Having endured a couple of very public conflict-of-interest cases, the Plain Dealer newsroom is understandably prickly about any situation that calls a reporter or editor's objectivity into question.
Browns beat writer Tony Grossi was yanked off the detail after accidentally tweeting his very strong disdain for Browns owner Randy Lerner, and Connie Schultz resigned after concerns arose about her coverage of an event featuring Josh Mandel, her husband Sherrod Brown's opponent in the upcoming election.
Which is why when an anonymous letter landed on our desk from the PD newsroom — printed on Plain Dealer letterhead and beginning "This issue must be reported due to the issue with Tony Grossi." — it was instantly cause for investigation.
What staffer is hiding a private agenda and destroying the fundamental tenets of "fair, balanced, and objecting reporting,"? Does Road Rant's dad own a road sign construction business? Does Michael McIntyre have a Dane Cook tramp stamp?
Nope. Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons was the cause for concern. Click on the image below for the letter.
We asked Simmons what she made of the newsroom missive and the Fudge BFF accusation. Here's what she had to say:
"I have the same relationship with Marcia Fudge that I do with every other local politician, the same ties that I have with Dennis Kucinich or Nina Turner," says Simmons. "If one is monitoring my interactions, I have had lunch or dinner in the past several weeks with any number of local politicians. I would say that my interaction in one-on-ones as well as in public appearances cuts across parties and individuals. And if one looked at our content as it relates to Marcia Fudge, there's nothing that would suggest that she's getting special treatment. And Marcia Fudge isn't a huge fan of the PD. I think if you asked her she would find this funny. She doesn't care for us at all.
"We're not hanging out on the weekends."
Simmons also says its untrue that she personally excised the line from the reporter's coverage of the event in Akron.
Also untrue: that she and Fudge had ice cream afterward, laughed about cutting the line, then had a sleepover and watched Scream 3.