Mea Culpa

July 14, 2015

Inside Insight

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SCPC building

The only thing worse than making a mistake is failing to take responsibility for it. Everyone at SCPC (of which The Nerve is a part) works very hard to ensure accuracy in our research and high professional standards in the way we present it. But despite our best efforts and most vigilant protocols, we will inevitably fail to deliver flawless product. When that happens it’s my duty as president of the SC Policy Council to take responsibility and apologize, as I’m doing today to SC Senator Darrell Jackson.

A story in The Nerve last week could have been interpreted as suggesting that Senator Jackson was attempting to benefit an organization with which he’s associated through a $250K earmark to Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. Yesterday I spoke with Senator Jackson, who assured me unequivocally – and on the record — that is absolutely not the case. He told me that while he did co-sponsor the earmark at the request of a senate colleague, his understanding was the money would be for the Office on Aging for a study on predatory lending, a project he believes has merit. Senator Jackson stated that at no point did he ever discuss the earmark with the Office on Aging or any of his other colleagues, and that he had no reason whatsoever to believe any entity other than the Office on Aging would receive the funds. Senator Jackson declined to identify his colleague to me, but said he had no reason to doubt that senator.

Certainly the earmark raised fair questions after it was described by Governor Haley in her veto message as being “for a single lawmaker intended to be used for a private business.” Furthermore, the Lt. Governor’s office stated in writing that they did not request the funds to study predatory lending. Haley did not name the lawmaker or the private entity.

The Nerve obtained a budget document showing Senator Jackson as one of three co-sponsors of the earmark, which was noted in our story along with the identity of a non-profit organization for which Senator Jackson is a board member and which lists the Office on Aging as a “funding agency.” But we did not intend to offer that as proof that Senator Jackson was the lawmaker in question and the fact that the inference was drawn is understandable and deeply regrettable, even though it was unintentional.

I also want to apologize to Mr. Antjuan Seawright, an associate of Senator Jackson’s with whom we spoke in seeking comment from the Senator (who was not available). Mr. Seawright told us he would discuss the matter of the earmark with the Senator. In quoting Mr. Seawright we did not intend to put him or Senator Jackson in the positon of having to deny the unproved in order to be absolved of it. In fact, that is not a practice of The Nerve. Our writers and researchers are committed professionals with excellent reputations. They take very seriously their responsibility to go beyond what is expected to be clear and accurate.

Unfortunately, in this case we simply missed the way in which our story could be interpreted. The ultimate responsibility for that is mine. Rarely does our quality control break down, but when it does it’s my job to fix it.

I stand by the professionalism of our Nerve team, but I also understand why Senator Jackson believes our story was unfair to him. I’d like to thank him for graciously accepting my apology, as Mr. Seawright did. Given the guaranteed imperfection of humans there will undoubtedly be mistakes. When there are, I’ll always try to accept responsibility, apologize and work harder going forward.