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Garcia Situation Becoming a JAG-ged Pill for Food Network?
Thursday, June 28, 2007 | posted by Mike

UPDATE: Check out the TVFF interview with Paul Rieckhoff

When you're talking about a negative story in the press, there are two factors that determine how damaging it is. Those two things are the reach of the story and whether or not it has legs. There are certain things you, as an organization/politician/celebrity, can do to limit the reach and legginess of a story, but a certain amount of it is out of your hands. A new piece from the Military Times brought bad news to the Food Network on both fronts.

If a story is said to have "legs," that means it sticks around in the media's and public's consciousness. Your best hope for bad news is that it gets mentioned, dropped and forgotten. The new article points to the fact that the people who uncovered the discrepancies in Garcia's bio aren't letting go of the story. Of course, the bad timing of the trip to Ft. Dix right after these revelations give them a fresh hook for the story.

Garcia, who goes by the nickname “JAG” as a contestant on the reality show “The Next Food Network Star,” dodged elimination again Sunday night thanks to a solid performance in a military-inspired challenge at Fort Dix, N.J.

But because the bulk of the episodes were taped weeks ago, soldiers who participated in the event and supported Garcia didn’t know of his embellished military record.

In a nice little piece of cross-site synergy, the article refers to an ongoing conversation on the site's message board wherein comments, both pro and con, have been posted. Many of the people who knew him stick up for him as a nice guy who got caught up in a bad situation while in the service and who made a mistake when he embellished his story to the Food Network. Others commenters are much more vocal and vehement in their condemnation of Garcia. They even had a post from someone who claimed to have been at the Ft. Dix event.

I had to laugh at one entry, though, which calls Garcia out for not being from the Bronx, but rather from Bergenfield, NJ. Bergenfield is very close to the hometown of Mrs. TVFF. This is funny, considering JAG's rough-and-tumble persona. Mrs. TVFF isn't what you would call "street," so I'm just trying to reconcile that in my mind.

Caveat: Have fun reading the message boards and feel free to form you own judgement, but please take into account the pitfalls of blindly trusting anonymous posts, both pro and con.

OK, so we're seeing that the story has legs. But if the story is limited to a relatively small audience and it's only being echoed by knucklehead bloggers like yours truly, it's not that big a problem. Enter Paul Rieckhoff.

But pretending to be a combat veteran for any reason should not be taken lightly, said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of the non-profit group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“That’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “It’s an insult to the 1.6 million Americans who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Rieckhoff is an extremely vocal and extremely influential author, blogger and growing political force who has played a large part in getting the issues (particularly physical and mental health care) facing Iraq and Afghanistan vets into the news. He's the guy news shows bring in when they want someone with "in the field" credibility. And having him pissed off at you is not a good thing.

The Garcia situation (I refuse to go along with the ridiculous media tactic of affixing "-gate" to everything) is still limited in its reach and will only retain legs as long as he remains on the show. The final impact of the story will be dictated by how well JAG does. And so, the quote from the Food Network in the story is intriguing:

“Food Network remains committed to fully investigating Josh Garcia’s background,” Cara Brugnoli, a network spokeswoman, said Tuesday. “We are working with the military and others to conduct our research and we will release any relevant details when appropriate.”

First off, kudos to FN for taking this seriously.

But I'm wondering what that quote signifies. Are they going full bore on the investigation because they know he'll be around and they'll have to deal with it? Or are they demonstrating their due diligence while they wait it out, knowing he'll be dropped in the next week or two?

Let me know your read on this in the comments below.



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