Speaker Moore Blacklists Reporter
Nick Ochsner, the investigative journalist who broke the story of Tim Moore's financial irregularities, has come into the crosshairs of key legislative and Republican party leaders. According to reports, Republican members are being urged not to speak to the reporter and not to answer any questions about Speaker Moore's finance reports.
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Emails between Ochsner and an aid to Moore, Michael Luethy, that Ochsner provided to station managers prior to Woodhouse's email show that Ochsner was approached about the position in early December.
Luethy sent Ochsner an email with the subject line "Communications Director" on December 11, 2014.
"Are you interested in the Communications Director position with new NC House Speaker Tim Moore?" Luethy wrote. "He is hiring a communications director for his office, and Matt Bales forwarded your resume to me with his strong recommendation. If you are interested, please let me know a good time to talk as soon as possible."
Ochsner responded less than an hour later.
"I told Matt I'm interested in talking about the opportunity. I'd love to discuss it with you. I'm in the car for about the next hour and have some time to talk now or I should be free later today between 2-4," Ochsner wrote.
According to both the emails and Ochsner, the two spoke on the phone later that afternoon.
"I was approached about a position with Speaker Moore," Ochsner said. "At the time, I was looking to relocate to Charlotte to be with my wife and was actively interviewing at several TV stations. I told Michael that I was looking to be in Charlotte and not Raleigh and that seemed to end the conversation."
Ochsner said he never heard back from Luethy about the job and never filled out an application but Woodhouse said the Republicans' interest in hiring Ochsner should disqualify him from reporting on issues related to the North Carolina General Assembly.
"It seems to me this is an extreme conflict of interest that should prevent the reporter from covering the man whose office recently rejected him for employment," Woodhouse wrote in his email. "At a minimum it seems this would require some type of disclosure in your stations report. As a former television news reporter with a decade in the news business I can't imagine that this is not a serious conflict that has the appearance of impropriety."
Milligan said Ochsner disclosed the interest from Moore's office about the position to news managers prior to running the story. It was determined that the conversation did not represent a conflict of interest.
"Being approached about a job and having a phone call with an interested potential employer is not a conflict of interest," Milligan said. "Nick's reporting has been fair and based on facts. I welcome all scrutiny of the facts of the story."