Ignoring outright "Bridge to Nowhere" falsehoods, Kurtz pronounces evidence insufficient to say Palin is "lying"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote that Gov. Sarah Palin's "description of her role in the infamous bridge [to nowhere] funding is highly selective at best," but falsely suggested that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Palin's claims about her actions on the project are false. Kurtz ignored outright falsehoods in Palin's claims about her opposition to the bridge, including her claim that she "told the Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks' on that 'bridge to nowhere.'"

In a September 9 post on The Washington Post's The Trail blog, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that a new campaign ad by Sen. Barack Obama "accurately charges that [Gov. Sarah] Palin, who is touting her opposition to the infamous bridge ["to nowhere"] project, originally supported it when she ran for Alaska governor." Kurtz concluded that "Palin's description of her role in the bridge funding is highly selective at best," but falsely suggested that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Palin's claims about her actions on the project are false. In asserting that Palin has been merely "highly selective" in her "description of her role" on the bridge, Kurtz ignored outright falsehoods in Palin's claims about her opposition to the project -- even though, in a post the previous day, Kurtz had referred to an assertion in a McCain campaign ad that Palin "stopped the Bridge to Nowhere" as a "whopper."

Kurtz wrote:

The Illinois senator recycles a 2004 Bush attack ad against Democratic nominee John Kerry, who had said he was for $87 billion in war funding before he was against it. The ad accurately charges that Palin, who is touting her opposition to the infamous bridge project, originally supported it when she ran for Alaska governor.

Does that amount to politicians "lying" about their records? Palin's description of her role in the bridge funding is highly selective at best. An on-screen headline cites a critique of McCain's ad calling it a "naked lie," but that is from the liberal New Republic magazine. And while McCain may be exaggerating his maverick credentials, that is not evidence of lying.

Kurtz claimed that "Palin's description of her role in the bridge funding is highly selective at best," but didn't actually note what Palin has claimed -- falsely -- about her role. In her September 3 address at the Republican National Convention, Palin asserted: "I told the Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that 'Bridge to Nowhere.' If our state wanted to build a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves." But this assertion, which Kurtz did not report, is false for at least two reasons.

As Media Matters for America previously noted, Palin did not tell Congress, " 'Thanks, but no thanks' on that 'bridge to nowhere,' as she claimed in her speech. First, she was not in a position to do so. As The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby noted, a year before Palin was elected governor, Congress abdicated responsibility for determining how the money would be spent. After authorizing funds to be spent specifically on the bridge project in August 2005, in an appropriations bill in November 2005, Congress earmarked the money for Alaska, but specified that it did not have to be spent on the bridge. Somerby wrote, "[N]o one had to 'tell Congress' anything about the Bridge to Nowhere, because Congress had removed itself from decision-making about the project." Second, Palin did not refuse the funds or reimburse the federal government; Alaska kept the federal funds. Kurtz did not mention either fact.

In assessing Palin's claim that "I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere," PolitiFact.com reported:

The project also raised bitter debate in Congress, and several attempts were made to yank the funding for the project. In the fall of 2005, Congress removed the language specifically directing the money to the bridge, but it kept the money in place and left it up to Alaska to decide which transportation projects the state would like to spend it on.

By the time Palin pulled the plug on the Gravina bridge project in September 2007, much of the federal funding for the bridge had already been diverted to other transportation projects.

[...]

When Palin says "I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere," it implies Congress said, "Here's a check for that bridge" and she responded, "No thanks, that's wasteful spending; here's your money back."

That's not what happened. Fact is, Alaska took the bridge money, and then just spent it on other projects. Palin did make the final call to kill plans for the bridge, but by the time she did it was no longer a politically viable project.

From the September 9 blog post on The Trail:

The Illinois senator recycles a 2004 Bush attack ad against Democratic nominee John Kerry, who had said he was for $87 billion in war funding before he was against it. The ad accurately charges that Palin, who is touting her opposition to the infamous bridge project, originally supported it when she ran for Alaska governor.

Does that amount to politicians "lying" about their records? Palin's description of her role in the bridge funding is highly selective at best. An on-screen headline cites a critique of McCain's ad calling it a "naked lie," but that is from the liberal New Republic magazine. And while McCain may be exaggerating his maverick credentials, that is not evidence of lying.

The commercial's opening shot shows Obama with fellow senator and running mate Joe Biden and the words "For the Change We Need." That encapsulates the ad's underlying purpose: not to let McCain hijack the change theme that has been at the core of Obama's candidacy.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Howard Kurtz, Sarah Palin
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.