Los Cerritos Community News Over Endorsement Story

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Anthony Portantino

 

 

January 21, 2015 3:35 p.m.

Staff Report

Hews Media Group-Community News has received an email from “Team Portantino” threatening the newspaper for publishing an investigative story related to a website that had published bogus quotes endorsing Portantino.

The website was pulled offline minutes after HMG-CN broke the story on January 15.

The investigative story found that several names and quotes were fabricated.

The names included state Sen. Mark Leno who said, “I have not spoken to Anthony in years,” but was quoted as endorsing Portantino on the site; Glendale Councilwoman Laura Friedman, Pasadena Councilman Terry Tornak, and Eric Bauman, Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party who told HMG-CN he was “emphatically not supporting him (Portantino).”

See story, click here.

In the days after publishing the story, several other officials have come forward to HMG-CN saying they did not endorse Portantino.

HMG-CN will publish those names in a separate story.

The “Team Portantino” email to HMG-CN stated, “we are writing to request that you immediately retract the false and misleading story that ran in Los Cerritos News last week asserting that a campaign website with fabricated endorsements was posted for public review.”

The email indicated that the website was not public and that Portantino’s campaign “did not know about it.”

Sources told HMG-CN that a few city councilmembers told them that Portantino would go to local meetings sending officials to the website, even pulling it up on his phone, to show them all the “impressive” endorsements.

In addition, the bottom of the website stated, “paid for and authorized by Anthony Portantino for Senate 2016, ID# 1334175.”

The email went on, “the draft homepage of the “mockup” was private and password protected.  No one on Team Portantino knew that the long dormant satellite pages, including the one in question, were in any way available to the public or that they could be accessed without a password.”

The HMG-CN investigation found that the website was indeed publicly accessible for a very long time and easily found by a “Portantino Endorsements” Google search.

HMG-CN Publisher Brian Hews said, “the page was public. Google crawled it and cached the site meaning it was public. I did a Google search, found it, and took screenshots. If it was private at the time, the search would have produced a login or password page. After the story published, Portantino pulled the site down and now a Google search of “Portantino Endorsements” takes you to a login page.”

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A Google search of Portantino Endorsements now points to a login page. Before January 15, when HMG-CN broke the story, the search pointed to a published endorsement page.

 

 

“Further,” Hews stated, “after seeing the site, my website company said that was very elaborate for a mock-up. Website mock-ups use stock pictures and “Greek text.” If the site was a mockup, they went through a lot of trouble to fabricate text that was very specific to the campaign. It is unheard of to pay a web designer to find pictures and related photos and come up with copy that’s going to be thrown away.”

The threatening email to HMG-CN contained several other demonstrably false statements.

In response to the story, Portantino initially claimed the web page was from his aborted 2012 run for State Senate.

In the email to HMG-CN, Portantino indicates the website is “years old.”

However, the website in question contains Portantino’s 2016 Campaign information.

Further the website also contains the current titles of individual politicians indicating it was created well after 2012.

Alan Lowenthal, who served in the State Senate until 2013 is listed by his current title of Congressman.

 

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Still others, like Laurie Collins, are listed as “former.” Collins only recently retired from the Santa Monica Conservancy.

The email then asserted, “these facts clearly and indisputably disprove the thesis of your story and establish, to the contrary, that the Portantino campaign never finalized, launched, promoted or intentionally posted the campaign website you reference.  Again, the only person promoting and distributing this page is you (HMG-CN), not Team Portantino.”

HMG-CN contacted an experienced publishing executive in Northern California who said, “what they have provided is an incomplete and unauthenticated series of allegations explaining how the page your story exposed came to exist and their incompetence in managing their affairs to avoid damage to Portantino’s reputation.”

The email then took on a more threatening tone, “moreover, to minimize the harm already caused by your inaccurate reporting we request that you immediately retract the false story.  Should you not do so, you will be perpetuating a story with knowledge of its falsity and in reckless disregard for the truth. While we recognize that it is uncomfortable for a publication to admit inaccurate reporting, in this case making an honest disclosure of your error is the right thing to do, both legally and ethically.  We encourage you to do so.“

“There is nothing to retract,” said Hews. “We acted in good faith based on the public endorsement page. Our allegations were reasonably drawn by the content of that page, backed up by the officials who came forward to refute the endorsements, and we have more coming.”

 

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