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They try to say it’s a communist plot

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The former governor of the state that represents the purest expression of Republican governance is trying to get reporters put in jail for exposing massive welfare fraud:

When Anna Wolfe won the Pulitzer Prize for her dogged reporting on Mississippi’s welfare fraud scandal, she had no inkling she was soon going to have to contend with the possibility of going to jail.

But just over a year after she secured journalism’s top award for exposing how $77 million in federal welfare funds went to athletes, cronies and pet projects, she and her editor, Adam Ganucheau, are contemplating what to pack for an extended stay behind bars. Sued for defamation by the state’s former governor — a top subject of their reporting — they have been hit with a court order requiring them to turn over internal files including the names of confidential sources. They say the order is a threat to journalism that they will resist.

“If one of us goes to jail, we will be the first person to go to jail in the Mississippi welfare scandal,” Wolfe told NBC News, referring to the eight indictments that stemmed from the imbroglio, none of which has yet resulted in a sentence. “How can I make promises to sources that I’m going to keep them confidential if this is possible?”

The case has drawn attention beyond Mississippi as an example of how public figures can make life difficult for news organizations long before they have ever presented evidence of the “actual malice” needed to prove defamation cases. Mississippi Today, the independent nonprofit organization that employs Wolfe and Ganucheau, is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the order. Bryant appointed four of the nine justices.

“Breaching the confidentiality of sources violates one of the most sacred trusts — and breaks one of the most vital tools — in investigative journalism,” Ganucheau wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed. “No serious news organization would agree to this demand.”

Clarence Thomas wants New York Times v. Sullivan overruled so that more reporters who uncovered embarrassing facts about public officials are threatened with jail and/or bankruptcy, for reasons you can probably figure out yourself.

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