Ben Cayetano is cutting Civil Beat off.

The Honolulu mayoral candidate said Thursday he was telling his campaign to remove Civil Beat from its media list.

And Cayetano told me in an email that he will not answer questions, phone calls or emails from Michael Levine, our reporter on the Honolulu beat.

Cayetano, 72, has re-entered politics 10 years after leaving the governor’s office. He’s challenging Mayor Peter Carlisle and has said he would kill the $5.2 billion rail project if elected.

The article that prompted Cayetano to send me an e-mail at 7:29 a.m. Thursday attacking Levine and cutting off Civil Beat was actually written by me. My name is at the top of the article, as is my picture.

But Cayetano wrote, “John, Levine writes that I have a ‘believability’ problem.” He concluded:

There is no point in talking to a reporter who accuses me of lacking in ‘believability’. So tell Levine not to bother. I will not answer his questions, his phone calls or emails. Moreover, it is clear that Civil Beat’s pro-rail stance is embedded in Levine’s reporting. I believe strongly in holding people accountable for their actions. Therefore, I will tell my campaign chairpersons to remove Civil Beat from our media list.

This isn’t the first time the governor has been upset with our coverage or Michael Levine.

On Jan. 31, he sent an email that got caught in our spam filters. That email was in response to a Fact Check finding a statement he made about rail to be “Half True.”

There is no question in mind or any of the other three members of our group that Levine is biased in favor of the City. Anyone who believes otherwise should read or watch the “powder puff” interviews Levine did with Mayor Carlisle and Wayne Yoshioka and then decide for themselves.

It concluded:

So do me this favor: Tell Levine not to call me on my cell phone or try to contact me by email anymore. Notwithstanding my previous complaints about his journalism I always took his call and answered his email — and answered his questions. No more. Nor will I answer any question from him at my press conferences. If Civil Beat wants my opinion on issues — send another of its reporters.

(Just as a point of reference for those not familiar with how reputable news organizations work: People in public life do not get to choose who covers them.)

Cayetano received a call from Michael after sending his email. (Michael didn’t know that Cayetano didn’t want to speak with him.) The call went well, so it didn’t appear that there was an issue. That wasn’t the first time Cayetano had complained, though.

(Cayetano and three other distinguished opponents of rail last year decried our Fact Checking of their op-ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser accusing the city of misleading the public about rail. They argued that Civil Beat was “substandard,” “biased,” “an over-priced blog with a pro-rail hidden agenda,” incompetent, and characterized our coverage of their op-ed as a “hatchet job.”)

Thursday made clear that Cayetano still had problems with critical coverage from Civil Beat. He went so far as to say that “during my 28 years of public service no journalist ever accused me of lacking ‘believability.'”

I wrote the governor back at 12:21 p.m., explaining that I had written the article.

Aloha governor,

Actually, it was I who wrote that you — and the mayor — both have believability problems.”

I concluded:

Again, to be clear, it was not Michael who accused you of lacking in believability. If you’re going to hold somebody accountable, as you put it, then you should hold me accountable. I do not see what good could come from cutting Civil Beat from your media list. But, of course, that is your right.

Civil Beat will continue to cover the rail issue thoroughly, rigorously, accurately and fairly. I am always open to your concerns about our reporting, and welcome your feedback.

I do believe it’s news when a mayoral candidate says he’s going to cut off a news organization from its media list. I don’t see how that serves a purpose I believe you and Civil Beat share, and that’s to make sure the people of Honolulu are informed and able to make the best decisions on important public policy issues.

I’d be happy to discuss your concerns.

The governor responded at 1:27 p.m., acknowledging that I was responsible. But he still wasn’t happy. And there was no apology for Michael.

The governor continued to insist that “debt” and “cost” were synonymous, taking issue with an earlier Civil Beat story by Michael that examined Cayetano’s claim that rail would add $5 billion to $7 billion to Honolulu taxpayers’ debt.

He concluded: “Sorry if my English is not precise enough by CB standards but I think most readers understand what I wrote. Besides my English was good enough to earn me degrees from UCLA and Loyola Law School — and write a best selling book.

“As for making my removal of CB from my media list a news story — be my guest.”

Then, the strangest thing happened.

At 1:42, Cayetano for Mayor’s Facebook page posted the following about my article about the need for serious conversation about rail:

So while Cayetano was cutting us off, a pro-Cayetano Facebook page was praising my article, the one Cayetano erroneously blamed on Michael.

“We couldn’t agree more. What about you? Click over to this Civil Beat article and add your voice to the conversation,” the Facebook post said.

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