Lost Objectivity: Has Rachel Barnhart sold out?

Has Rachel Barnhart decided to run for office? This is one of the rumors going around Rochester political circles. The interesting part is, the evidence all points to yes.

In early January 2016 a poll was administered in Rochester, NY asking a number of questions regarding Mayor Lovely Warren’s record. The poll came after two weeks of TV commercials featuring the Mayor playing up her record to home audiences.

What does this have to do with Barnhart you might ask?

The poll also included what political insiders call name recognition questions. These questions ask whether the caller recognizes the name being voiced to them and usually includes multiple names.  In addition to the Mayor’s name, Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Rachael Barnhart's names were included.

How do we know?

A source from southeast Rochester reported getting a call that asked them to participate in the poll. They reported that they were asked a number of questions regarding the job performance of Mayor Lovely Warren, questions regarding education, public safety and economic development as well as questions of likability and trust. In addition, questions were asked about whether respondents recognized the names of Joe Morelle, James Sheppard, Molly Clifford, Elaine Spaull, Rachel Barnhart and Harry Bronson.

The source stated that they became suspicious of the poll during the call and wanted to know who was sponsoring it. Upon asking the question, the caller responded with the name of a company. After further prodding, the caller relented and stated that the poll was sponsored
by Mayor Lovely Warren.

What are they all up to?

Other political sources have identified two other names associated with the poll. Those of Republican strategist Arnie Rothschild and Albany Lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy, a David Gantt and Lovely Warren loyalist.

Rothschild has close ties to Barnhart through family connections, so while intriguing that a Republican strategist is helping a Democrat,  it is not completely shocking he is assisting her. This would be the second democrat he openly supports outside of his current arrangement with Mayor Warren.

The most intriguing part of this new episode of three’s company is the influence of Robert Scott Gaddy. For those that may have forgotten, Gaddy is the self identified son of Assemblyman David Gantt and brother like figure to Mayor Lovely Warren. Gaddy is also the source of $40,000 of shadow money that illegally powered Warren’s campaign for Mayor. An act that was scrutinized and criticized by local reporter, Rachel Barnhart.

When asked directly whether he was involved with the campaign, Gaddy confirmed he was the source of the poll for Warren and that it included Barnhart.

The 800 Pound Elephant in the room

Has Gaddy’s access to money and political power enticed Barnhart to join his team and sell off her integrity?

Many are wondering, how can a reporter who questioned the source and use of Robert Scott Gaddy’s pact money during the Mayoral Campaign, then work with him and/or enlist him to consult on her own potential campaign?

Further, can Barnhart continue to be an objective reporter while considering such a decision and be trusted to report objectively on those who have now become her political friends?

Lovely Warren and Rachel Barnhart Connection

What further complicates the questions surrounding Barnhart’s objectivity is the criticism she has taken since authoring what critics call a “puff” piece or “softball” story she did on Mayor Lovely Warren last year. In the story, Barnhart is very favorable to the Mayor’s record in the last year. She goes as far as to make judgements and analysis of Warren’s electability and strength as a candidate. These claims and characterizations, based almost solely on the size of Warren’s war chest, are very strange and are absent of the past impartiality Rachel Barnhart has be known for over the years.

The latest wrinkle in this building story is that Barnhart’s contract with Channel 8 news expires in May 2016 and there is no decision on whether it will be renewed or if she will decide to stay.

What will Barnhart do? Should Rachael Barnhart be asked to resign or take a leave of absence from reporting the news while considering public office? 

These questions and a host of others will be on the minds of many as we enter this political season. 

~Juan Garcia is a freelance blogger who lives in Rochester. You can contact him at juangarciaroc@gmail.com

Lingering questions the North Coast will seek answers to in the coming weeks:

Will Rachel Barnhart leave her job as a reporter to run against incumbent Assemblyman Harry Bronson?

Why is Assemblyman Harry Bronson being targeted?

What is Barnhart’s relationship with Warren, Rothschild and Gaddy?

Does this extend to David Gantt?

Do these new relationships and questions about Barnhart's impartiality and objectivity raise further questions of whether she should continue reporting the news especially about City Hall and Rochester politics?

Is Channel 8 News liable for potential FCC violations given Barnhart’s use or misuse of the presses bully pulpit?