Former Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler, writing in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas:
The [New York] Times actually published some stories, most notably a piece by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller on September 8, 2002, that wound up contributing to what turned out to be the administration's bogus case for war. The [Washington] Post was much less guilty of that particular sin, but it displayed a pattern of missing or downplaying events that unfolded in public-events that might have played a role in public opinion during the run-up to the war.
Some examples: In the summer and fall of 2002, the paper failed to record promptly the doubts of then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey. When Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to George H.W. Bush, wrote a cautionary op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, it apparently didn't strike anyone at the Post as news. ...The testimony of three retired four-star generals warning against an attack before the Senate Armed Services Committee was not covered at all. Speeches by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Robert Byrd that seem prescient today were not covered.
The list goes on. Large anti-war rallies in London and Rome went unreported the day after. In October, when more than 100,000 gathered in Washington to protest the war, the story went in the Metro section because the Post underestimated its size.
Then there was the Page A18 problem. The Post, to be sure, did put some good stories challenging the official line on the front page. But they consistently seemed to be outnumbered by important stories, usually sourced to anonymous government or military insiders, that were positioned way inside the newspaper.
Here's a brief sampling of additional Post headlines that, rather stunningly, failed to make the front of the newspaper: "Observers: Evidence for War Lacking," "U.N. Finds No Proof of Nuclear Program," "Bin Laden-Hussein Link Hazy," "U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms," "Legality of War Is a Matter of Debate," and "Bush Clings to Dubious Allegations About Iraq." In short, it wasn't the case that important, challenging reporting wasn't done. It just wasn't highlighted.
Apologies for the lengthy excerpt, but there's much, much more that is well worth reading.
Trust me, I don't want to keep writing about the hilarious right-wing attempts to inflate Saturday's crowd, and how bloggers pushing the fake facts appear to occupy a Bizarro-type parallel universe, but given what's going on online, I don't really have a choice.
I'll try to make this quick playing off Ben's post below which noted that right-wingers were excitedly quoting a National Parks spokesman claiming Saturday's rally was the biggest every. Wrong, the Parks Service quote in question came from Jan. and it was about Obama's inauguration.
Got it? Ok. Now, how did bloggers who first floated the phony Parks Service quote deal with the embarrassing revelation that they were quoting statistic for a Democratic event? If you're you do this:blog at American Thinker
[Note to readers: in my haste, I misread the Globe report forwarded to me as referring to the 9/12 deminstrations. I apologize. TL]
Here's the Globe headline [emphasis added]:
Inaugural crowd size reportedly D.C. record
WASHINGTON - The National Park Service says it will rely on a media report that says 1.8 million people attended President Obama's inauguration.
Simple question for Lifson: How could anybody with a fourth grade education or beyond read that ("Inaugural") headline and that ("inauguration") lede and not know the article was about....Obama's inauguration? It makes no sense that somehow a rushed blogger could be confused about the context. What does make a bit more sense though, is that some bloggers knew the Parks Service quote was bogus (i.e. it wasn't about 9/12 rally) and posted it anyway, and are only now playing dumb because they've been caught.
Yesterday on his radio program, while discussing the crowds at this weekend's 9/12 protests, Glenn Beck claimed that the LondonTelegraph "quote[d] a source from the Park Service, the National Park Service, saying that it is the largest march on Washington ever." This led to a good deal of confusion here, as the Telegraph article contains no such quote. Just another case of Beck making things up? Actually, the story behind this turns out to be much funnier than we could have anticipated.
Several conservative blogs have been quoting National Park Service spokesman "Dan Bana" as saying the 9/12 protest was "the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever." This appears to be a repurposing of this quote from David Barna (who, unlike Dan Bana, appears to be a real person):
David Barna, a Park Service spokesman, said the agency did not conduct its own count. Instead, it will use a Washington Post account that said 1.8 million people gathered on the US Capitol grounds, National Mall, and parade route.
"It is a record," Barna said. "We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever."
Very impressive! Unfortunately, as Little Green Footballs pointed out, that quote was actually about the inauguration:
This is so pathetic I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Dozens - if not hundreds - of right wing blogs are running with this quote, portraying it as a statement about the tea party held last weekend: 'We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever.'
The quote is from January. The National Park Service spokesman was talking about Barack Obama's inauguration.
Pam Geller quoted "Dan Bana" as saying this on Saturday. She cited Thomas Lifson at American "Thinker," who also calls him "Dan Bana." In keeping with his fellow conservatives, Lifson doesn't feel the need to provide a link for his outlandish crowd estimates:
Despite mainstream media attempts to characterize turnout as in the thousands, a spokesman for the National Park Service, Dan Bana, is quoted as saying "It is a record.... We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever."
True, "Dan Bana" definitely "is quoted" as saying this. By whom? Well, Thomas Lifson.
From Pam Geller:
Here's the video over at CSPAN of millions on the mall. Incredible. Look at the pan of the crowd shot. The left fascists are debating the number to take the focus off what happened in Washington, D.C., this weekend. I'll go with the Parks department estimates, thankyouverymuch.
A 9-12 participant in DC claims to have overheard DC police discussing the crowd numbers. They put the numbers at over 2 million -- and those were only the people who could make it into the city. The local authorities as well as many participants claim that many many more could not even get into the city to the core of the protest.
Yes, she cited someone who "claims to have overheard DC police discussing the crowd numbers." Your conservative blogosphere, ladies and gentleman.
What's funnier than watching right-wingers try to convince each other that 500,000 ... No, a million ... No, two million ... Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket, two million people showed up for their anti-Obama protest over the weekend?
Watching right-wingers who realize that nobody will believe those sad little lies try to pretend that the inflated claims were merely made on a few obscure blogs.
Here's Newsbusters' Jeff Poor dismissing the inflated claims as the work of a few obscure bloggers:
And MSNBC's resident left-wing curmudgeon-in-training David Shuster didn't disappoint. The former host of the canceled "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" took a report from the Huffington Post debunking attendance figures and attempted to belittle the event. The story focused on an old photograph that had been circulating on some minor conservative blogs showing a huge crowd for the Sept. 12 march.
But the inflated crowd claims weren't limited to "some minor conservative blogs," as Poor would have you believe. Indeed, protest organizer Matt Kibbe claimed from the rally stage that ABC News had reported between 1 and 1.5 million people were at the rally. (ABC had reported nothing of the kind, because nothing of the kind was even remotely close to true.)
But here's what's really hilarious: Poor's Newsbusters' colleague Tom Blumer claimed on Sunday that the rally "drew an estimated 1-2 million people." (Blumer hasn't corrected his post.) Blumer didn't use the phony photos to support his claim; but he did accept and promote the wildly inflated crowd numbers they purportedly demonstrated.
Newsbusters' Tom Bumer, 9/13: "the D.C. rally yesterday that drew an estimated 1-2 million people."
Newsbusters' Jeff Poor, 9/15: "The [Huffington Post] story focused on an old photograph that had been circulating on some minor conservative blogs showing a huge crowd for the Sept. 12 march."
The media was not only obsessing over the sideshow, forgoing yet another opportunity to actually inform the public about health care and the efforts to reform the insurance system. Even worse, they were all but ignoring the substance behind Wilson's claim, taking a pass on the question of whether Wilson was correct or not. (He wasn't.)
The media was not only allowing Wilson's outburst to divert the entire health care debate to a discussion of the relatively small matter of how, if at all, health care reform would treat people who are in the country illegally, they were repeating his false claim over and over without indicating its falsity.
That behavior has continued. And, incredibly, reporters actually praise news reports that fail to examine the question of whether Wilson was telling the truth. Take this Washington Post news report today: 1,300 words, not one of them indicating whether Wilson was right or wrong. 1,300 words, and it omits a central -- perhaps the central -- fact of the controversy: Wilson was wrong. And Politco's Jonathan Martin praises it as a "good story."
This will not end well.
Boy, it's like the Newsbusters crew is trying to set some sort of record for inane media criticism in a single day. Earlier, Tim Graham said the Washington Post's obituary of Patrick Swayze proved the paper's liberal bias by not mentioning Red Dawn until the 23rd paragraph.
Now Mark Finkelstein attacks MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan for conducting a "fawning" interview of Barney Frank, with Finkelstein throwing around the words "sycophant" and "suck-up" and "appeasing" to describe Ratigan's behavior.
Here's the problem: the interview in question included a testy exchange in which Ratigan repeatedly interrupted Frank as he tried to answer a question.
It's awfully strange to see an interview in which the interviewee feels the need to insist "I'm trying to answer it ... I'm trying to answer it ... these things are somewhat complicated. And they can't all be answered in eight seconds. ... So I wish you would let me answer the question" described as "fawning," but that's what passes as media criticism on the Right.
The paper devotes an entire article to the question of how many people showed up for the anti-Obama rally on Saturday, and the newspaper (surprise!) politely ignores the details surrounding the now-infamous 2 million protester lie, helped spread by Michelle Malkin. If you're going to write a news story about the weekend crowds, that's the story. But still, the Times plays dumb. It's just the latest example of how the mainstream political press fails to hold the GOP Noise Machine accountable. How right-wing pundits like Malkin can lie with immunity.
BTW, the Times piece is just a weak piece of lazy journalism.
Headline with subhead:
Crowd estimates vary wildly for Capitol march: How many angry conservatives showed up to protest Obama's policies? Was it 2 million? Or 60,000? It all depends on whom you ask.
See how the bogus "2 million" mark was right there in the headline? It's then planted in the lede:
But even before the march was over, the news media, bloggers and rally supporters were wrangling over the crowd count, with estimates ranging from 60,000 to 2 million.
Where, specifically, did the (fictitious) 2 million figure come from? The Times never bothers to report that detail. The Times article is completely silent regarding the fact that Malkin pushed that concocted figure and did it by referring to a non-existent ABC News report. The Times is also silent regarding the fact that right-wing bloggers spent all of Saturday spreading the blatantly untrue 2 million figure, despite the fact ABC News was on the record denying it ever reported the crowd was that big.
In other words, the Times writes a story about Saturday's crowd estimates and completely misses the story, which was how the right-wing noise machine was, once again, busy spreading blatant lies and comical misinformation. But newspaper like the Times don't like to tell those kinds of tales. Because what would those nasty conservative bloggers would write in response?!
UPDATED: The Times concluded the actual crowd size was probably very low six figures:
Although no official crowd estimates were issued, local officials and an expert indicated the number was more likely under 100,000, still a sizable turnout.
The newspaper though, remains silent (it makes no judgment) regarding the fact that the bloggers' estimate, which the Times used in its headline and lede, was off by 1.9 million people.
WaPo Patrick Swayze Obit Gets to His Drag-Queen Movie Before 'Red Dawn'
Here's a sign the Washington Post is a liberal newspaper: today's Adam Bernstein obituary for Patrick Swayze begins obviously by noting his big hits "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing," but doesn't get to "Red Dawn" until paragraph 23. Even then, Bernstein wrongly suggests he had a supporting role
I'm not kidding. Graham really wrote that. It actually happened.
UPDATE: Even Newsbusters' commenters are bewildered that Graham would post such an inane media-bias claim, leading him to respond in the comments:
It's merely an amusing little sign of how the Post doesn't have anyone inside the building to say "hey, didn't you ever see Red Dawn?"
And, really, what newsroom is complete without anyone saying "Hey, didn't you ever see Red Dawn"?
Mark Salter, longtime chief-of-staff and head writer for John McCain, has a column in Real Clear Politics entitled "The Media's Pathetic Double Standard," in which he complains that the media is more critical of incivility by Republicans than Democrats. Salter, of course, is an almost uniquely inappropriate messenger for that particular message, for reasons we'll get to in a moment.
Salter's column is a case study in the use of false equivalence. For example:
Today's "birthers," are no more offensive or weird than those who believe the Bush Administration was complicit in planning the attacks of September 11
There is, of course, a bit of a difference: Today's "Birthers" count among their ranks several Republican members of congress and famous conservative media figures.
Many thousands of demonstrators marched on the Washington Mall last Saturday to protest Democratic healthcare reform proposals, and the Obama administration's record spending and centralization of economic power in the federal government. The Washington Post headlined the event as "Lashing Out at the Capitol." I can't recall the Post using a similar verb choice to characterize the expressions of anti- war protestors, some of whom carried posters bearing President Bush's likeness in a Nazi uniform and Hitler moustache.
Saturday's right-wing protest march in Washington -- based on a disparate and at times conflicting set of of grievances -- was given front-page play in the Washington Post. A 2002 anti-war rally in DC that drew 100,000 people was buried in the Metro section. And Salter thinks this is an example of a pro-liberal double standard! Incredible.
The Post's decision to bury coverage of that anti-war rally deep inside the paper may explain Salter's inability to recall the paper portraying the protesters negatively. Still, you would think the guy would do a simple Nexis search to confirm his clearly flawed memory before spouting off. Had he done so, he would have found this Post Ombudsman column:
Last Saturday, some 100,000 people, and possibly more, gathered in downtown Washington to protest against possible U.S. military action against Iraq. The Post did not put the story on the front page Sunday. It put it halfway down the front page of the Metro section, with a couple of ho-hum photographs that captured the protest's fringe elements.
I despair of the coarsening of our politics and our broader culture. So much so that after a lifetime in politics I'm beginning to think I might have rendered more honorable service to humanity had I worked in professional wrestling. That independents, who decide elections in this country, seem to feel the same way is enough encouragement to hope that perhaps we are still capable of reform. But our political discourse won't begin to recover any civility until we get some referees back in the game, who will call bullshit on both sides.
Which brings us to the problem with Mark Salter delivering this particular message. Salter's longtime boss, John McCain, has been responsible for some of the most intemperate displays of incivility in modern American politics -- and the media largely gave him a pass for it.
When McCain called a teenaged Chelsea Clinton "ugly," the media gave him a pass. When he praised as "excellent" a question that referred to Hillary Clinton as a "bitch," the media gave him a pass. When McCain used an ethnic slur to refer to the Vietnamese, the media barely batted an eye.
You'd be hard pressed to find an American politician who ever benefited from media double-standards as much as John McCain did -- particularly when it came to looking the other way when he said something nasty. And here's Mark Salter, claiming his party has been the victim of such double-standards.
And, given the media's decade-long love affair with McCain, you just know the media is going to buy this nonsense.
Honestly, I think folks on the right should just stop talking about crowd estimates for Saturday. That hole is already deep enough.
Still, the latest laugh installment comes from Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media, the same right-wing Pajamas Media that did its best to spread comical misinformation over the weekend about how 2 million people had attended the 9/12 tea party. Local D.C. official had a slightly different take on the crowd: between 60-70,000.
So yeah, there's a 1,930,000 gap.
Martin's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and yes, Martin completely ignores the humiliating role Michelle Malkin played in pushing the 2 million nonsense over the weekend. No need to embarrass Malkin, Martin just wants to uncover the facts of the attendance mystery.
Here's the part that made me laugh:
Now, via [blogger Stephen] Green, we have a number reported by Barbara Espinosa from the "people meter" on Pennsylvania Ave — a total of 1.5 million people passed by during the march. Now, that's some kind of direct count, but we don't know what kind — if anyone has any information on this "people meter" I'd love to see it — so let's save that as an estimate and see what else we get.
According to Green, somebody counted every person who walked down Pennsylvania Ave. on Saturday and voilà! It was 1.5 million. What Martin failed to mention in his post was that Stephen Green seemed to have a very hard time on Saturday keeping any sort of facts straight about the crowd count.
As I recently noted:
And then there was the sad, confused work of blogger Stephen Green. Doing his best to spread the word about the supposedly massive crowd size on Saturday, Green first claimed that CNN had reported the crowd was 2 million strong. (CNN never did any such thing.) Then later under a banner that read "correction," Green, following Malkin's phony lead, reported it was ABC News that reported 2 million protesters were on hand. (Green then failed to correct his "correction.")
UPDATED: Oh yeah, over the weekend, right-wing bloggers tried to bolster their case for a crowd of 2 million by posting a bogus aerial photo of the ant-Obama rally.
So there's that.