BY MORGAN FECTO
The infamous “47 percent” video footage helped derail Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign last year, but it delivered one Takoma Park resident to the greatest scoop of his career and a George Polk Award.
“It was a significant, important story and I’m glad I did it,” said David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones Magazine, of his award-winning story that broke Sept. 17, 2012.
“I’m pleased I got a scoop that was consequential,” said Corn.
Corn, originally from White Plains, N.Y., has lived in Takoma Park for the past 16 years. He said that he loves the city because of its civic consciousness, which is not surprising for a journalist who wants to help the public make savvy decisions.
Knocked Romney off his footing
His story exposed a secretly recorded comment by Romney during a private fundraiser, in which he seemed to brand 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders.
“This sort of knocked him off his footing,” said Corn of Romney once the story was published.
Corn said he began his research on Romney early in the election season, and started by combing through his business records.
“That’s the time to put their past under the microscope,” said Corn, who believes that journalists should show the truth about government officials and keep them accountable to the public.
Corn started writing stories about Romney’s business because taxes, investments, and job creation seemed like likely to be big election topics, said Corn.
“This [scoop] came from a series of stories that came from day-in, day-out digging,” said Corn. “Sometimes you never know where that’s going to lead.
James Carter, the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter who had helped Corn with an earlier article on Romney, sent Corn a YouTube link in August that led him on a path to the famed video.
“The first time I watched it, my jaw dropped and I thought I must have misheard,” said Corn.
After watching the footage again, Corn said he showed the tape to his 10 staff members, and then they set to work on the story.
“I can safely say this is the biggest scoop I’ve had,” said Corn. “I don’t think anybody anticipated how big this would get.”
Corn argued that, while his story alone did not win the election for Obama, it did have a huge impact on the Romney campaign.
“It sucked up a lot of time and prevented Mitt’s campaign from doing other things,” Corn said. “In a campaign the most precious commodity is time.”
“It was the impact of this story that made it award-winning,” said John Darnton, acclaimed journalist and curator of the George Polk Awards.
“It dominated the headlines for a good two weeks,” he added. “It came at a time of momentum on the Romney side, and the remarks crystallized the doubt felt by a large number of voters.”
George Polk Award winner David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones Magazine, Takoma Park resident.
“The odd thing is that it doesn’t change much,” said Corn about winning his Polk.
“The work is done and it’s had its impact. I still get up every day and work for the story, practicing journalism the best I can,” said Corn.
The story led Corn to write a multitude of follow-up articles, and to make television appearances to defend his story against the opinions of Romney supporters.
“We kind of had a rolling exposure,” said Corn, whose later stories also examined Romney’s remarks about foreign policy in the video.
The footage even received coverage early this month, when Chris Wallace of Fox News interviewed Mitt and Ann Romney, proving that Corn’s breaking story has true resonance.
In the interview, Romney said that he did not think about how his off-the-cuff remarks would be “twisted and distorted,” and his wife said that the media unfairly portrayed him during the campaign.
Corn, however, said that passion in reporting is not synonymous to bias in reporting.
“I’m not a big believer in reporters being objective,” said Corn. “But I am in them being accurate.”
Corn will receive his George Polk Award April 11 at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan.