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Anatomy of a Smear: How poor reporting trashed a Vermont judge

Editor’s Note: This report first appeared in the Vermont Lawyer and Trial Court Reporter, before Judge Edward Cashman reconsidered the sentence of Mark Hulett. It is reprinted here with permission.

BURLINGTON – It began with an inaccurate local television news report, with the errors repeated by Vermont print and broadcast media.  The story was quickly picked up by Internet bloggers and right-wing talk radio and soon reached at least three sensationalist national cable shows.  Within a week, bloggers were posting ever more extreme comments, calling for vigilante action against a longtime Vermont judge and posting his home address and phone online.

State politicians jumped at the chance to be on national television, repeating the errors and adding to them.  Nationwide, there were calls for boycotts of Vermont if the judge were not removed from the bench.  Both the Republican governor and the Democratic Speaker of the House joined in condemnation of the judge.

As this issue goes to press, the House is planning to vote on a resolution asking the judge to resign.

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