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Monsignor Craig Harrison shares a light moment with childhood friends Jana Hardy and Patsy Poeschel on the front porch of his 20th Street home Thursday morning.

Reader: This article ("Suspended priest Craig Harrison, back from self-exile, formulates his defense," June 9) is a load of crap. Once again Robert Price is doing Monsignor Craig Harrison’s bidding. Is this what The Californian is about now? Trying to protect an alleged child predator before the investigation even completes?

Has this paper ever, in its entire history, gone to interview a person suspected of child abuse before charges were filed to see how they are handling the suspicion and planning out their defense? Of course not. This is absolutely, mind numbingly, insane.

This paper and reporter have zero credibility. So done.

Tell me what the purpose of this article was, if not to give Craig some helpful, fluffy PR? Literally, what are the need-to-know facts this hot take is dishing us? Nothing. That’s what. 

— Bran Ram, from Facebook

Price: If I'm doing Monsignor Harrison's bidding (once again?), it has to be news to him. For the two weeks prior to that column's publication, I had been trying to convince him, through his attorney, to sit down with me and talk about his circumstances. He finally agreed, but with no small amount of trepidation. I guess you could say he relented and did my bidding.

You might be correct that The Californian has never interviewed a person suspected of child abuse before charges were filed. Why? Because we rarely learn about cases of alleged child abuse until after charges are filed. That's what makes this case unique and therefore, in my mind, worthy of special attention. Harrison has not been charged but, as your words seem to confirm, has been saddled with a presumption of guilt. The aspect of the story that struck me was the extrajudicial limbo in which he finds himself. Guilty or innocent, his life is in a holding pattern. My intent was to portray that state of affairs. Not paint him innocent, not paint him guilty -- just illustrate his awkward purgatory.

Reader: What an absolutely pathetic article. Are there now six victims or just five? Are there unknown victims? How deep is the investigation going? But yet, The Californian wants to support the alleged suspect and to hell with all the victims.

— Steve Loftus, from Facebook

Price: The Californian wants to support the alleged suspect and to hell with all the victims? Well, we'd better make some changes because the weight of "con" stories vs. "pro" is way out of whack.

By my count we have published 20 staff-written articles that provide details or background on one or more of the accusations against Harrison. We broke the story in the first place. We tracked down and were the first to interview the two men whose accusations precipitated Harrison's suspension. Parishioners and other supporters of Harrison's were every bit as livid about that coverage, especially the work of reporter Stacey Shepard, as today's critics appear to be.

By my count we have published four staff-written articles that shed a different light on the situation without dwelling on the specifics of the accusations. One was our coverage of the rally of support held at Harrison's parish. Our story mentioned the anti-abuse demonstrators who showed up for the occasion, so it was hardly a strictly pro-Harrison story, even though I'll label it as one for our present purposes. Another was my interview with Roy Keenan, one of Harrison's sons, whose personal story is tragically harrowing in its own right. Another was Harrison's statement about the accusations against him. And now we've got the column of mine you're referencing. 

Twenty to four might indeed strike many as biased — in precisely the opposite direction you suggest.

Reader: Bakersfield Californian, stop doing spin stories on this man. It's clear you have some hidden reason. He is accused of sexually abusing children and you do stories on him like he is the victim. Sick and tired of hearing about this person.

— Linda Flores, from Facebook

Price: As soon as you come up with the hidden reason, please share.

I'm sorry you're sick and tired of hearing about Craig Harrison. One like-minded reader phoned me to declare that no one is interested in hearing more about him (even though she said she read every word of that column herself). The fact is, this Craig Harrison-comes-home column is one of The Californian's most-read stories of the year thus far. Our analytics show readership in Ao Nang, Thailand; Medellin, Colombia; Melbourne, Australia; the Santuario di Bom Jesus di Monte pilgrimage site in Portugal; Minato, Tokyo, Japan; the Borgomanero commune of northern Italy; and Budapest, Hungary. Including North America, I count five continents.

•••

Reader: Thanks for your article about Monsignor Craig. It was interesting and well written. I am a casual friend of Monsignor Craig and a strong supporter. I am very concerned that revealing that he is "living in his home on 20th street in Bakersfield" (with a photo) may lead some anti-Catholic, anti-Craig person to go there.

-- Allan Wilson

Price: Fair point. The photo caption specified his street; my story was more vague about the location of his home. Perhaps the caption should have been fuzzier, but there are probably a hundred houses on Harrison's very long street. Our standard phrasing in reporting locations is, for example, the 100 block of Maple Street – but that's for crime stories and obviously this is a different animal.

•••

Reader: (Referencing "New report lists 16 Catholic clergymen with connections to Kern being accused of sexual abuse," by John Cox, published June 7:)

Thanks again to "Confessor Professor" John Cox for continuing this discussion and reminding us, since we may have forgotten, that they are Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, until proven "innocent." Kinda sorta shows where John Cox's mind lives -- as a guttersnipe (& self-abuser?).

— Dick Albright

Price: Dick, your online story comments are so consistently abusive, clueless and moronic, I typically ignore them, but John Cox pointed this one out to me. His take: "We journalists put so many people through the wringer — usually for good reason — that I think it's acceptable to take heat ourselves, sometimes."

Even, sometimes, I guess, when the criticism has absolutely no merit. John's story was as close to a "stick to the facts" summary of the diocese's announcement as I can imagine. Not that that would matter to a mean-spirited troll like you, Dick, who obviously has lots and lots of time on his hands. Get a hobby. A different one, I mean. But thanks for reading.

•••

Reader: I read Steven Mayer's article about Flag Day ("Friday is Flag Day and it may be a good time to review our flag etiquette," June 13) and I was very moved. I just want to thank him because I love our beautiful flag.

— Gloria Miranda

•••

Reader: The Californian continues to disappoint. I'm referring to the June 8 cartoon of Queen Elizabeth and the President exchanging gifts.

I appreciate the irony the artist was trying to convey. However, while the queen did give our President a book of Winston Churchill along with a three-piece pen set, she received a silver and silk poppy brooch. So in an objective sense the cartoon was "fake news." If the artist truly wanted to portray a more truthful opinion he would've shown President Obama giving the Queen an iPod filled with a collection of his speeches and readings. Yes he did.

— Chris V.

Price: Cartoonist Dave Granlund depicts Trump bestowing a copy of "The Art of the Deal" on Her Majesty as she presents him with Churchill's World War II memoirs. Is Granlund commenting on Trump's narcissism? Perceived lack of diplomatic grace? Failure to appreciate history? I'm not certain, but I suppose one could take the cartoon literally. 

Actually, Chris, Obama gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod loaded with video and photos of her 2007 trip to the United States, as well as some songs, the New York Times reported in April 2009. She also received a rare songbook signed by the composer Richard Rodgers. I can't find any evidence the iPod also contained Obama's own speeches.

•••

Reader: I just want to commend The Californian for running the excellent series, Cop Tales. These stories are often warm, sometimes heartbreaking, but truly show what our men and women in law enforcement face day in, day out. Kudos!

-- Judy Kelly

Price: Yes, retired California Highway Patrol officer Brian Smith's weekly column is a great read. He was a good find for us.

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

(6) comments

Boris25

When I first heard the allegations against Harrison I was skeptical, I figured "here is a person who is looking for a quick payday from the Catholic Church". I had met Harrison 20 or so years ago when he "officiated" at a friends wedding, in fact we (the groom and groomsmen) sat around with Harrison drinking beer, telling stories and laughing after the rehearsal. Then about a month after the initial story broke, another friend of mine confided in me that Harrison had touched him inappropriately on several occasions years ago. This person, at this time, has not come forward, but having know him for over 35 years , I have no doubt he is telling the truth. Harrison, deserves the "presumption of innocents" until this matter is resolved, but I have changed my opinion about his guilt or innocents based on the number of people who have come forward and my friend who has not.

Patricia Edna

I’m no Bob Price fan, but I thought he did an excellent job and the article was actually cringeworthy on the part of Monsignor Harrison, the way he bragged about being openly embraced upon his return. Bob most certainly had the ability to write that differently but he put it out there, I thought, fairly and unbiased. As I said, I’m the first to jump at the chance to critique and criticize Mr. Price, but his piece was very well done and I saw no bias or attempt to downplay anything.

JimmyDude

I am a Bob Price fan and I have a different take on this. I've never met Monsignor Harrison and cant remember if I ever even heard his name before all of this. So, I have no pony in the race. Having read every article about him in the Californian, I'll say I disagree with Mr Price here. The over all impression that I get from the articles leans pretty heavily in favor of Harrison. The pictures, the tone, all combine to create a sympathetic view of him. Again, no pony in the race. Just an unbiased observation. I do hope the truth is found.

Patricia Edna

Fair enough, and I agree that I hope the truth is found as well. Unfortunately I don’t think we are going to like what we find out, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Michael Waskiewicz

Not exactly doing "his bidding" but clearly sympathetic towards Harrison. In his radio interview Price states his hope for Harrison's exoneration. Not that the truth comes out but that Harrison is found innocent. Not exactly impartial especially for a journalist/reporter. If Harrison is found to be innocent then the accusers are either liars or extremely mistaken. Price and the interviewer of the interviewer use phrases like "If you're accused of something you're innocent of..." but never once anything along the lines of "If you're found guilty of..." inferring that Harrison is innocent and wrongly accused. They also discuss the Fresno Diocese and their non-communication with the suspended Harrison while the investigation is ongoing. At on point they discuss why the diocese doesn't update him with a "here's a status of the investigation." Uhhh...he's under investigation....why would they provide him with updates? Has any other body, say Police or District Attorney provided him with status updates of their investigation? Of course not. Price and his interviewer are supposed to be veteran newsmen/journalists, they know this. After listening to this radio interview it seems clear that price is a supporter of Harrison and have determined his innocence beforehand.

Psych_Dr_R

Price clearly made a deal for the interview. Teaser article was posted on the 8th then front porch article ran on the 10th and the same front porch article posted again on the 13th. Now, a follow up about the front porch article on 6/14/2019. Again, men behaving badly; simply CLOWNS! Anyone who is worried about Craig Harrison returning to St. Francis needs to find peace with this. Catholics, be strong, regain your faith and move forward. Chalk it up to a fake deity and forgive yourself because HE GONE!

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