The mystery surrounding one of New Hampshire’s best-known political insiders appears to have started, innocently enough, with a dispute over the state’s geography.
Moderating a debate late last month in the Granite State’s ever-tightening U.S. Senate race, James Pindell, a political analyst for the Manchester-based television station WMUR, tried to perform a real-time fact check after asking a question about Sullivan County.
When Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts, described the area as being part of the northern part of the state, Pindell jumped in.
“Sullivan County is west of Concord,” he said. “It’s not north of Concord, Sen. Brown.”
Democrats eagerly seized on the exchange, which supported their caricature of Brown as a carpetbagger with no real understanding of New Hampshire. But it turned out that Pindell didn’t have it quite right.
The county in question, as Pindell later acknowledged, encompasses areas both north and west of the state’s capital.
Republicans and conservatives were incensed.
Ann Coulter, the bomb-throwing right-wing pundit, likened the flap to Candy Crowley’s correction of Mitt Romney in a 2012 presidential debate, another candidate-moderator interaction that infuriated the GOP.
Coulter said Pindell — or “James Pinhead,” as she called him during her Fox News appearance — was simply trying to be a hero to liberals.
Pindell owned up to the mistake and apologized to Brown during a television appearance shortly after the debate. He offered yet another mea culpa in his weekly “Political Standing” column the next day.
“When a reporter — or a debate panelist — becomes the story then they failed,” he wrote.
Brown said he accepted the apology, seemingly bringing the entire story to a close.
But then on the eve of Election Day, Pindell’s typically active Twitter feed came to a stand-still. The election came and went without Pindell’s analysis, and on Friday, there was no sign of his “Political Standing” column.
Suddenly, political junkies throughout New Hampshire began to ask: “Where’s Pindell?”
The question inspired the #wherespindell hashtag on Twitter, and soon, his fellow political scribes were wondering the same thing.
Carol Robidoux, a freelance journalist who knows Pindell a little bit, came up empty in her efforts to get answers for the Concord Monitor.
Ryan Williams, a top aide to Brown, told Robidoux that the campaign was miffed by the exchange but it was all water under the bridge.
“We were satisfied with how it was handled that night, with James’s apology. For us, it ended there, and I’ve expressed that to WMUR,” Williams said.
WMUR’s news director Alisha McDevitt wouldn’t comment on Pindell’s status.
“I can’t talk about it,” McDevitt told TPM by phone. “It’s a personnel matter, so I can’t comment on it.”
But it’s not like Pindell has gone off the grid completely. He sent a brief response when TPM reached him through his work email on Wednesday.
“No comment,” he wrote. “Sorry.”
WMUR’s parent company, Hearst Corp., did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
Regardless of what happened, today could be revealing. It wasn’t long ago, after all, when Fridays were reserved for Pindell’s weekly column.