FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2004
WHAT THE NEW YORK TIMES HAS BECOME: This was a week of instructive press corps conduct; well examine a range of topics in a Weekend Howler tomorrow. But the political coverage in todays New York Times is especially instructive. What has the New York Times become? Lets look at three separate articles from this mornings edition. The pieces appear side-by-side on page A11, all part of the papers Bush-Kerry coverage. We think these three pieces are truly remarkable. Well startwhere else?at the Heart of Spin, with the indomitable Spinner One, Katharine Seelye.
KIT SEELYES WORLD OF SPIN: Katharine Kit Seelye lives to spin you. More precisely, she lives to spin you against Major Democrats. Weve told you before: Seelyes reports are drenched in spinand this morning is no exception. The scribe pretends to report on last nights Democratic Unity Dinneran event which produced the page-one lead story in this mornings Washington Times. Yes, the Washington Times thought this was big newsand Stephen Dinan reports the event fairly straight. But Seelye drips spin from beginning to end. Try to believe that this was published and delivered right to our doorstep:
SEELYE (pgh 1): To swelling trumpets, the biggest stars in the Democratic firmament strode on stage here Thursday night, but true to form, they seemed to lack a certain coordination.True to form, Seelye injected her negative spin from the start; the Democrats seemed to lack a certain coordination, she opines. The negative imagery was there to guide you. But to what troubling event did Seelye refer? This is what had the scribe troubled:
SEELYE (2): Leading the parade were two former presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, followed by the partys presumptive nominee this year, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, then former Vice President Al Gore.The problem? Edwards stood in the center, not on the end! All the choreography was lost! At the New York Times, this troubling event produced the negative imagery which led this mornings clowning report. Dems were awkward and unsure, we were told. But then, thats how Big Dems always seem when this clown makes a joke of your discourse.
But Spinner One was just getting started. At the Washington Times, Stephen Dinan was reasonably straightforward in his reporting of this event. But Seelye has an eye for trivia, and a taste for Spin Against Dems. After including a quote from Kerrys prepared remarks, she was back to choreography problems:
SEELYE (7): One by one, the former rivals spoke for two minutes each: Senator Bob Graham, Howard Dean, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Senator Edwards, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Gen. Wesley Clark and Representative Richard A. Gephardt. (They were supposed to speak in alphabetical order, but were told if they were late, they would lose their place; again, the desired order became haphazard.)Yes, this inanity appears in this mornings Times! But Seelyes clowning wasnt finished. Sighing at what she was forced to endure, she told us how boring it was:
SEELYE (8): Most turned to the challenge ahead.Sigh! Seelye completed the Rule of Three as she trashed the hopeless Dems. They lacked all choreography, we were told. Their dreamof alphabetical orderhad been lost. And good Lord, how endless their speeches had been! Yes, this is what the New York Times delivered to our doorstep this morning. [Note: A different version of Seelyes article appears on line. We are quoting the paper which appeared on our doorstep, billed as the Washington Edition.]
Of course, this is minor clowning for Seelye. She can also produce deep, lasting damage, as she did in 1999 when she accidentally misquoted Gore about Love Canal. (The Times then refused to correct her mistake for the next ten days!) But try to believe that a major newspaper will actually put this garbage in printand will then insult its readers interests by sending it right to their doorsteps! Do you still not know what the Times has become? This morning, Seelye was trying to show youas was Spinner Two, Raymond Hernandez.
RAYMOND HERNANDEZ DOESNT KNOW HOW TO COUNT: On Wednesday night, President Bush appeared at the Correspondents Dinner, and told a string of tasteless jokes about the failed search for WMD. On last nights Hardball, Chris Matthews blasted Bush shill Tucker Eskew about the presidents screaming bad taste. Do the dead and wounded think this is funny? Matthews tried to make Eskew say. We strongly suggest that you read the full transcript, which well discuss tomorrow.
Uh-ohBush had stepped in the doo-doo again! So the New York Times knew what to doit baldly misstated what Bush had done! Enter the hopeless Raymond Hernandez. This headline appeared above his small piece at the bottom of page A11:
NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE: A Bush Dinner Joke Amuses (and Does Not)We were surprised by the headline. A Bush Dinner Jokejust one? Bush, of course, told a series of jokes about the hilarious missing weapons. Indeed, as Paul Farhi makes clear in this mornings Washington Post, Bush told at least three hilarious jokes on this theme. But what has the New York Times become? By some puzzling bit of alchemy, Hernandez dont count two reel gud:
HERNANDEZ (pgh 1): Laughter filled the room Wednesday night at the annual dinner for radio and television correspondents when President Bush displayed a photograph showing him down on his hands and knees looking under furniture in his office and saying, Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!Three separate times, the New York Times tells readers today that the flap about Bush concerns one joke! If you didnt know what the Times has become, marvel today at this piece of reporting. Then move ahead and gaze on Jim Rutenberg, pretending to analyze an ad.
JIM RUTENBERG DOESNT KNOW HOW TO READ: As weve noted, the Bush campaign has been wonderfully active the past few weeks, presenting a series of baldly inaccurate claims about John Kerry. Incredibly, one such claim has gotten some attentionthe tortured claim that Kerry has a plan to raise taxes by $900 billion. A number of journalists have noted the obviousKerry has presented no such plan. But that hasnt stopped the Bush campaign from offering a new clowning ad on this themean ad which takes the claim even further. This morning, Rutenberg pretends to perform an analysis of this new ad. He quotes the TV ads complete script, although were not really sure why he bothered:
RUTENBERG:What is especially strange about that? Its the oddball claim that Kerrys plan will raise taxes by $900 billion in just his first 100 days. In just his first 100 days? Its hard to know just what that claim means, but it really amps up the Bush camps clowning. When Kerry produces his budget plan, will it really increase taxes by $900 billion? At this point, no one can tell. But the hundred days adds to the swelling hyperbole, giving rubes the uneasy sense that there will be moremuch moreto come.
Yes, that 100 days takes things to the next level. So what doe Rutenberg do in his analysis? Simple! He simply rewrites what the Bush ad says! Continuing directly in his piece, Rutenberg critiques the ads accuracy:
RUTENBERG:Suddenly, the ad is asserting something more rationalthat Kerry will raise taxes by $900 billion over 10 years. Confronted with the latest but of clowning by Bush, Rutenberg simply tidies it up. No, Rutenberg dont reelly reed two reel gud. And he dont cut-n-paste two gud neether.
It was true during Campaign 2000, and its true todaythe Times has become our most laughable newspaper. But note what links these three pieces from page A11; note the way all three articles reinvent the news to help Bush. Seelye does what she always doesshe mocks Big Dems from her opening paragraph. Hernandezlying, or unable to countpretends that Bush just told one joke. Rutenbergunable to copy a text from his own reportpretends that Bush has said something sensible. But this is the face of your great New York Times. Of course, its a paper driven by liberal bias, as Rush Limbaugh will tell the rubes throughout todays three-hour program.
TOMORROW: Joe Klein sees nothing wrong with those jokes. Bill OReilly keeps spinning Clarke. Someone finally tells the truth about Rice. And at last, part IV of Training Seelye.
Annals of baldly fake statements
MILLER: I know this, though, that John Kerry has voted to increase taxes 350 times since hes been in the United States Senate. That to me looks pretty much like a tax-increaser. And he has said that during his first 100 days he wanted to do that health care initiative. And it would cost $900 billion. And the only way I know where you can get that kind of money is to reach down into the pocketbooks of every man and woman in America.Amazing, isnt it? John Kerry has voted to increase taxes 350 times! As we saw on Wednesday, this ludicrous claim by the Bush campaign is built on outright, bald-faced lying (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/24/04). Theres simply no other way to put it. The slimy Millerwell, lets just say itwas lying in Americas face when he made his ludicrous charge. We did get lucky about one thing, though. On Wednesday morning, Michael Kinsley explained the scam in the Washington PostJudy Woodruffs hometown paper. The total fakery of Millers claim was clearand yes, Judy Woodruff did read it.
But did you really think that a millionaire journalist like Woodruff would stoop to challenge a bald-faced lie? Millers interview was played on tape. It could have been edited any way Woodruff chose. But heres the way she ended the session. Do you see why CNN should perhaps change the name of her program?
MILLER (on videotape): I know this, though, that John Kerry has voted to increase taxes 350 times since hes been in the United States Senate. That to me looks pretty much like a tax-increaser. And he has said that during his first 100 days he wanted to do that health care initiative. And it would cost $900 billion. And the only way I know where you can get that kind of money is to reach down into the pocketbooks of every man and woman in America.Actually, what Woodruff meant to say was: Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, lying through his teeth on my program. And yes, Woodruff knew that Miller was lying. Do you see why CNN might well change the name of her show?
For the record, there are several things Woodruff could have done to counteract Millers outsized lying. Presumably, she challenged his ludicrous statement when the interview was taped; if so, she should have played that part of the tape. But if she somehow failed to object when Miller lied right in her face, Woodruff could have voiced a word of caution as she ended the tape. Or she could have cut this part of the tapethe part where her guest was baldly lying.
But Woodruff had a better idea; she let Ol Zell lie right in your face. In fact, Woodruff has become a millionaire by letting this sort of thing go unchecked. After all, fake old Zell is a pleasing Fox Democrat, and CNN wants legions of rubes to tune in to watch their news programs, too. And lets face it. It would flat-out kill the rubes fun if Woodruff stopped this fake man from lying.
Readers, please revisit Kinsleys column about this utterly ridiculous charge. If Woodruff wont challenge a statement like this, then lets just say itshe wont challenge anything! So maybe CNN should name the show this: Judy Woodruffs Growing Net Worth. Or how about a name like this: Judy Woodruffs Screaming Subversion of the American Interest?
HE DA MOUNTAIN MAN: Please note: CNN features Miller in the headline of yesterdays program. Translation: CNN wants to pander to rubes. Thats why Ol Zell was on; thats why his name is in the headline; and its why Woodruff sat quietly by and allowed him to lie in your face. Maybe they should call the show Judy Woodruffs Code of Silence.