Apparently taking their cue from the right-wing gossip website The Drudge Report, conservative media figures spread a doctored quotation of Senator John Edwards talking about stem cell research and further embellished it throughout the day on October 12.
The doctored quotation first appeared on The Drudge Report on October 12 at 4:03 p.m. (ET). Drudge reported:
Edwards: 'When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again'...
Here's what Edwards actually said at an October 10 campaign event in Iowa:
EDWARDS: Christopher Reeve just passed away. And America just lost a great champion for this cause. Somebody who is a powerful voice for the need to do stem cell research and change the lives of people like him, who have gone through the tragedy. Well, if we can do the work that we can do in this country -- the work we will do when John Kerry is president -- people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.
Drudge edited out Edwards's words about "the work we can do in this country" on stem cell research, which suggested that Edwards was premising "people like Christopher Reeve" "walk[ing] again" on the outcome of research that a Kerry administration would support.
Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto's October 12 "Best of the Web Today" column took issue with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's October 12 column about President George W. Bush's pattern of false statements. Taranto cited Drudge's distortion of Edwards's statement as evidence that Edwards's alleged distortions are just as bad as Bush's:
The Drudge Report notes this quote from John Edwards yesterday: "When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." Is this Krugman's idea of fundamentally honest verbal shorthand?
Syndicated columnist and author Ben Shapiro, whose column appears at the "conservative news and information" website Townhall.com, also distorted Edwards' statement and quoted him selectively in an October 13 column. "When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again," Shapiro quoted Edwards as saying, while referring to Edwards mockingly as "the Southern prophet."
The October 12 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes featured a doctored video clip of Edwards's remarks that echoed Drudge's doctored quotation. FOX News Channel editors cut out Edwards's statement that "Well, if we can do the work that we can do in this country" and played only the latter part of Edwards's sentence. Co-host Sean Hannity then echoed the out-of-context quotation:
EDWARDS: [video clip] The work we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk -- get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.
HANNITY: Get up out of the wheelchair and walk again.
On the October 11 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, the "FOX All-Star Panel" began with a video clip of Edwards's remarks, after which syndicated columnist and FOX News Channel contributor Charles Krauthammer said:
KRAUTHAMMER: For Edwards to make the claims he did is the worst demagoguery I've heard in Washington in a quarter-century. To imply that Christopher Reeve was kept in the wheelchair because of the policies of the Bush administration on stem cells is ridiculous and insulting.
On the October 12 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh played the clip of Krauthammer on Special Report with Brit Hume and enthusiastically echoed his sentiments:
LIMBAUGH: Last night, on Special Report with Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer was asked about this. Charles Krauthammer is in a wheelchair. Charles Krauthammer is a quadriplegic. He is outraged by Edwards's comments, and this is what he said.
[audio clip of Krauthammer on Special Report]
LIMBAUGH: And that's exactly right, and that's exactly what Edwards was trying to say, that George [W.] Bush stands in the way of embryonic stem cell research, and that's why Christopher Reeve is not walking, but when John Kerry's president, we're going to full bore into stem cell research, and then people like Christopher Reeve will walk.
You're in a wheelchair, you're going to walk when John Kerry's president. You're going to get up out of that chair and you're going to walk when John Kerry's president. You'd be walking today if George [W.] Bush wasn't president.