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Daily Howler: Koppel ran on the air to correct. But he didn't correct John O'Neill
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KOPPEL CORRECTS! Koppel ran on the air to correct. But he didn’t correct John O’Neill: // link // print // previous // next //

KOPPEL CORRECTS: In this morning’s Post, Howard Kurtz profiles Jon Stewart. We chuckled when Ted Koppel got his say about the cable Cassandra:
KURTZ (10/23/04): Koppel takes issue with Stewart's insistence that journalists should put forth the "truth." "Jon feels people like me in particular should be more opinionated, not less. He feels I have a responsibility to get in there and tell the public, 'Look, this guy is lying’—maybe not quite that blatantly. I disagree with that only in part...In a live interview you can say, 'That doesn't sound right,' but you don't automatically have all the facts at your disposal.”
Should journalists “put forth the truth?” In a live interview, “you don't automatically have all the facts at your disposal,” Koppel told Kurtz. And Koppel is an expert on that subject. Just nine days ago, on October 14, Koppel was thoroughly unprepared when he interviewed Swift Boat Cap’n John O’Neill (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/16/04 and 10/18/04). Result? O’Neill kept misstating the simplest facts. He kept claiming that both the Boston Globe and biographer Douglas Brinkley dispute the official account of the Kerry Silver Star incident. This claim is blatantly, laughably false. But Koppel, unprepared, failed no challenge.

Yes, if Koppel had done even the most basic background reading, he would have known that O’Neill was wildly misstating (as always). But let’s put that matter to the side. What did Koppel in the next few days, when (presumably) he came to understand that O’Neill had misled Nightline viewers? Should big major journalists put forth the truth? If so, Koppel should have found a way to inform his viewers about the facts of this matter.

Koppel failed to do this—failed miserably. After all, it’s not as if the Nightline nabob didn’t revisit his session with O’Neill. This past Tuesday night, Koppel did go out of his way to clarify a point from the October 14 program. Here’s the final segment of the show:

KOPPEL (10/19/04): And finally, an update to a story we brought you last week. Nightline went to Vietnam to speak to some Vietnamese eyewitnesses about the day that John Kerry won his Silver Star back in 1969. There were actually two engagements less than a kilometer apart on that day. At the village where the first fight occurred, we found this man, who told us he had been visited last spring by someone identifying himself, he thought, as a swift boat veteran. He said the man was asking questions about John Kerry.
Uh-oh! Koppel re-aired tape of a Vietnamese villager describing the visit last spring. From watching this tape, Koppel’s viewers may have gotten the impression that the Swift Boat Vets went to Nam to dig dirt on Kerry. Koppel had learned that that wasn’t correct. So he ran on the air to correct the impression:
KOPPEL (10/19/04): It certainly sounded as though one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, very much an anti-Kerry group, might have visited the region, not found what they wanted and therefore never made anything public. But the day after our broadcast aired, we got a call from Doug Reese, identifying himself as the American who met with this man. Mr. Reese said he is not a Swift Boat Veteran but was one of three US Army advisers to a South Vietnamese military unit. John Kerry's Swift boats had dropped all of them that day at the first location. Reese told us he went to Vietnam and met up with an American journalist by the name of David Lam; he works for the LA Times. And that happened at the end of March. Their purpose was to revisit the location of that first battle...He believes the man may have mixed up Reese's visit with one by an Associated Press reporter. Mr. Reese says he did not visit the location of the second battle, the one we reported on, and the engagement for which Kerry won his Silver Star. Just out of curiosity, we asked, and for the record, Mr. Reese says he supports John Kerry.
Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Someone said something on Koppel’s original show that might have reflected badly on the Swift Boat Vets. So Koppel ran on the air with an “update.” But not a word did the great man say about O’Neill’s blatant misstatements from that same program. O’Neill had lied in the face of Nightline viewers. To Koppel, that was just A-OK.

The brilliant multimillionaire friend-of-Colin was posturing nicely for Kurtz this week. Should big major journalists “put forth the truth?” Should journalists tell us when someone is lying (or wildly misstating)? “I disagree with that only in part,” Koppel postured. But by this man’s works you might want to judge him. On Tuesday, Koppel corrected a misimpression that might have cut against the Swift Vets. But what about John O’Neill’s blatant misstatements—misstatements he made again and again? That was the part of Stewart’s position with which Koppel does seem to disagree. On October 14, Nightline viewers were grossly misled. But so what? By Tuesday night, Koppel Unprepared had given way to Ted Koppel, big shill and coward.

COMIC RELIEF: Regarding Stewart, Kurtz wanted an academic view. So, in a comical closing touch, he gave the last word to Wonkette:

KURTZ (10/23/04): "It's not that young people don't like politics," says Cox, of "The way politics is talked about in the media is alienating. They're seeing Jon Stewart as a kind of hero who will lead us out of the darkness." Of course, she adds, "that's not his job.” [END OF ARTICLE]
As we’ve told you, Cox’s nom de blog is a clever amalgam of two terms—“wonk” and “Tourette’s.” When it comes to the Washington scene, Cox wears a pair of loose-fitting chapeaux. She’s willing to tell you what Stewart’s job is—and to spend her days writing stale, witless jokes about Zell Miller’s private name for his penis.

To Cox, Howard Kurtz turns for wisdom—and for a comical close.

THE HUNT FOR LIBERAL BIAS: If you want a third take on John Kerry’s goose hunting, we recommend Charles Hurt’s report in Friday’s Washington Times. At the New York Times, Jodi Wilgoren and her editor made a joke of Kerry’s hunt (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/22/04). The headline told you that Kerry’s a phony, and Wilgoren was counting up Kerry’s contractions and telling you—real fret in her voice—that when Kerry tries to shorten “does not,” it now comes out sounding like “dudnt.” Reread yesterday’s DAILY HOWLER to see the kind of consummate clowning that almost defines Gotham’s Times.

By contrast, at the Washington Times, they managed to play this story straight. The headline on the piece was tongue-in-cheek, but didn’t announce that Kerry’s a fake (“Kerry bags geese but plays down gory details”). And journalist Hurt didn’t waste your time or insult your intelligence by counting up Kerry’s contractions.

One other contrast: Both papers discussed Kerry’s hunt for the gun-owner vote. But guess what? One paper called Kerrry a major dumb-*ss. And one paper said that Kerry had been quite savvy in his pursuit. But did you think it was Washington’s Times that told you what a fool Kerry is? Sorry. Long ago, that ceased to be the shape of the press corps’ “liberal bias.” Here are the passages in which Wilgoren and Hurt discuss Kerry’s hunt for that vote:

WILGOREN, New York Times (10/22/04): The ''regular guy'' theme was ratcheted up with the morning's outing, Mr. Kerry's second hunting photo opportunity of this campaign (he has also twice gone trap shooting). But despite his frequent invocations of his hunting experience, Mr. Kerry seems to be faring no better among gun owners than former Vice President Al Gore, whose high-profile support of gun control many Democrats blame for his 2000 defeat.

A Gallup poll conducted a week ago showed Mr. Bush leading among gun owners, 56 percent to Mr. Kerry's 35 percent; four years ago, exit polls showed that gun owners made up 48 percent of the electorate, and Mr. Bush won their votes, 61 percent to 36 percent. A separate survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 45 percent of swing voters say gun control is “very important” to their vote.

''We want people to have a better sense of John Kerry the guy,'' explained Mike McCurry, a senior campaign spokesman, saying the coming days would bring more outdoor activities that ''show people the kinds of things he likes,'' like baseball and hockey.

Asked whether final-stretch photo opportunities might include windsurfing, the hobby that has helped tag Mr. Kerry with an elitist's image, Mr. McCurry said, ''It's too cold this time of year.'' [END OF ARTICLE]

HURT, Washington Times (10/22/04): Many election analysts think Vice President Al Gore's hostility to gun rights cost him states such as West Virginia, Ohio and even his home state of Tennessee, any of which would have won him the election regardless of what happened in Florida.

Mr. Kerry. determined not to repeat the mistake, often accepts guns as gifts during campaign rallies and always displays them proudly before the cheering crowd.

That strategy appears to be paying off, said National Rifle Association President Kayne B. Robinson, who called Mr. Kerry "the most anti-gun candidate we've ever had."

He told The Washington Times earlier this week that Mr. Kerry has been "extremely effective" at taking "the tension out of gun ownership so it is not an election issue, and it is a brilliant strategy on his part.”

After counting up Kerry’s contractions, Wilgoren let you know what a big dumb-*ss he has been in trying to hunt down the gun-owner vote. And, of course, the coup de grace—she even worked wind-surfing into the stew! By contrast, Hurt quoted the NRA saying that Kerry has been effective in his pursuit of gun owners. Did you assume it would be the Washington Times that hunted for ways to trash the Dem hopeful? If so, you’ve been off in the woods too long. Wilgoren played flyweight in counting John’s dudnt’s. Then she went for the kill on the merits. At the Washington Times, Hurt played it more straight, then suggested that John was effective.

By the way: Wilgoren compares a single Gallup poll to a single exit poll from Campaign 2000 to reach her conclusion on Kerry v. Gore. Of course, that Gallup poll has been widely slammed for its groaning sampling flaws. Will Kerry do better than Gore with this vote? Wilgoren, counting coup, doesn’t know.