Yesterday, Eric Boehlert explained how a completely made-up claim that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gave a floor speech on health care reform while drunk had bubbled up through the right-wing noise machine and was amplified by The Politico -- despite the fact that there was absolutely no evidence supporting the story.
Nothing in the video of Baucus suggested that he was drunk. As The Washington Independent's David Weigel wrote, "Baucus talks like this all the time. ... Baucus mumbles occasionally. OK, a lot. Accusing him of being drunk on the job, without evidence, is shameful, and I'm flabbergasted at the number of journalists who are doing it."
UPDATE: A spokesman for Baucus released the following statement: "When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of 'news'."
That should have put an end to the story. But not if you are Matt Drudge. Hours after Baucus' denial -- and days after it was clear the story was entirely baseless -- Drudge was still linking to the YouTube video of Baucus' speech and still featuring the following headline: "DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM BAUCUS SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR..."
As MSNBC's David Shuster wrote on Twitter, Baucus "always speaks in a halting fashion. The wingnut claims are lies and disgusting smears. ... Baucus speech was at 430pm in the afternoon. He was incensed at [Sen. Roger] Wicker [R-MS]. He was emotional. To smear him, as drudge does, is repulsive."
Recently, the right-wing media have engaged in relentless attacks on President Obama and his administration and progressive organizations. Those attacks have repeatedly turned out to be based on demonstrably false claims -- such as the claim that Education Department official Kevin Jennings "cover[ed] up statutory rape."
Led by Fox News, the conservative media have opened a new front from which to attack President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama's support of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics: smearing the city as unfit to host the Olympic Games, often by citing individual instances of violence. For example, Sean Hannity, after citing a recent murder and an assault, asked whether Chicago is "a city where we want the Olympics," and Glenn Beck said, "Chicago is good at ... organized Mafi -- oops, did I say that out loud?"
In recent days, Fox News hosts, contributors and guests have used President Obama's promotion of the United States bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago as an excuse to attack him, while Michelle Malkin and Matt Drudge have baselessly linked the murder of a teenager in Chicago to the Olympic bid. Attacks on Obama's efforts include Sean Hannity saying that "it sounds" like Obama "is more concerned about bringing the Olympics to Chicago than winning the war in Afghanistan," Brent Bozell claiming Obama's trip to Copenhagen to promote the Chicago bid "is evidence that this man just cannot stay away from the klieg lights," and Bret Baier invoking the "carbon footprint" of Obama's trip to Copenhagen to smear the president.
From the Drudge Report, accessed on September 29:
So, some reporters are proclaiming the end of the Drudge Era.
I'm not impressed.
See, Matt Drudge was never really as influential as the media insisted he was. He was their mascot, not their quarterback.
Drudge's thinly-sourced "scoops" and badly-skewed, sensationalist spin on mundane stories seemed to carry the day not because he enjoyed a svengali-like grip over the diligent reporters at MSNBC and the Washington Post who wanted nothing more than to produce solid, factual, balanced journalism but were led astray by Drudge's irresistible breaking-news beacon. No, Drudge seemed to carry the day because those journalists wanted to focus on the gossip, wanted to pursue irrelevant, salacious, and often false stories rather than write about policy, wanted to behave like cliquish thirteen-year-olds. They used Drudge as an excuse, not as a guide.
If they no longer feel it necessary to blame their shortcomings on Matt Drudge, that's only because they've embraced the fact that they are Matt Drudge.
Time's Joe Klein rips a new fundraising email that begins with the false claim that "More American women are going to die of breast cancer if you and I surrender to President Obama's nationalized healthcare onslaught" and goes on to make a variety of false claims about health care reform.
Needless to say, there is no plan to nationalize or socialize health care. This letter, therefore, is a disgraceful scam, intended to scare the living hell out of already frightened and militantly uninformed people--Fox News viewers who think the sky is falling because a Muslim-Socialist-furriner is in the White House. I'd like to see the leaders of the Republican Party disown this poisonous swill. But they won't--because the real leaders of the Republican Party (Fox, Rush and Drudge) are spreading it.
Klein never mentions who the email is from, though. It's signed by Michelle Bernard of the Independent Women's Forum. Bernard is a frequent guest on MSNBC, particularly Chris Matthews' Hardball.
Joe Klein has expressed a fair amount of outrage in recent weeks about the lies that are being spread about health care. But he seems not to have internalized one very important fact: The problem is not limited to "Fox, Rush and Drudge."
In this case, MSNBC gives a platform to the author of the "disgraceful scam, intended to scare the lving hell out of already frightened and militantly uninformed people." MSNBC, not Fox. MSNBC, not Rush. MSNBC.
The other thing Joe Klein would do well to realize is that Fox News doesn't give a damn whether Joe Klein criticizes them. Neither does Rush Limbaugh, or Matt Drudge. But if Joe Klein, longtime fixture of Polite DC Society, were to turn his ire on people like Chris Matthews for giving people like Michelle Bernard a platform, he might actually do some good. Matthews and Andrea Mitchell and Norah O'Donnell and David Shuster might actually care what he has to say. He might actually be able to shame them.
From the August 4th edition of CNN's Situation Room:
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The Drudge Report, a Heritage Foundation blog, and Rush Limbaugh all falsely claimed that President Obama, in Limbaugh's words, "admit[ted] he doesn't know" what's in the House health care bill. In fact, Obama said he was "not familiar" with opponents' false talking point that the bill will make individual private medical insurance illegal.
The Drudge Report, Fox News, and The Kudlow Report provided a forum for a chart released by congressional Republicans that purported to show "the complex health care reform proposal by Democratic congressional leaders."
Conservatives in the media have criticized President Obama's condemnation of the Honduran president's ouster, asserting that Obama is taking the same side as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the leadership in Cuba. However, the European Union has also condemned the ouster.
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The Drudge Report highlighted a New York Post article reporting the taxpayer cost of the Obamas' trip to New York City. But neither noted that such use of taxpayer funds for private travel by the first family is typical.
The Drudge Report posted a doctored photo of Minnesota Democrat Al Franken wearing a diaper and bunny ears.
So, according to internet gossip Matt Drudge, he was the first person Alaska Governor Sarah Palin decided to follow on Twitter. He's even reporting it on The Drudge Report:
Like much of the work he does, whether original "reporting" or linking to news stories with his own misleading headlines, Drudge comes up short with the facts on this one. Yep, he's wrong again.
In fairness, the news outlet Drudge links to, The Daily Telegraph, misreported the story as well.
If you take a look at Sarah Palin's Twitter page, you'll notice that of the 43 (as of right now) people Palin follows on Twitter, Drudge was the 17th. He barely makes the first half of her follow.
Here's the list of folks Palin said "you betcha" to before Drudge:
1. Newt Gingrich
2. Karl Rove
3. Sen. Lesil McGuire
4. Gov. Bill Ritter, Jr.
5. Sen. Lisa Murkowski
6. Sen. Jim DeMint
7. Gov. Rick Perry
8. Gov. Bob Riley
9. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
10. Gov. Bill Richardson
11. Gov. Mike Huckabee
13. Politico 44
15. Weekly Standard
16. Fox News
17. Drudge Report