MFM Exclusive: Union Leader Runs Fake-News Hit Piece on Regional Conservative Group

11/10/17, Maine First Media Staff Report,

The largest newspaper in New Hampshire is picking a fight with a local, Maine-based conservative organization.

The New Hampshire Union Leader ran a fake-news hit piece earlier this week making several false allegations about New England Opportunity Project.

And to make matters worse, the journalist behind the story admitted that he never even attempted to contact NEOP before running his yellow-journalism story.

After NEOP took the time to reach out to the author of the fabricated story, the original post has been amended. But that was after days of NEOP’s name being smeared in the original piece.

The article was supposed to be a summary of a State House race in Manchester, but a large section of the space dedicated to the election contest was instead spent spreading lies about NEOP.

According to NEOP President, Rep. Larry Lockman, a few NEOP trained volunteers took to the streets of Manchester’s 8th Ward and blanketed the neighborhood with the pictured flier.

The flier called out a sitting Manchester School Board member for voting to keep her health and dental benefits, instead of hiring a new middle school algebra teacher.

You can see in the flier, there is no mention of an upcoming election, no mention of the School Board member’s opponent or that she’s running for a State House seat, and no call to action.

The subject of the flier, Erika Connors, did go on to win her State House race by a mere 20 votes after starting the race as a heavy favorite. However, voters in the district booted her from her School Board position.

NEOP maintains this was not an election piece, it was an issue discussion piece.

“School Board members are elected to their seats to do what’s best for students,” Rep. Lockman said. “No one is voting you into that office because they want to make sure you have a great dental plan. The expectation is that you’ll put the students first.”

Maine First Media asked why the flier was distributed so close to the election if it was not an electioneering piece.

“Because that’s when residents are paying the most attention to issues,” Rep. Lockman quickly replied. “We can work very hard to try to get them to pay attention in August, or we can get the information to them when they’re already paying attention in October. It’s a simple math equation that an extra teacher could have been hired to teach Manchester students had the School Board not valued their perks of the job more.”

The Union Leader piece, written by Kevin Landrigan, also said NEOP sent out a mailer. They did not. Volunteers distributed fliers that the volunteers had printed out. There was no mailer.

“These NEOP-trained activists did all the heavy lifting,” Rep. Lockman said. “All we did was provide a couple reams of paper. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you have committed, well-trained volunteers. That’s why NEOP is so dedicated to our Activist Training Courses; you see the results a good team of volunteers can yield. New Hampshire’s largest paper was convinced it was a mailer, when it wasn’t, because these volunteers did such a great job distributing the fliers.”

While Landrigan didn’t take the time to reach out to NEOP,  he did have time to interview a New Hampshire Democrat Party spokesperson and run quotes from the spokesperson about NEOP. Again, the reporter never followed up with NEOP.

The article also implies that NEOP had something to hide by not reporting its spending to the New Hampshire Secretary of State. However, section 664:6 of the New Hampshire general code states entities with expenditures exceeding $500 shall file with the Secretary of State.

You could remove one of the zeros from $500 and the three reams of paper NEOP purchased for the flier still wouldn’t even approach the trigger amount.

Finally, the Union Leader report attempted to paint NEOP as a Maine group unfairly getting involved in New Hampshire politics.

And while NEOP is based in Maine and the Pine Tree State is NEOP’s primary focus, as the name New England Opportunity Project implies, and its stated mission of “advancing freedom and free markets throughout all of New England” clearly indicates, the organization does have an interest in all the New England states, which would certainly include New Hampshire.

“This is a perfect example of fake news,” Rep. Lockman said. “The Union Leader printed a hit piece about a little organization fueled by volunteers, because they couldn’t argue the fact that voting for more School Board member benefits instead of a new math teacher is inexcusable. It’s a classic example of shooting the messenger because you can’t beat the message.”

Unlike the Union Leader piece, Maine First Media did reach out to Landrigan to comment on this story. We have yet to hear back from him.

Rep. Lockman tells Maine First Media that Landrigan apologized for not contacting him. A short quote from Rep. Lockman has since been added to the original story. However, there is no notation on the story that there was a correction to the original, and the author still neglects to inform readers he never attempted to contact NEOP before running the hit piece.

It is worth noting that Landrigan has bounced around media organization in New Hampshire. He is currently with the Union Leader following exits from NH1 TV and the Nashua Telegraph.

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