Claims by Authors Frank and Rowe Raise Questions, Hackles

Dr. Justin Frank, a psychoanalyst who comments on political leaders, and rock concert promoter Leonard Rowe are making a habit of drawing from their core specialties for very hard-hitting social commentaries.

Dr. Justin FrankTheir comments are entirely distinct. But each is getting strong push-back, partly on religious grounds. The controversies raise intriguing media issues, and your opinion is invited on what’s best to do.

Frank, shown at left, was the guest July 12 on my noon (EDT) weekly radio show MTL Washington Update. Click here to listen to the live show, now on archive. The Harvard Medical School graduate has published two recent best-sellers, Obama on the Couch (2011) and Bush on the Couch (2004). He extrapolates from the presidents' public record about what he regards as their deeper motivations.  

But Time Magazine cancelled his column two weeks ago when he used a similar approach to suggest that Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion played an unseemly factor in Romney’s political attacks. Frank blogged that Time’s management decided that such commentary was inappropriate.
Leonard Rowe
Rowe, a self-made, African-American concert promoter at right, spoke July 11 at the National Press Club about his new book, What Really Happened to Michael Jackson, and his ongoing litigation against his much more powerful business rivals. 

The book’s subtitle -- The Evil Side of the Entertainment Industry -- reflects Rowe’s claims that Jackson was murdered and that business arrangements in the music industry reflect systemic racial and religious bias against African-American promoters and artists.  Further, Rowe claimed in his lecture that unfairness and indeed corruption in the court system are clear from evidence in his litigation against industry giants, including the William Morris Agency. Rowe is now a pro se litigant who accuses his former lawyers of double-crossing him. 

All of us in the media must decide on a frequent basis whether to self-censor such claims from alternative voices, delay to check them out in-depth -- or skip it all and stick to conventional fare.

Obama on the CouchPervasive self-censorship is unhealthy. Thus, the column and the show, which was with co-host and Producer Scott Draughon, the founder of the My Technology Lawyer network that syndicates the show nationally.

This is all part of our country’s tradition of freedom and debate. I began my career in Connecticut at the Hartford Courant, whose publishers were once sentenced to prison by federal authorities for insinuating in 1806 bad motives to President Thomas Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase from France. That purchase turned out to be a good deal. Separately, the Supreme Court vacated in 1813 by a one-vote margin the seditious libel convictions against the newspaper publishers in Hudson and Goodwin v. United States. This became, in effect, the new nation’s first press freedom case decided by the Supreme Court, as I described in Spiked, a 1987 book on such topics.

Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) provided an eloquent introduction to Rowe’s lecture, as did John Edward Hurley, a longtime Washington insider. For a quarter of century, Hurley has chaired the McClendon Group, which organizes on a volunteer basis such informal dinner talks for passionate speakers who are avoided by an increasingly timid mainstream media.

Hurley introduced the July 11 session with a mini-history of the McClendon Group, which is named in honor of the late White House correspondent Sarah McClendon. Hurley formerly worked for her, and recalled that she was a hard-hitting columnist (for mostly small newspapers in Texas) who for many years would shout out questions at presidential news conferences.

Hurley called the White House press conference format these days ”organized stenography,” whereby the White House generally controls who gets to ask a question and others usually wait their turn in hopes of gaining recognition. The process leads to self-censorship, with reporters fearing loss of access by their organizations to important officials at press conferences or for private interviews. To help provide a venue for alternative voices, Hurley invites McClendon Group speakers for private weekly meetings, independent from the Press Club’s formal internal committee process. Among invitees have been retired Admiral James Clapper (before his current appointment as President Obama’s National Security adviser), U.S. Ron Paul (R-TX), self-published author and author Joseph Wilson, a former United States ambassador. 

Leonard Rowe CoverOn July 11, Rowe described his career start as a Georgia-based airlines worker with a passion for music. On a hunch and using his moxie three decades ago, he persuaded a hot group, The Spinners, to hire him to arrange a concert. Now, he alleges that the upper ranks of the entertainment industry’s marketing divisions are stacked against African-American promoters, whom he organized into an advocacy group in the 1990s.

Preceding Rowe in similar comments was Marcus Washington, who has claimed discrimination by his former employer, the William Morris Agency. The agency is the nation’s largest and is led by Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Rowe and Washington each said the legal system is unfairly stacked against complaints against such well-funded defendants, who have denied their claims, as expected, and aired harsh criticisms of him, as might be expected. 

Sorting through all the facts is a monumental task but it should not foreclose interim reports such as this.Some blog sites claim, for example, that Michael Jackson dismissed Rowe in 2009 after learning of a $3.4 million judgment against him by R Kelly.  For now, I’ll mention the claims here, and amplify below with excerpts from sample pro and con columns.

Join us on the noon (EDT) weekly public affairs show. Again, click here to listen to the interviews live nationwide and later by archive. Listener questions are always welcome on the weekly show: Call (866) 685-7469 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mac users need “Parallels.”

Like Rowe in some ways but with different themes, Frank is an entrepreneur. His credentials are from eminent institutions, such as the clinical professorship he holds in the department of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center. He always emphasizes that his views are solely his own.

Once upon a time, those in his field attracted criticism for any attempt to use their analytic expertise on public figures who were not their patients. And their patients deserve privacy, of course. Frank bravely and aptly saw that at least some in the public wanted more, and that he was at least as qualified as any other pundits to speculate about politicians’ motives. the Boston Globe has written of his book:

Obama on the Couch is a fascinating read. Frank approaches this virtual analysis meticulously, closely reading both of Obama’s memoirs, combing through speeches and journalistic accounts of Cabinet meetings. The president’s puzzling insistence on seeking compromise even with political opponents who have sworn resistance, Frank writes in a tongue-in-cheek diagnosis, is evidence of “obsessive bipartisan disorder.”  And his chapter on how Obama’s critics see him – the psychology, or even pathology, behind some of their complaints – is masterful.

But Frank saw from Time’s reaction because of his Romney column one can never fully predict public reaction. In this, his style of commentary is like a lot else in business and life. Another example is for Rowe to predict the popularity of rock concert, good relationships with stars, their gatekeepers and his own attorneys.

Another, for all of us, is predicting the qualities that might be a good president.  In this spirit of open discussion, this covers lots of ground. Join us with own insights.

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Related Coverage

Justin A. Frank, MD, “The Root of Mitt Romney’s Comfort with Lying,” Time Magazine, June 28, 2012. The presidential candidate is used to faith-based certainty that translates as truth even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Mitt Romney doesn’t lie. He is telling the truth as he sees it — and truth it is, the facts notwithstanding. This is not simply a case of Hamlet arguing about point of view, saying, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” This is about a conflict between evidence and faith.

Huffington Post, Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Exit Date Called Into Question By Filings, Luke Johnson, July 12, 2012. When did Mitt Romney leave Bain Capital? The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has said that he left the private equity firm in 1999, but new reports indicate that he may have stayed on until 2002. The Boston Globe reported Thursday on SEC filings dated after February 1999 that state that Romney is the firm's "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president." A 2003 Massachusetts disclosure form says that he owned 100 percent of the company in 2002, and forms indicate that he earned $100,000 as an "executive" in 2001 and 2002, apart from investments. A Romney official told the Globe that the SEC filings "do not square with common sense." "The article is not accurate," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement sent to reporters. "As Bain Capital has said, as Governor Romney has said, and as has been confirmed by independent fact checkers multiple times, Governor Romney left Bain Capital in February of 1999 to run the Olympics and had no input on investments or management of companies after that point."

Huffington Post, Roseanne Barr and Legendary Concert Promoter Leonard Rowe Talk about Racism in Hollywood, Kathleen Wells, J.D..July 11, 2012. On June 24, I had the opportunity to co-host with Roseanne Barr on her show, heard each Sunday on KCAA radio. Our guest was legendary concert promoter and long-time friend and manager of Michael Jackson, Leonard Rowe. Our subject: racism in Hollywood. Both Roseanne and I were shocked, but not surprised by the things we were hearing from  Rowe. And we were shocked, but not surprised by the document(s) Mr. Rowe had in his possession and that were filed with the Court, yet completely ignored by the Court, to date. Rowe talked about the inequities he witnessed in the industry against black concert promoters during his 30-plus years in the entertainment business.

Ticket News, R. Kelly awarded multimillion dollar judgment against promoter Leonard Rowe, Jane Cohen & Bob Grossweiner, Oct. 7, 2008. Arbitrator Richard P. Byrne, a retired California Superior Court judge, awarded R&B superstar R. Kelly $3.4 million in damages from tour promoter Leonard Rowe, according to a court document filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Atlanta-based Rowe promoted Kelly's 35-city Double Up tour last fall and winter.


Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues


FireDoglake, Judge Shuts Down Debtor’s Prison in Alabama, David Dayen, July 13, 2012. A couple weeks back, the New York Times shed some light on a growing trend of private probation companies ramping up fees on indigents who violate misdemeanors, kicking off a process that sends these people to jail for owing money. Meanwhile the fees would get layered on top of one another. It’s a 21st-century form of debtor’s prison and it violates federal statutes against the practice as it shocks the conscience.  One judge in Alabama, the state profiled in the story, has had enough. In an order against the city of Harpersville, AL. This is a harsh ruling. Judge Harrington granted a preliminary injunction hearing to the plaintiff, a victims of the debtor’s prison, and ordered the mayor and every member of the Harpersville City Council to be present at the trial. The judge also said that the city could not incarcerate ANYONE in the county jail or corrections facility without written approval from him. Harrington called the scheme a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” Judge Hub Harrington wrote:

When viewed in a light most favorable to Defendants, their testimony concerning the City’s court system could reasonably be characterized as the operation of a debtors prison. The court notes that these generally fell into disfavor by the early 1800′s, though the practice appears to have remained common place in Harpersville. From a fair reading of the defendants’ testimony one might ascertain that a more apt description of the Harpersville Municipal Court practices is that of a judicially sanctioned extortion racket. Most distressing is that these abuses have been perpetrated by what is supposed to be a court of law. Disgraceful.

Defendants’ depositions present virtually undisputed evidence that criminal defendants appearing before the Harpersville Municipal Court have been subjected to repeated and ongoing violations of almost every safeguard afforded by the United States Constitution, the laws of the State of Alabama, and the Rules of Criminal Procedure. The admitted violations are so numerous as to defy a detailed chronicling in this short space.

Legal Schnauzer, Penn State Employees Feared They Would Be Fired If They Reported Sandusky's Abuse, Roger Shuler, July 13, 2012. Former FBI director Louis Freeh yesterday released his report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, and coverage has focused mainly on the role of iconic football coach Joe Paterno in an apparent cover up. Freeh's 267-page report concluded that the late Paterno and three high-ranking Penn State administrators tried to bury reports of child sexual abuse because they feared bad publicity for the university and its storied football program. The most telling part of the report, however, focuses on janitors who worked in and around Penn State locker-room and shower facilities. One of the janitors witnessed Sandusky's abuse of a child, but he and his coworkers feared they would be fired if they reported it. I know, from first-hand experience, that the janitors were justified in their fears. After all, I was fired from my job in the University of Alabama System for reporting on this blog about corruption in our state's "justice system."

CBS Sports, Institutional Control? Report Shows Tragic Result of Coach as King Culture, Bruce Feldman, July 12, 2012. Speaking to the culture of the place and how the football program controlled the school, Freeh brought up a janitor who observed one of Sandusky's attacks. Freeh said the man told him it was the worst thing he ever saw: "This is a Korean War veteran who said, 'I've never seen anything like that. It makes me sick.' He spoke to the other janitors. They were alarmed and shocked by it. But what did they do? They said, 'We can't report this because we'll get fired.' They knew who Sandusky was. "They were afraid to take on the football program. They said the university would circle around it. It was like going against the President of the United States. If that's the culture on the bottom, God help the culture at the top."

CBS Sports, Let Freeh's Damning Report Ring--King Football Needs to Answer for Sins, Dodd, July 12, 2012. King Football must die. It must die a painful and immediate death.  It must be hanged in the public square to show that now and forever King Football can't rule a sport, a school, a society. It is time. It is overdue. If you don't know that the culture has changed after the release of the Freeh Report on Thursday then you are blind to the toxic byproducts of the second-most popular spectator sport in our country.

Reflections of a Newsosaur, What’s next for newspapers? Alan D. Mutter, July 11, 2012. Not so very long ago, the newspaper business was a snap: Build the largest possible audience, sell the most possible ads, charge the highest possible rates, print the fattest possible papers and pump out the biggest possible profits. This enviable model worked exquisitely for generations, because publishers had little, if any competition. But it is now clear, as attested by the 50% drop in newspaper advertising since 2005, that the old ways can no longer succeed. So, most publishers – after arguably procrastinating far too long – are faced with choosing the best possible going-forward strategy for their mature, if not to say declining, businesses. They will be in good company. In the last few weeks, Warren Buffett, the Newhouse family and Rupert Murdoch each embarked on one of the three most likely paths available to newspaper publishers. Here's a quick way to think about the three approaches: Farm It. Milk It. Feed it.

Legal Schnauzer, Was Major Bashinsky the Target of Attempted Extortion Before He Died? Roger Shuler, July 12, 2012. Alabama lawyer Major Bashinsky killed himself because someone was about to "out" him as bisexual, according to a recent blog post by his older brother, Sloan Y. Bashinsky Jr.  This information, by itself, is not news. Sloan Bashsinky Jr. has written it several times on various blogs from his base in Key West, Florida. The most recent post, titled "Major Bashinsky Suicide Redoubt," was published on July 1 at That came 11 days after my post titled "Was Major Bashinsky's Death Connected to a Lawsuit Involving Oil and Millions of Dollars?"

Salon, Excuses for assassination secrecy, Glenn Greenwald, July 12, 2012. A high-level defender of Obama's drone secrecy says "it's not to cover up wrongdoing." Let's see if that's credible. In response to his widely discussed Esquire article entitled “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” Tom Junod received a telephone call from someone he describes as “a person with intimate knowledge of the executive counter-terrorism policies of the Obama administration.” This unnamed person called Junod specifically to defend the administration’s refusal to provide any minimal transparency or even acknowledgment about these policies, even when drone attacks ordered by the President kill innocent American teenagers such as 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki. Junod summarizes the defense he was given by this source as follows: “You seem to think that more transparency would help rectify some of the moral problems,” he said, and then told me that “the political people in the administration, including the president himself,” would probably agree with me. Response: The most basic truth of political power — and (therefore) the core precept of the American founding — is that power exercised in secret, without checks and accountability, will be inevitably abused: not sometimes or maybe abused, but inevitably, and not only when Bad People are in power, but always, even when it involves someone so deeply and profoundly magnanimous as Barack Obama.