FOX News Channel managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume distorted the content of a leaked, internal ABC News memo in which political director Mark Halperin offers reporters guidelines on how to report on factual distortions by President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.
Here's what Hume said on the October 10 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: An ABC News internal e-mail leaked out Friday, in which the network's political director urged that ABC News not necessarily hold the Kerry and Bush campaigns equally to account for their alleged distortions about each other. The memo said the Kerry camp was a lesser offender, while the Bush camp was trying to destroy Kerry in part by distortions.
In fact, the memo says the opposite of what Hume claimed. The key sentence is: "We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that." This statement instructs ABC News reporters to hold both candidates to the same standard -- namely, accurate representation of "the facts." The memo suggests that if one candidate's distortions are more egregious than the other's, ABC's coverage should reflect this reality. If Kerry's minor distortions earned the same coverage from ABC that Bush's egregious distortions received, ABC would be holding Kerry to a higher standard. Halperin put quotes around the word "equally" to warn against this sort of coverage, which appears equal but actually requires treating the two sides differently.