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Interview with mayor includes 2 questions that were never asked

Posted: 6:23 PM, Sep 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-13 18:51:49-04

CLEVELAND — As you may remember – and this news organization certainly does – Mayor Frank L. Jackson took to YouTube to answer questions in an “interview” about his grandson's alleged criminal activities on Thursday.

In the nearly eight-minute video released on the City of Cleveland's YouTube page Thursday, Jackson denied that he or his staff interfered with the investigation or determination of charges against his grandson Frank Q. Jackson, and said, “you can choose to believe the media, or you can believe me.”

If you do choose to believe the media, here's a link to what we consider our very fair reporting on this case.

Since the interview was initially released, Jackson’s office and Cleveland.com confirmed that the unnamed reporter was Robert Higgs of Cleveland.com, who is neither seen nor heard in the edited video posted Thursday.

Cleveland.com posted a story explaining that the interview was conducted with Higgs, but he did not record the video. The story stated that Higgs’ questions were edited out of the video and paraphrased, as were parts of the mayor’s answers. Cleveland.com also posted the unedited video, which they say was obtained as part of a public records request.

Instead of hearing Higgs’ questions, the edited video displays seven questions in text on screen before Jackson’s response to them.

Notably, two of the questions in the edited video are not asked by Higgs, and at one point, when the reporter tries to end the interview, the mayor asks the reporter to ask him a question that he wants to answer, and the interview continues.

According to the city, the interview took place on Sept. 11. The city posted the video to its YouTube page and alerted the media to the video on Sept. 12. Shortly after, Cleveland.com posted a story about the interview, with the city’s YouTube video embedded at the top of the story.

News 5 has combed through both versions of the interview to highlight what was edited out, as well as what other irregularities appear in the unedited video.

View the full, unedited interview below. You can find the edited version of the video on the city's YouTube page here.

Higgs begins the interview by asking: “I want to talk to you a little about the process surrounding this. And how you handle something like this, not just as a chief administrator of the city, but also through your departments. The cases that involve your grandson are a little unusual in that you have a key figure in the government related to the person who’s involved. You hear chatter out there about outside investigators and independent … and things.

“The two things I want to address with you are: is there a review, sort of internal oversight, to make sure things are handled as they should have been? And is there a need, just to bolster transparency and reinforce the process, to bring in somebody outside. Is that something that’s been thought of?”

In the edited video, this question was presented as: “Is additional oversight needed?”

Jackson’s response, which is the same in the edited and unedited videos, was: “When my grandson was charged with offenses and arrested on other occasions, this issue of whether you needed oversight didn’t come up. Why would it come up now? I didn’t interfere with the process then; I didn’t interfere now. If it was good then, why would it not be good now.”

Higgs then asks: “Do you think severity of the charges is part of that?”

The question in the mayor’s edited video: “Do you believe it’s an issue now due to the severity of the charges?”

Jackson’s response: “I don’t know about that. I know if you’re asking the basic question as to whether or not anyone related to the mayor or related to the chief of staff or related to the director of any department or maybe related to a police officer or related to a waste collector, I mean, where are you going with this in terms of that. The process is what it is. I would say to you that only becomes valid if there’s any interference with that process. That did not happen before and was not brought up, and it did not happen this time.”

In the unedited video, Higgs asks: “Is there a review of the process? The indictment that went from the county is something that first went through the city’s prosecutor’s office. Does that then trigger action by the law director to say, ‘Hey, what happened here? Take a look at that.’”

In the edited video, the question that is put on screen is: “Do the charges and who is involved warrant external review beyond the city prosecutor’s office?”

Jackson responds, in both versions: “Take for instance your assertion because this is special circumstances, there should have been a review. That implies that the city prosecutor’s office knew that that case had been brought to them. Since I have not inquired and since I don’t – that makes that assumption. I don’t know if that assumption is correct or not. I do know that when these kinds of things happen, there is an integrity of the people involved as to what they do. And they have not in the past, and neither in this instance violated that integrity or that ethics.

“But I know your basic question. Should everything be reviewed if it involved the mayor’s family? Well, should it be reviewed if it involves anybody who has any kind of authority? We have a process that is in place and that process is a valid and legitimate process that is not interfered with.”

In the unedited video, Higgs says, “That’s good, thank you,” appearing to conclude the interview.

“Now you don’t want to ask the question…about…ask bluntly about…because I want to be able to say bluntly,” Jackson responds in the unedited video, apparently prompting Higgs to ask another question.

Higgs then asks: “There’s been reporting out there that the officer came to the door camera off – officer at the scene, camera off. There are people who look at that and say, oh of course, they went to the mayor, the mayor was there. Did you ever tell anybody to turn off their cameras?”

In the edited video, this question is framed as: “Were officers involved ever asked to turn off their body cameras?”

Jackson’s response in both versions: “Never told anybody to turn off their camera.”

Higgs then said to Jackson: “And you thought this job would be easy!”

Jackson responded, in a section that was edited out of the original video: “I don’t complain about the job. As you know, part of this job is the handling and the BS associated with it. Drama and BS is not based in fact, neither is truth a consideration. And so, I fully recognize that, and I just go about doing my job. I will say however, that…”

From there, the rest of the Jackson’s response is in the edited video. However, the edited video displays a question that was never asked by Higgs: “Do you anticipate this level of scrutiny when your family is involved?”

The edited video begins in the middle of Jackson’s response to Higgs’ last comment: “When it comes to these kinds of things, that then involve family, and the expectation is that I would do as a politician sometime do, attempt to use their family as a way to address their political concerns at that moment, I’m not going to do that. So, people can take the hit, they can throw the punches, whatever they want. I’ll take those hits, because I’m not going to use my family in that way. And people can say what they want. I have no concern about that. If what the expectation is of me is to in some kind of way use my family as a shield or to use some platform, some media platform to explain myself to them, that would involve my family, I’m not going to do that. So, they just have to do what they’re going to do. If that’s part of the job, that’s part of the job.”

Higgs then says, “That’s the public part of public service.”

In the unedited video, Jackson responds: “It’s become part of the job in terms of what makes a story and what does not make a story. Truth and facts don’t always sell. Drama sells. Misinformation sells. The only reason I’m doing this in this way, again, not talking about my family or dealing with specific charges, is that I know ignorance, not lack of intelligence, but ignorance to facts, is fertile ground for manipulation of the truth.”

At this point in the edited video, another question that was never posed by Higgs is displayed: “What do you want people to know about this recent incident?”

This sound bite from the mayor is then played in the edited video: “I want to say publicly that the mayor did not interfere with the investigation or determining whether or not any member of his family would be charge. The mayor did not tell anyone to turn off or turn on a camera. The mayor has in no way, and neither has any of his staff, interfered in any of these things that have occurred. I would not allow it for them, I do not do it myself.”

News 5 has reached out to the mayor’s office several times – many times – over and over – in an attempt to get answers to our questions. He has declined to interview with us, which is absolutely his right, and his prerogative. He opted to conduct an interview with another news outlet, which, again, is his right and prerogative.

We also reached out to Cleveland.com for more details about this interview.

Cleveland.com editor Chris Quinn provided us this response:

“Our reporting on this on cleveland.com is our statement about the matter, and we will not be adding to that.”

Here's the link to their reporting.

When we respectfully requested a sit-down with Mayor Jackson on Thursday we received this response from a spokesman: “At this time the mayor is not doing any more interviews. I do want to point out the video we posted today where the Mayor did address questions directly to the public.”

To.

Not from.