Staffers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently took a break from helping their boss resist improvements to the foster care system and save the state from the scourge of online fantasy football betting to gripe about a reporter for the Dallas Morning News.
An unnamed "high level staffer" told Breitbart's FBI informant-cum-reporter Brandon Darby that Lauren McGaughy, who'd broken stories about strange comings and goings at the office, was practically "stalking" them.
"This is insane," the staffer says. "She is waiting outside of both public and private buildings to demand that we answer questions. We feel stalked by her."
The source also states that McGaughy called staffers' family members, and, in one case, yelled at a staffer who was on the phone with a person "who had just lost their spouse."
The piece also contains this gem: "Several sources in the office gave the impression that they are fully expecting to get home and have a rabbit boiling in a pot on their stoves at some point." Oy.
It's difficult to determine who's guilty of the bigger indignity here — petulant AG staffers who we had, perhaps mistakenly, assumed to be grown-ups; or Breitbart, which purports to be a legitimate news-gathering apparatus. But we're going to give the slight edge to Paxton's staffers' chutzpah nonpareil.
Not wanting to be accused of similar maniacal behavior in the future, we reached out to the AG's Office for suggestions on how to know when a reporter has crossed over from Lois Lane to Travis Bickle. Of course, we were fully aware that a list of questions about supposed stalking might be meta-stalking, but we were willing to take that chance if it could liberate AG staffers from the yoke of accountability.
We asked if it was appropriate for a reporter to seek answers from alternative sources if a government official refuses to answer questions. We asked for a rule of thumb on how to obtain public information that is being withheld. We asked for a "Do Not Call" list. We asked if any of these staffers were seeking restraining orders. We also asked if Paxton thinks it's acceptable for his staff to publicly accuse a reporter of being a lunatic.
Instead of answering the questions, Paxton's communications director, Marc Rylander, sent us this:
The Office of the Attorney General maintains great and longstanding professional relationships with representatives of local, state and national media outlets. The Attorney General and his staff work daily with many reporters to provide information in their assignments of covering business pertaining to the agency.
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We replied with an email clarifying that Rylander didn't want to answer the questions, but we received no response. It's entirely possible that the follow-up email spooked Rylander and he was too busy hiding under a bed, calling 911, to get back to us.
It's a shame, because in our brief interaction, we had really come to feel that we had maintained a longstanding professional relationship. We began to question ourselves. Had we, like McGaughy, descended into madness? We imagined ourselves as Lloyd Dobler, standing in the rain, vulnerable and sincere, but maybe Rylander saw a malignant evil telegraphing taunting cyphers: I know what you did last election cycle.
The Breitbart piece closes out with a plaintive wail from another anonymous staffer, who asks, "How far will the Dallas Morning News allow [McGaughy] to go?"
We expect the DMN will "allow" McGaughy to continue her excellent reporting. She and other intrepid reporters are helping to let the public know what an elected official — and criminal defendant — is doing. It's a public service. Which is probably why Paxton's people don't recognize it.