MSNBC's Olbermann: Media Matters "just loves checking out footnotes"

Video ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

During an interview with Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock, Keith Olbermann said that "the complexity [of evolution] is why fake authors with fake ideas can still peddle their crap" but "[f]ortunately, Media Matters just loves checking out footnotes."

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In an August 9 interview with Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock about the distortions and falsehoods found in the endnotes of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's latest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006), MSNBC's Countdown host Keith Olbermann said that "the complexity [of evolution] is why fake authors with fake ideas can still peddle their crap" but "[f]ortunately, Media Matters just loves checking out footnotes."

Olbermann cited a Coulter endnote, as Media Matters documented, which followed Coulter's assertion that in an article on creationism, a New York Times reporter described the "evolutionists' entire retort to [scientific] arguments as: Others disagree. That's it. No explanation, no specifics, just 'others disagree.' " Olbermann stated that, as Media Matters noted, "[t]hat phrase she quotes -- 'others disagree' -- it was not used" in the Times article. Olbermann then read a lengthy passage from the article that offered detailed explanations of how evolutionary mechanisms gave rise to blood-clotting systems.

Asked why these endnote inaccuracies matter, Brock replied that Media Matters had asked Random House Inc. whether it would investigate charges of plagiarism lodged against Godless, but that Steve Ross, the senior vice president and publisher of Crown Publishing Group and publisher of the Crown Forum imprint -- divisions of Random House -- responded by defending Coulter's scholarship by stating that she "knows when attribution is appropriate, as underscored by the nineteen pages of hundreds of endnotes contained in Godless." Brock added: "I think it's important for her media enablers to know precisely what it is they're allowing her to promote, which is something here that's based on false documentation."

Brock further stated that Coulter has "been on television advocating political murder and lately, and very strangely, saying that Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are all gay," as Media Matters has noted (here, here, and here). Brock concluded that "Ann Coulter can say her nonsense, but she has no right to be given these platforms; and we have a petition on our website at mediamatters.org if people are concerned about this issue." The petition urges media outlets to stop providing Coulter and her ilk a platform to launch their venomous attacks.

From the August 9 edition of MSNBC's Countdown:

OLBERMANN: Our third story tonight, the conflicting evidence over the existence of Coultergeist. Readers of the Shreveport, Louisiana Times newspaper have now voted: Yes, they do believe in Coultergeist, enough to keep reading her column. The vote was 60/40. The editor says he was able to throw out the non-local voters. Good for him. So, he says Coultergeist stays for now.

But on the national front, growing evidence that Coultergeist simply is not real. Consider the latest exhibit from mediamatters.org. The website examined the sourcing in Coulter's new book, new that is, if you disregard the alleged plagiarism. And when it comes to many of her footnoted citations, let's just say there don't seem to be any WMD there.

For instance, discussing a 2005 New York Times article about creationism, Coulter wrote, quote: "The Times reporter ... was forced to keep describing the evolutionists' entire retort to these arguments as: Others disagree. That's it. No explanation, no specifics, just 'others disagree.' "

Media Matters checked out footnote number 2 there, and so did we. That phrase she quotes, "others disagree," it was not used. Those explanations of evolution she says were not there -- allow me to quote from the Times piece:

"Early vertebrates like the jawless fish had a simple clotting system, scientists believe involving a few proteins that made blood stick together. Scientists hypothesize that at some point, a mistake during the copying of DNA resulted in the duplication of a gene, increasing the amount of protein produced by cells. Most often, such a change would be useless. But in this case the extra protein helped blood clot, and animals with the extra protein were more likely to survive and reproduce. Over time, as higher-order species evolved, other proteins joined the clotting system. For instance, several proteins involved in the clotting of blood appear to have started as digestive enzymes. ... Scientists have largely been able to determine the order in which different proteins became involved in the helping blood clot, eventually producing the sophisticated clotting mechanisms of humans and other higher animals. The sequencing of animal genomes has provided evidence to support this view."

Your mileage may vary. Yes, it's long, complex, boring. You got to speed it up, that's the point, that's why some people still believe in creationism, because it's hard to grasp the complexities of evolution -- like why we humans have Adam's apples.

And the complexity is why fake authors with fake ideas can still peddle their crap by crafting their talking points so that honest rebuttals are by necessity, long, complex, and boring, which is why it's important that somebody check out the footnotes.

We left a message with Crown Publishing to ask them about that little matter. Nothing yet.

Fortunately, Media Matters just loves checking out footnotes. Joining us tonight with some details on just how dishonest, inaccurate, misleading -- well, I'm giving it all away.

David Brock founded and runs Media Matters with the Ann Coulters of the world in mind and in the crosshairs. David, thanks for your time tonight.

BROCK: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Why does this matter?

BROCK: Well, it matters for a couple of reasons. One, as you mentioned, this came up in the context of her publisher defending her against charges of plagiarism and they said in a statement a few weeks back that they believed she wasn't guilty of plagiarism because she knows how to do research and she makes her citations and she makes her annotations correctly. And so we took them up on that challenge and we've found and we've published 14 cases of false documentation, number one.

Number two, as you know, she's had access to network and cable television for several weeks now, promoting this book, and I think it's important for her media enablers to know precisely what it is they're allowing her to promote, which is something here that's based on false documentation.

OLBERMANN: Give us the most egregious example of that and back it up, if you would.

BROCK: Sure, well, there are many. One I would point to would be a case where she claims that kindergarteners were being schooled in sex education classes in adult sexual practices. And that does sound shocking. She's made the claim in the book and on television. When you look at The New York Times article that she cites for the case that kindergarteners are being exposed to this, what you find is a 20-year-old article that says that actually adult students at Dartmouth College were getting instruction in sex education and AIDS prevention.

OLBERMANN: Gets a little different then, isn't it?

BROCK: It's very different, and so, this is part of her pattern to say that liberals are saying and doing crazy things, but when you look it up, you find they didn't say or do the things she says they said.

OLBERMANN: What's your take on the corporate oversight, here? Does anybody check any of this stuff anymore or is the premise of a publisher now -- just make sure you can't be sued and that the checks can be cashed?

BROCK: Well, standards vary. I mean, we believe that the publisher certainly should look at this and make a public accounting. But I would note that in the past, one of her prior books, Slander, there was a famous factual error in there where she claimed that [late NASCAR driver] Dale Earnhardt's obituary was never reported in The New York Times back in 2001, and it was. She lied about it and said she corrected it in the book, and we checked and she didn't correct it.

So, the issue is partly for the publisher, but as I said, I think it's very important for all the media outlets to know the wider context here, as you've discussed, is, you know, in the context of a book that smeared the 9-11 widows. She's been on television advocating political murder and lately, and very strangely, saying that Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are all gay. So, I think there's a serious issue of media accountability here. Ann Coulter can say her nonsense, but she has no right to be given these platforms; and we have a petition on our website at mediamatters.org if people are concerned about this issue.

OLBERMANN: David Brock of Media Matters. Thanks always for your watchdog work on all these things and thanks for your time tonight, David.

BROCK: Thank you very much.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, Crown Publishing Group
Person
Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann
Show/Publication
Countdown with Keith Olbermann
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