Today's front page Daily News prominently features a Q and A with Tennie Pierce, the former firefighter who sued the city of Los Angeles over a prank in which he was fed dog food, conducted by the paper's award-winning reporter Beth Barrett.
Normally, Barrett is a great digger and reporter, very tough on her subjects, and many people think she should have won this weekend's Southern California Journalism Award for Hard News, which instead went to perfectly professional but not earth-shattering fire coverage by a huge team of Los Angeles Times reporters.
Barrett blew the lid off Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's affair with now-departed Telemundo anchor Mirthala Salinas. Some political analysts believe Barrett's scoop assured that Villaraigosa will not run for governor of California.
But Barrett's softball interview leaves out most of the key controversies swirling around Tennie Pierce, and some of those controversies helped discredit Pierce in the eyes of the public.
The Weekly published the most extensive investigation into what really happened at Fire Station 5, in March of 2007. Key among the issues that the Daily News' Q and A was silent on today include:
– Pierce lied in public at the City Hall appearance that set off a firestorm of support for him by black organizations, claiming that “nine white members” of his fire crew were behind the prank, when in fact, the pranksters were a mixed bag of ethnicities and races.
– The same day that the Latino firefighter, Jorge Arevalo, fed Pierce dog food as a prank, another colleague alleged to the Weekly that Pierce taunted the much smaller Arevalo at a volleyball game, shouting, “I take craps bigger than you!”
– Despite intense investigation of the incident, no racist undertones, comments or motivations were found to be involved in the prank. A jury later agreed that the two white captains punished for their handling of the incident had been victims of reverse discrimination.
– Photographs of Pierce hazing other firefighters showed him to be a raucous prankster with no problems engaging in outlandish behavior, including Pierce spraying water into the face of one strapped-down firefighter, smearing shaving cream around the groin area of another strapped-down firefighter, and gleefully laughing at a third who had been wrapped in a bed sheet scrawled with, “Oy Vey! I’m Gay!”
– Pierce's attorney Genie Harrison in whose office's Barrett conducted this rehashing of old news, stood to rake in a tidy fortune in attorney's fees for representing numerous malcontents and firefighters who claimed wrongdoing.
– “Justice” is not what Pierce's colleagues think he is seeking, including his longtime friend Vance Burnes, a black firefighter who called into question key parts of Pierce’s lonely depiction of himself as a harassed firefighter singled out by his colleagues for speaking up.