Robyne Robinson turns Fox 9 into campaign commercial

Lieutenant governor candidate denies conflict of interest

Ending a week of wild web buzz, DFL candidate for governor Matt Entenza picked former Fox 9 anchorwoman Robyne Robinson as his running mate.

Lifting a line straight from the "goodbye" story posted on Fox's own website, Entenza said at a 10 a.m. press conference, "Robyne represents the best of Minnesota. She came here 20 years ago on a Greyhound bus."

When it was her turn, Robinson joked about her new role as a newsmaker instead of newsreader.

"Good morning, guys, interesting to see you on this side of the camera," Robinson quipped. "Matt has spent his career standing up for Minnesota families. I am humbled and honored that he asked me to join his campaign."

Others, however, questioned whether Robinson and Fox 9 handled the conflict of interest appropriately.

The day after Robinson admitted that she had been asked by Entenza to run as his lieutenant governor, a journalism ethics expert from the Poynter Institute advised that she should be taken off the air immediately.

Robinson countered that she didn't have a conflict of interest reading the news about her potential rivals, because she claimed that she had not made up her mind yet about whether to run.

"I've not made a decision so it doesn't present any kind of conflict at this point. I have to think about this," she told MPR less than 48 hours before she was announced as the lieutenant governor candidate. "And I'm going to take up to the very last minute to think about it."

Robinson steadfastly refused the suggestion to recuse herself from stories about the gubernatorial race during her final broadcasts.

"No, no, no," she murmured, hushing the question.

When confronted about when she would finally announce her intentions, Robinson resorted to flattery.

"Oh, you're such a good reporter," the former anchor said, coining a phrase we're sure to hear again whenever she's asked a tough question during this campaign. "It will go down to the wire. Until Matt calls and says he can't wait any longer. You know, a good reporter goes all the way till deadline."

Despite Robinson playing coy, the decision was all but official. Fox 9 had ample warning going into her final broadcast about the potential for conflict of interest, and several media critics advised the station to minimize her role.

Instead, Fox 9 went in the exact opposite direction, producing a newscast that will someday be taught in journalism schools as an example of how not to do it.

Talk about blurring the boundaries: A soft-focused montage of Robinson's career as a newswoman blended right in with a soft-focused Matt Entenza campaign commercial.

The very fact that Entenza was allowed (solicited?) to advertise on this program is itself a conflict, but to have it run so close in time to Robinson's biographical material left the overall impression of one giant promo for Entenza/Robinson 2010.

Later, during a retrospective on Robinson's career, Tom Lyden directly addressed the idea of Robinson running and came perilously close to outright endorsing her.

"Lt. Gov. Robyne Robinson? It does have a ring to it."

Whenever someone gets thrust into sudden political prominence—say, a lieutenant governor nomination—there is a scramble to unearth everything the new candidate has ever said or written.

In the case of Robinson, one of her more interesting and sure-to-be-picked-over public statements will be a March 10, 2010, guest spot as a Savage Love-style sexpert for the U of M student newspaper.

Of particular interest to opposition researchers will be the advice she gives an inquiring co-ed on the joy of receiving oral sex.

"You met a guy who actually likes 'giving oral pleasure' without being asked, and you let him get away?!" Robinson replied. "Sometimes it takes a few sessions for women to experience what makes the bells and whistles go off. And when they do...honey, you'll know. And probably everyone else in the dorm will, too."

Advising girls 18-21 to have premarital oral sex might not be the most popular stand with the values crowd—especially considering that Robinson told MPR she wants her issues to be "education, teen pregnancy, [and] schools."

We'll find out soon enough: Entenza and Robinson are now scheduled for a statewide tour. Anyone know if it's on a Greyhound bus?

 
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