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BEND IT LIKE JAYSON (PART 1)! Jayson Blair is a fake and a fraud. But then, so is Gloria Borger:

TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2003

BEND IT LIKE BORGER: Clowning pundits pretend to be shocked by Jayson Blair and his ludicrous conduct. They can strike this pose for an obvious reason; the press corps is filled with Jayson Blairs—with a whole string of fakers and phonies. They’ve never heard of the Whitewater hoax; they’ve never heard of Jeff Gerth’s major faking. Nor did they voice a peep of dissent when the press corps’ legion of fakers and frauds made a joke out of Campaign 2000. For years, these overpaid pundits have bent it like Jayson. And, of course, like all such frauds, they’re prepared to pretend that they haven’t.

How disingenuous will your pundit corps be? Let’s look in on Gloria Borger, a pundit who bends it like Blair.

Readers may recall an earlier visit. On 7/8/00, Broger and her Face the Nation co-host, Bob Schieffer, spent the full hour on CNBC’s Russert, where they engaged in ludicrous spinning about Bush, Gore and Campaign 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00). Most laughably, Borger and Schieffer puzzled hard over why Bush had visited Bob Jones University during the South Carolina primary. Of course, every American knew the answer to that; rightly or wrongly, Bush had gone to BJU to appeal to conservative Palmetto State voters. But Schieffer said that he couldn’t imagine why Bush had ever done such a thing, and Borger managed to go him one better, saying the visit had been caused by “bad staff work!” Showing steely professionalism in the face of this nonsense, Russert managed to keep a straight face as his honored guests bent it like Blair.

But Borger was bending it even better when she interviewed Sidney Blumenthal last Thursday (CNBC, Capitol Report). Readers, treat yourselves to some good, solid laughs as you review Borger’s feigned incomprehension:

BORGER: Well, and that’s where the right-wing conspiracy theory comes up, which Hillary Clinton, of course, talked about with Matt Lauer that fateful—on the Today show. And you actually were the person who talked to her about that. And wasn’t that just one way of trying to absolve everyone of this, of this mess? Wasn’t it kind of a, sort of a way to explain it away?

BLUMENTHAL: I think anyone who reads this book will never deny that there was a vast right-wing conspiracy.

BORGER: Is the press a part of that, though? I mean, you know, people like me who were covering this story—were we part of the right-wing conspiracy? ‘Cause I don’t get that part.

Go ahead and laugh out loud at the pundit’s consummate clowning. “I don’t get that part,” Borger said—speaking about the troubling claim that her cohort had misbehaved in these matters. Of course, there’s nothing new about Blumenthal’s thesis—there’s nothing new about the claim that many reporters and major news orgs engaged in an orgy of spin about Clinton. Indeed, Blumenthal’s book includes many examples. But somehow, pundits like Borger just never quite “get it.” They find such notions utterly puzzling; despite their best efforts, they can’t grasp what’s been said. Go ahead and chuckle again as Borger plays dumb for the herd:
BLUMENTHAL (continuing directly): No, I’m certainly not accusing you, Gloria—

BORGER: No, no. But I’m—no. But I’m, I’m—I’m serious. All, you know, journalists who covered this story, and were tough on Bill Clinton, was that part of the right-wing conspiracy?

“No, but I’m serious,” Borger said, lying in Blumenthal’s face.

The truth? Borger was bending it, not unlike Blair. But then, your “press corps” always knows to pretend that its own cohort is pure as the snow. Borger was bending it—bending it good. All week, Borger’s colleagues will follow.

TOMORROW: We discuss Paul Krugman’s important column in this morning’s Times. Also: Bend it like Cohen!

OUR SECOND-EVER MOVIE REVIEW: In fact, we recommend Bend It Like Beckham, a simpler but deeply good-hearted version of last year’s transplendent Blue Crush. Two-thirds through, we thought that Bend It was too simple-minded, but director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha delivers a marvelous, good-hearted ending. Our audience laughed very hard; applauded at the end; and stayed to watch every bit of the credits. What a shame—that people who long for decency so are stuck with this wreck of a press corps.

Desson Howe, the Washington Post: “Bend It Like Beckham is a ball-juggling charm, a multicultural Cinderella tale about a female teenager in South London who dreams of goal-scoring glory.”

The Daily update

BEND IT LIKE GERTH: We recently recalled an ugly part of the press corps’ Whitewater coverage (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/03). In December 1995, the RTC’s “Pillsbury report” was officially released; it exonerated the Clintons of wrongdoing in the iconic pseudo-scandal. And, as Howard Kurtz noted at the time, most major papers refused to report the RTC’s finding. One editor who did report the “Pillsbury” finding was Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal. In his piece, Kurtz quoted Murray saying that “simple fairness” required him to do it.

But by the time of Campaign 2000, Murray had backslid quite hard. In September 2000, Independent Counsel Robert Ray issued the OIC’s final report. No charges would be brought against the Clintons in any matter, Ray said. On the September 22 Washington Week, a panel of pundits discussed Ray’s report. And on that program, Murray offered a scolding account of What Bill Clinton Shouldn’t Have Done. He chatted with Time’s Michael Duffy:

DUFFY: What this means is, obviously, for Hillary Clinton, who’s running in the Senate race in New York, she doesn’t have to worry about Whitewater anymore, if she ever did. But it’s also a reminder of just what a bad law the independent counsel statute was…

MURRAY: Michael, it seems pretty clear it wasn’t a good idea for the governor of Arkansas, now the president of the United States, to get into a land deal with a guy who ran a regulated business—

DUFFY: Right.

MURRAY: —a savings and loan. But I’m struck by the fact that most of what we know about this was in that very first article in The New York Times back in 1992. Why did it take this long for the government to conclude that it didn’t have a case here?

“Right,” Duffy said, applauding Murray for an iconically inaccurate statement.

Indeed, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at Murray’s remarkable rendering. When Gene Lyons published Fools for Scandal in 1996, it became abundantly clear that those New York Times articles were built on howling errors—and it became almost as clear that the Jeff Gerth pieces had been prepared in bad faith. But four full years after Fools for Scandal, Murray was still praising the articles; repeating their errors; and saying that the bogus pieces told us everything we know about Whitewater! What was wrong with Murray’s summation? Duh. Despite what those NYT articles said, Clinton wasn’t governor when he entered that land deal, and Jim McDougal, Clinton’s partner, wasn’t running a savings and loan (or any other regulated business). But so what? Eight years later, Murray was still repeating Gerth’s iconic errors, and was praising the NYT for its brilliance! Remember—to the press corps, the press corps is always right. Major pundits will never discuss the harm that their colleagues have done.

Today, Murray is Borger’s co-host on Capitol Report. Borger, of course, is deeply amazed when someone finds fault with the press corps.

[Many thanks to AMM for directing us to this jaw-dropping transcript.]