Mercury News Gets Major Facts Wrong in Another Santa Clara Story

By Robert Haugh

The Mercury News reported that Councilwoman Patty Mahan will be stepping down to battle cancer.

But the headline is misleading. Mahan is only taking time off, as the article later states. She’s expected back in January.


But Mercury News reporter Ramona Giwargis who covers San Jose city hall, got another major thing wrong. She wrote that: “Some at the meeting demanded [Teresa] O’Neill and [Debi] Davis be censured or recalled over the emails.” Huh?

Giwargis clearly wasn’t at the meeting. Neither was I, but I watched it live online and paid attention to the facts and wrote about it yesterday.

Watch the meeting video here (it is about five hours, so have patience).

Only two people mentioned “censure” and “recall.” Mahan brought it up during her announcement when she criticized her council colleagues. Here’s the YouTube link so you can view Mahan’s emotional and at times critical statement at the 53:56 mark.

Then, during public testimony later, Charter Review Committee member Hosam Haggag said that he thought it was odd that Mahan used those words. Haggag was grilled by Mahan and Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta when he applied to the planning commission last month in an unusually aggressive way for “disrespecting” them.

Haggag said that people in person and online were calling for censure or recall to certain elected officials for the way they behave. But Giwargis apparently wasn’t aware of this.

Since Giwargis is a San Jose reporter, she doesn’t pay close attention to the Santa Clara community and has frequently been making major mistakes on Santa Clara stories recently. One story had to be changed three times in a major way before appearing in print.

Another major mistake in her current story is the part about the lawsuit brought by San Francisco attorney Robert Rubin on behalf of Wesley Mukoyama, a Santa Clara resident who believes that at-large elections unfairly hurt minority candidates.

Giwargis writes five paragraphs about it, but failed to mention that the lawsuit was thrown out last week and Santa Clara prevailed.  Whoops.

Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle told everyone about this legal victory at the meeting. You can watch it here.

Doyle also said that Rubin filed another lawsuit, but with different plaintiffs.

I like and respect Giwargis and think she has done excellent reporting in the past. But she and her editors have really screwed up recent Santa Clara stories. Let’s hope they get better.

Let me humbly suggest that they start reading instead of the Santa Clara Weekly whose stories they seem to be chasing. That’s a recipe for disaster.




  1. We all wish Patty a speedy recovery but what a performance at the council meeting with all her fans there to speak. How sad that she took “throwing the cancer” card to a whole new level. Amazing how Patty, fresh out of surgery managed to share the mercs article right when it was published. She could have communicated all this drama behind closed doors rather than the pity party show at the meeting.

  2. I posted this last night in the comments section of the Mercury News, but it never appeared. I posted it again today. But in case it doesn’t make it there, I thought I would share my views about the article and the meeting:

    This article just came across my desk. How can an article state actions that did not happen as fact. This is a “story” the Weakly brought up and they embarrassed themselves by writing it. Taking quotes out of context and reporting false statements and conclusions is not reporting, it is gossip and belongs in I don’t understand this article or others from this paper on this topic.

    Cancer affects us all. To say this is not being politicized is disingenuous. Mahan admitted finding out about this on Friday, yet she orchestrated her family and friends to join her at the front of the council chambers five days later to be the audience for this announcement. She even included her sister in the carefully staged announcement.

    I can safely say everyone is saddened by the news of her condition. Everyone wishes a full and speedy recovery for her. But could she have notified the council and staff about this ahead of time? Could there have been a discrete non-confrontational way to announce this unfortunate news? I think so. But Mahan chose to turn the “Public Presentation” portion of the meeting into a personal attack.

    In fact, the City states: “The law does not permit action on, or extended discussion of, any item not on the agenda except under special circumstances” in this portion of the meeting. Was this planned behavior in the spirit of this rule, one she knows all too well? This is exactly the point that was made in the past about Mahan’s actions. It was not an attack; it was a simple observation. It was not meant as an attack; it was a statement of fact about her actions.

    So, her final comment about “heal the rifts” and “stop all this fighting” is not backed up by her actions. Her actions were the opposite of that. If you want to watch this, you can look at my public facebook page and judge for yourself:

    I hope we will get to a point where a discussion about cancer is a thing of the past and we can put this horrible condition in the history books, like polio. And yes, we need to come together to support each other. But you need to lead by example, call people out of their behavior, and hold people accountable.

    • Kirk, we don’t always agree but you nailed it.

      Yes, we have all had loved ones affected by cancers, some more than others. We don’t need to cite personal examples of watching loved ones die of this disease to be credible.

      This was my take on the whole thing beginning with the emails. If you don’t say the right thing in the right way or think the right way you are bullied.

      And using something as tragic as cancer to bully someone for political gain couldn’t be more wrong. Politics should be about ideas and persuasion not bullying people to get your way.

      In the light of day it is easy to see this was a shameful spectacle.

      Thanks Kirk for calling it like it is.

    • Amazing that the Murky Gnus wouldn’t post your comment but a comment attacking two councilmembers was posted. Proves how biased that fake newspaper is. I watched the video from council meeting and was happy a resident called out the Weakly for what it is. Murkey Gnus and Weakly – two peas in a pod.

  3. Thank you Robert for exposing the poor journalism at the Mercury News. I was in a prior position where I got to see the constant half-truths and inaccuracies the Mercury published.

  4. A misleading headline with the truth buried in the story is a classic definition of fake news.

    Getting the story completely wrong with major fact missing is just poor reporting. Is it lazy or intentional? Either way we don’t need it.

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