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Friday, January 11, 2019

Dan Gilbert Makes Trumpian Attack on Detroit 'Free Press' After Investigation Into Bedrock Detroit Construction Project

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 10:21 AM

  • Jordan Buzzy

Like many other powerful men — like President Donald Trump, say, or Elon Musk — Dan Gilbert just can't seem to help himself when it comes to Twitter.

The billionaire used the platform on Thursday to retaliate against the Detroit Free Press following a lengthy investigation the paper published earlier that day, which detailed allegations that Gilbert's Bedrock Detroit essentially bullied state inspectors into keeping its hands off the company.

According to the report by Free Press journalist Jennifer Dixon, Bedrock was hit with a $3,500 fine — the company's first safety violation — after inspectors found windows were improperly and dangerously open during construction on the David Stott building downtown in 2016.

In response, the company sent its executives to Lansing for a rare meeting at Gov. Rick Snyder's office to "get an understanding of how the state views them and what they do" and "make sure everyone is all on the same page," according to emails obtained by the Free Press.

At a subsequent meeting, Bedrock execs were allowed to conduct "refresher training" to MIOSHA inspectors, many of whom had decades of experience. The execs then allegedly told the MIOSHA inspectors that Bedrock was exempt from inspection, and "lectured them on how to do their jobs, emphasizing the company's role in downtown's resurgence," according to the report. The $3,500 fine went away, and Bedrock began to get less inspections, the Free Press found.

Gilbert took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to issue a series of tweets attacking the paper, which is a tenant of a Bedrock-owned building.

In the first tweet, Gilbert does the very thing the Free Press report alleges his execs did — lecturing someone how to do their job.

"My recommended :60 video training for @freep reporter Jennifer Dixon (@Jennbdixon) and all higher-ups at the struggling local media outlet," he wrote.

The video is a clip of actor Denzel Washington attacking the mainstream media. "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed," Washington says in the video. "If you do read it, you're misinformed."

"What is the long-term effect of too much information?" he adds. "One of the effects is the need to be first, not even to be true anymore." The crux of Washington's argument was that in a widespread digital media landscape, aggregation and the rush to be first spreads false information, not that original reporting should be discounted.

Anyway, here are the tweets.

Gilbert also posted a statement from Bedrock CEO Bill Emerson that denounced the story and reaffirmed the company's commitment to safety. (Note that Bedrock refused to grant any interviews to the paper for weeks leading up to publication, and issued the statement only afterward.)

"The Free Press and Jennifer Dixon published a perplexing and disappointing article this morning that paints a false narrative with numerous twisted facts, wrong assumptions, and general inaccuracies," Emerson writes, in part.

"Safety has been and will always be the top priority at all of Bedrock’s work sites," he continues. "There is nothing we take more seriously and prioritize more than the safety of construction workers on our sites."

It's worth noting that the Freep story appears to be no rush-job. The nearly 4,000-word story cites documents obtained though the Freedom of Information Act, property records, building permits, and numerous sources, who were granted anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Indeed, a note on the article states the Free Press made multiple requests over several weeks for interviews with executives from Bedrock Detroit, which the company did not grant.

Dixon did not respond to a request from Metro Times for comment. In an email, Free Press senior news director for investigations Mark J. Rochester notes that Bedrock's statement failed to point out any specific inaccuracies in the report.

"Neither Bedrock executives nor Dan Gilbert have offered any substantive rebuttal to our reporting, merely dismissed the findings of our investigation by saying 'nothing to see here,''' he wrote. "We stand by our reporting."

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