Caught by Media Matters making up poll data, Taranto said: "We haven't been paying close attention to the polls"September 21, 2005 6:30 PM EDT ››› JOE BROWN & SIMON MALOY
In his September 21 "Best of the Web" column on The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com website, and in an email to comedian and Air America Radio host Al Franken, OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto conceded that "[I]t's possible" that he was "mistaken" in asserting on the September 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes that President Bush's job approval ratings had begun to bounce back after their historic lows in the wake of the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Taranto was responding to a Media Matters for America item -- as well as emails he said the item generated -- in which we noted that he offered no poll numbers to back up his claim, and the available polling in fact refuted it.
After admitting in his OpinionJournal piece that "[w]e haven't been paying close attention to the polls," Taranto lashed out at Media Matters, declaring "But if that's true [that Taranto was wrong], then we, being generally sympathetic to President Bush, are merely being fatuous, and Bush's opponents should be amused if not delighted. The Angry Left has no reason to be mad at us, but we guess anger is the only emotion the Angry Left knows."
In an on-air conversation with Media Matters president and CEO David Brock on September 21, Franken described the email exchange he initiated with Taranto asking him about his assertion on Hannity & Colmes:
FRANKEN: Now I emailed James Taranto.
BROCK: Is that right?
FRANKEN: Yeah, I got his email address from somebody.
FRANKEN: And this is what I wrote. I wrote, "Hi, James. I have a radio show on Air America Radio, and something we do is check stuff that doesn't sound right to us."
FRANKEN: "Recently on Hannity & Colmes, you said, quote: 'I think we've already seen the poll numbers start to bounce back.' When Colmes asked, 'Where?,' you said, 'I've seen some polls in which the approval rating is almost as high as the disapproval.' We've had difficulty finding such polls. Could you direct us to them? Thank you, Al Franken."
FRANKEN: Now to James Taranto's --
KATHERINE LANPHER (co-host): Credit?
FRANKEN: -- credit -- to his credit, he emailed me back and wrote this. He said, "Dear Mr. Franken, It's possible that I was mistaken about this. Cheers."
FRANKEN: Now, here's the thing. Let's not punish a guy --
FRANKEN: -- for getting back to me. Right?
BROCK: Sure. Absolutely.
FRANKEN: It was a very quick and forthright response.
BROCK: Right. And he's not being dishonest in his response.
FRANKEN: No. Now I -- and when I wrote him back, I was extremely careful to -- I just said, "Thank you for the quick and forthright response."
FRANKEN: And I didn't say anything snarky.
FRANKEN: I didn't say like, "Oh, one other question: Why would you act like you're so certain" --
FRANKEN: -- "about something that you clearly were mistaken about and had no basis for?" I didn't do that.
FRANKEN: And you know why? You don't punish someone.