Burchett as a victim: ‘obviously it’s one of my opponents’
Perhaps it’s ironic that state legislation in 2017 to make spoofing illegal was co-sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Matlock [R-District 21].
What resulted was a new state law helping Matlock’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District seat opponent, Republican Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, potentially prosecute a misdemeanor “spoofing” attack.
The “spoofed” media outlet was farragutpress.
Thousands of “robo calls” blasting Burchett went out to voters in Knox and six other 2nd Congressional District counties Tuesday evening, Jan. 23, showing a farragutpress phone number — specifically a general assignment reporter’s office number.
“Obviously it’s one of my opponents. Who else would do it?” said Burchett, without referencing a specific candidate, in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 24.
“Somebody is working with some people that don’t like me, and they’re trying to use it to their advantage in politics,” he added. “… The sad truth is my opposition has decided to go negative, but they don’t even have the guts to sign their name to it.
“… They’ll be made known who they are shortly, at the proper time — it’s just not the proper time right now.”
However, “I think it is backfiring on them 180 degrees,” Burchett said. “… I think it’s going to help [me].
“When the Tennessean, through the News Sentinel, put that bogus story about the FBI investigating me out, that quarter of fundraising was the best quarter we’ve ever had,” he added. “I think it just ticked people off.
“I’ve known people all of
my life, and they know the FBI is not investigating me. That’s ridiculous.”
Last week’s spoofing “was just an act of desperation by some bush league political hacks,” Burchett said.
“Hopefully the authorities have the guts to get to the bottom of it. It impacts everybody,” he added. “It impacts the political process.”
As for possibly taking legal action, Burchett said, “I’ve
talked to the [District Attorney’s] office.”
However, “Right now I don’t have a lot of confidence in them,” he added.
Tony Cox, farragutpress publisher and president of Republic Newspapers, Inc. [parent company of farragutpress], filed a report with Knox County Sheriff’s Office. That report reflects records from TDS Telecom — the paper’s phone service provider — concerning newspaper phone calls.
In a report Cox filed with Officer Aaron Yarnell just after 9 a.m., Wednesday, “Between 5 and 9 p.m. [Jan. 23], he began to receive phone calls asking if [farragutpress] had called in reference to political propaganda,” the report stated.
“Cox said after further investigation, an unknown suspect ‘spoofed’ one of the business’ unpublished internal extensions to make false phone calls to various numbers in Knox and surrounding counties,” the report further stated.
Offering proof of that “spoofing,” Cox said he “has checked with TDS Telecom, which cross referenced his account and confirmed no phone calls were made [by the phone number associated with the internal extension mentioned above] during the time frame” in question, the report also stated.
About the attacks being attributed to farragutpress, Burchett said, “I would hope that’s not the case.
“I’ve had a long-standing relationship with you all,” he added.
In the wake of the spoofing, Cox and Burchett had a phone conversation Jan. 24.
“I thought it was positive. Tony was straight up with me,” Burchett said. “He had no knowledge of it, that none of his people were doing it.
“I hoped that farragutpress would ask all the people running [for the Congressional seat] if they had any involvement in it whatsoever,” he added.
All Congressional candidates contacted by farragutpress denied any involvement in the spoofing attack.
“Obviously, I’ve got some enemies that are well-placed,” Burchett said. “… It’s unfortunate. If they can do it to me and you all [farragutpress], they can do it to anybody.”
[Read related spoofing stories and editorials on page 1A and page 4A].