Facts, lies, and Richard Poe

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On August 2, Media Matters for America smacked down the flimsy factual basis for David Horowitz and Richard Poe's latest book, The Shadow Party, and exposed the book for what it really is: a poorly written and poorly researched hatchet job on George Soros, which consisted of little more than unfounded conspiracy theories and tired smears of Soros as a "Nazi collaborator." True to form, Horowitz and Poe exploded with indignation at Media Matters' "malicious attack" on The Shadow Party, and promised both a "full-blown response" and a "point-by-point refutation."

On August 2, Media Matters for America smacked down the flimsy factual basis for David Horowitz and Richard Poe's latest book, The Shadow Party, and exposed the book for what it really is: a poorly written and poorly researched hatchet job on George Soros, which consisted of little more than unfounded conspiracy theories and tired smears of Soros as a "Nazi collaborator." True to form, Horowitz and Poe exploded with indignation at Media Matters' "malicious attack" on The Shadow Party, and promised both a "full-blown response" and a "point-by-point refutation."

A week passed with no sign of any "response" or "refutation" on the horizon, so Media Matters gently prodded, wondering what, exactly, was taking so long. Poe shot back, claiming that he and Horowitz were taking so long because they were "preparing an effective rebuttal -- that is, a rebuttal which is concise, well-crafted, copiously documented and intellectually honest -- rather than one which is verbose, rambling, confusing, digressive, sloppily composed and filled with cheap sophistry, as was Media Matters' original Bill of Particulars." Poe also added a threat: "Let me assure our friends at Media Matters that, when they finally receive our rebuttal, they will regret having asked for it."

The weeks rolled on, and still no response from Horowitz or Poe. After another inquiry into the status of their "response" went unheeded, we gave up.

Then, finally, on October 30 -- nearly three months after they made their promise -- it was posted on Horowitz's FrontPageMag.com: "Media Matters' Attack on The Shadow Party." At last! The "rebuttal" had arrived! Before we get into it, remember that Poe promised their "effective" response would be concise, well-crafted, copiously documented, and intellectually honest.

Coming in at well over 8,700 words, including the appendix (there's an appendix!), plus 62 endnotes that we did not include in the word count, Poe's missive is anything but concise, outstripping the "verbose" and "rambling" 6,500 words Media Matters devoted to the actual book. As for his other promised characteristics, a cursory examination of Poe's response reveals that it's poorly crafted, poorly documented, and remarkably dishonest -- the hallmarks of Horowitz's and Poe's "journalism."

In his response, Poe purported to expose "21 False Allegations by Media Matters" about The Shadow Party. Since time, space, and, frankly, waning interest are limiting factors here, we'll delve into just a few of Poe's attempts to take down Media Matters.

According to Poe:

False Allegation #2: We are accused of drawing some of our material from an investigative article which I wrote for the May 2004 issue of NewsMax Magazine -- material which Media Matters claims it "debunked" long ago.

Yes, I wrote an investigative article which was published in the May 2004 issue of NewsMax. It is just Media Matters opinion that they "debunked" my article. In fact, they no more debunked it than they have our book.

Amazing, isn't it? Poe snaps his fingers, and debunkings magically disappear. He didn't insert an endnote to back up his assertion -- he didn't even try to explain how what Media Matters wrote was "false." Much more than offering our "opinion," Media Matters gave a detailed explanation of just how wrong Poe was in his 2004 article.

According to Poe:

False Allegation #9: We are accused of citing a report from the National Law Journal stating that Hillary Clinton serves on the board of the Soros-funded American Constitution Society. The reference appears on page 70 of The Shadow Party.

We make no apology for citing The National Law Journal as a source. (30) It is a well- respected publication. The same cannot be said of Soros-funded advocacy groups, whose websites have been known to edit their online personnel listings in the wink of an eye, when they find it necessary to shield certain of their associates from unwanted scrutiny. (31)

Media Matters did not fault Horowitz and Poe for using the National Law Journal as a source. However, we did fault them for concocting a conspiracy theory based on the Journal's reporting, which was likely inaccurate. Media Matters wrote:

The authors are correct that Sen. Clinton is not listed on the society's website as a member of its Board of Advisors. They are also correct that the National Law Journal reported that she was on the board. But the NLJ article simply asserts this as fact, without sourcing the claim and without any indication that the writer contacted either ACS or Clinton to confirm it. Yet, faced with a conflict between the law journal report and the organization's website, Horowitz and Poe chose to reject the likely explanation -- that the report was simply mistaken, and that Sen. Clinton isn't listed as a member of the board because she isn't one -- and instead accused Clinton and the organization of an unlikely plot to hide the affiliation.

This is a good one. Poe wrote:

False Allegation #11: We are accused of having cited an article from the London Sunday Times which Media Matters evidently considers to have been unworthy of citation. "In another case, the authors reprint a false news report with apparent full knowledge of its falsity before correcting it themselves. On page 88, they write, 'His motives in pursuing philanthropy have often been questioned.' As back-up, they cite a 1995 article in the London Sunday Times by right-wing commentator Taki Theodoracopulos, who reported, erroneously, that 'all [Soros] philanthropy began in 1987, the first year he and his fund had to pay taxes. Charitable matters are tax deductible and Soros says his aim is to give way [sic] half his yearly income, the maximum he can deduct.' But Soros' philanthropy did not start "the first year he and his fund had to pay taxes;' it started in 1979, as Horowitz and Poe acknowledge in the very sentence following the Times reference. 'In fairness to Soros,' they write uncharacteristically, 'he actually began dabbling in philanthropy as early as 1979.' Then why print the falsehood?"

We cited the article because the point it made was true. The small (and incidental) exaggeration it contained, we corrected. As we wrote on pages 88-89 of The Shadow Party: "Soros' road to power, in this instance, as in others, was through his philanthropic enterprises. His motives in pursuing philanthropy have been often questioned. In 1995, the London Sunday Times noted: `[Soros'] investment fund did not pay taxes in the United States between 1969 and 1986, enjoying a `free ride' that netted him and his investors billions of dollars. Until the American Tax Reform Act [of] 1986 was passed, [Soros'] Quantum Fund legally avoided paying a cent.' The Times went on to observe that, 'all [Soros'] philanthropy began in 1987, the first year he and his fund had to pay taxes. Charitable matters are tax deductible and Soros says his aim is to give away half his yearly income, the maximum he can deduct.' In fairness to Soros, he actually began dabbling in philanthropy as early as 1979. In 1984, he launched his first Open Society Foundation in Hungary. But it is also true that his giving remained modest until 1987."

The point of Mr. Theodoracopoulos' article was, as his headline succinctly put it, "Soros is Charitable up to the Tax Break". Mr. Theodoracopoulos made a small error in saying that Soros began his philanthropy in 1987, but we corrected that error in our text. The larger point -- that Soros' investment fund did not pay taxes between 1969 and 1986 -- was entirely accurate, and that was the point of Mr. Theodoracopoulos' article. (37)

Here's a quick lesson for Poe on the relationship between "facts" and "points": When making a "point," one must rely on "facts." When one's "facts" turn out to be false, one no longer has a "point." The "facts" Theodoracopoulos used in his article turned out to be false -- a "fact" Poe acknowledged -- which means Theodoracopoulos ceased to have a "point."

Moreover, whatever "point" Theodoracopoulos was trying to make is irrelevant. What is relevant is the point Poe and Horowitz were trying to make by citing Theodoracopoulos's article, which was that Soros's "motives in pursuing philanthropy have often been questioned." They suggested that Soros got into the charity business only as a way to avoid paying taxes, even though they admitted in the next sentence that the "fact" they cited as evidence wasn't true. Even the headline Poe now cites as evidence of Theodoracopoulos' "point" is false by their own admission; Soros made charitable donations many years before Poe says his investment fund had to pay taxes. This leads us back to the original question: If Horowitz and Poe knew what Theodoracopoulos wrote was false, why did they print it?

Continuing, Poe wrote:

False Allegation #14: We are accused of unfairly suggesting that Soros' Open Society Institute did not make it easy for people to find out that the OSI had funded the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.

If a visitor types Lynne Stewart's name into the search engine on the home page of the OSI site, no grants to Lynne Stewart will appear. There is no reason for a visitor to draw the conclusion that there are additional search engines buried on other, deeper layers of the site. This is a basic site management principle, with which we presume OSI's Web designers are familiar.

The only thing that can be taken away from this passage is that Poe is hell-bent on letting the world know just how terrible he and Horowitz are at research. As Media Matters documented in our takedown of The Shadow Party, the information on Lynne Stewart is readily available for anyone who wants it. Media Matters found it; National Review's Byron York found it; an anonymous FreeRepublic.com contributor who goes by the name "piasa" found it. The only people in the world who couldn't find this information were Poe and Horowitz, who, by their own admission, gave up after a couple of failed Google searches and had to rely on "piasa" for this passage in their book.

Soldiering on, Poe wrote:

False Allegation #17: We are accused of having "falsely linked Saddam Hussein to the 1993 WTC bombing", on page 7 of The Shadow Party.

Actually we take no position on the question of whether or not Iraqi agents were complicit in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. We do, however, mention that FBI assistant director James Fox, who then headed the Bureau's New York City office, suspected that the Iraqi intelligence service Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-A'ma had orchestrated the bombing, using Islamist volunteers from other countries as cover.

We mention further that Fox claimed he was blocked by Janet Reno's Justice Department from pursuing any leads that might implicate Iraq.

Our intention was not to take sides, one way or the other, on these matters. It was to demonstrate the inadequacy of dealing with terrorism as an ordinary problem of law enforcement, as Mr. Soros recommends.

Media Matters did not claim he and Horowitz "took a position" on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Saddam Hussein -- we noted that they falsely linked the two, and that the evidence they presented showing that linkage was based on the discredited conspiracy theories of American Enterprise Institute scholar Laurie Mylroie.

You get the idea. It's a sloppy, dishonest defense of an even sloppier and more dishonest book. But here's the best part -- in the aforementioned appendix, titled "21 Points Which Media Matters Apparently Concedes," Poe wrote:

The 21 points set forth below encapsulate the major arguments and allegations made in our book The Shadow Party. An ancient principle of law holds that "Qui tacet consentiret," or "silence gives consent." Media Matters' silence on the 21 major arguments of The Shadow Party would seem to indicate that it cannot refute -- indeed does not dispute -- our claims and thus concedes them.

There is an additional point to be made about this attempt to legitimize their conspiratorial ramblings and slurs against George Soros. As noted above, Media Matters does not have the time to fact-check every assertion and refute every falsehood made by Poe and Horowitz. It is absurd to assert that, in a screed of this magnitude, our lack of a response to something is an acknowledgment of its veracity. For example, on his blog, Poe described Ann Coulter as "America's favorite pundit." Media Matters did not challenge this claim. Does Poe think Media Matters agrees with him on this, given our body of work on Ms. Coulter?

Moreover, Media Matters did not need to respond to Horowitz's and Poe's "arguments." Poe and Horowitz claimed that the "points" they made ("George Soros and Hillary Clinton jointly control today's Democratic Party," and "Soros controls the official party through a private 'Shadow Party,' " etc.) were based upon "facts." Media Matters, however, demonstrated that the "facts" Poe and Horowitz brought to bear in defense of their paranoid fantasies were, in reality, "lies." And, as noted above, when "facts" are exposed as "lies," the "points" they presume to support cease to exist.

Person
Richard Poe, David Horowitz
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Media Matters, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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