Point. Click. Search.
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
A companion site.
Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to
|CANARD WATCH! E-mailers respond to the Horton Canardand at Fox, Alan Colmes fights back:
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2002
HINDSIGHT IS INCOMPARABLE: Nope. Here at THE HOWLER, we simply dont know what will happen in tomorrows races. Well leave the speculation and ouija board work to the experts now wasting our time on TV. More on their efforts tomorrow in an incomparable Election Edition.
On the other hand, we do know what happened in Campaign 2000. On that score, we received a fascinating e-mail in response to Fridays HOWLER. We had described the gonzo process by which a string of reporters said that Gore showed his nasty side in 1988 by introducing Willie Horton to America. That RNC-derived claim was utterly bogusbut was pleasingly typed by a string of big scribes (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02). Our e-mailer grabbed our attention:
E-MAIL: I watched the H&C segment with Robert Reich that you referred to in your article. Frankly, because I had heard this Willie Horton sh*t about Gore so much, I thought it was true. That night, for the first time, I actually began to wonder if it really was true. Your review of the facts is excellent. It is unfortunate that you are just another voice in the wilderness who is ignored by the liberal mainstream media. Please do not stop doing what you are doing.
Tomorrow, well look at Election 02. But our e-mailer makes some seminal pointspoints which call out for review.
I voted for Gore in 2000 and thought that he had run a very poor campaign. Now, Im starting to wonder if his treatment by the press had more to do with his poor showing than any deficiencies in his campaign. The one thing that puzzles me, however, is why does the mainstream media so dislike this man that it willing to trash him the way it does. While I expect Limbaugh, Hannity and the others of their ilk to perpetuate the lies about Gore relating to the Internet, Love Story and Love Canal, among many others, these lies are seldom if ever corrected by the mainstream media. Perhaps you can enlighten me on this.
Yes, it is easyvery easyto believe the long string of canards about Gore. The writera Democrat who voted for Gorehad always believed the Horton Canard because he had heard it so often. Indeed, this country is full of voters, including many Dems, who still believe the string of tales spread by the press about Gore. Why wouldnt voters believe such tales? In the case of Horton, a long string of major reporters happily passed on the silly confection. And almost no one challenged the bogus point, which had long been bruited by the RNC. Why wouldnt voters come to assume that the Horton Canard must be accurate?
Meanwhile, did Al Gore run a poor campaign, a second point our e-mailer ponders? Thats another Official Press Storyone your pundits raced to type in the wake of the White House campaign. They raised questions to which they knew the answersExample: Why didnt Gore use Clinton more?as they continued their well-scripted trashing of Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/2/02). Sorry, kids. Bush and Gore both ran professional campaigns. How bad could Gores campaign have been? In March 1999, when campaigning began, he stood fifteen points behind in the pollsand after his hapless twenty-month effort, he won the popular vote. Bush, meanwhile, running his brilliant campaign, lost fifteen points in the process. Remember: The press corps tells you the stories it likesand it likes the idea that Gore f*cked up. Pundits prefer that to the unflattering truth: The press corps conducted a War Against Gore which almost surely determined who sits in the White House. As the e-mailer suggests, the press corps relentless campaign against Gore was much more strikingand much more significantthan any errors made by Gore or his camp.
Our e-mailer asks a crucial question: Why did the press corps go after Gore? At THE HOWLER, we try to avoid speculations on motive. But throughout the campaign, a string of scribes spoke to that point; they said that the press was hounding Gore due to Clinton. In those rare moments of press corps candor, major pundits explained the corps conduct as a form of Clinton payback. We think there are other explanations for what happened; clearly, the press corps is becoming a more conservative entity. But Clinton payback was the corps own explanation. Its the place where explanations must start.
But dont waste time asking the press corps about it. Washingtons pundits are reliably disingenuous when asked to explain their own conduct. In the fall of 1999, Howard Kurtz asked two different panels to explain the unfolding War Against Gore (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/02). And what happened? Major pundits fumbled and stumbled, utterly baffled by their own cohorts conduct. No one plays dumb like the Washington press corpsand they did conduct a War Against Gore. They hate Gore, Mickey Kaus wrote in January 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/7/02). The Horton Cardplayed one month beforewas an example of their striking misconduct.
COLMES COMES THROUGH: On Friday evenings Hannity & Colmes, Alan Colmes came off the bench to dispute the addled Horton Canard. As usual, the program was pondering allegations of naughty Democratic race-baiting. When Alan stepped in, Dennis DeConcini had just told Sean that both parties do play the race card:
COLMES: Senator, welcome. I never heard the Republicans take any responsibility for the Willie Horton ad. Now heres what happened. Heres what happened. Al Gore brought up the furlough release program when he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination.
Hannity still said that Gore played Hortonbut he didnt raise the subject again when he got to ask more questions. We compliment Alan for his presentation, although its astounding that this discussion could still be occurringmore than ten years after George Will launched the Canard on This Week.
HANNITY: Willie Horton.
COLMES: But it was not Al Gore
HANNITY: Yes it was.
COLMES: who found Willie Horton
DECONCINI: Thats correct.
COLMES: and introduced him to the American people.
HANNITY: Not true.
DECONCINI: Thats correct.
COLMES: It was the Republicans who did that. Ive never heard them apologize for it.
By the way, this isnt the first time that someone told Sean that Gore never mentioned Willie Horton (or Hortons race; or Hortons crime; or anyones race). On January 13, 2000, H & C discussed Bill Bradleys new/improved racial attack against Gore (see Fridays HOWLER for background). Democratic consultant Mark Mellman laid out the basic facts:
HANNITY: Now Bradley is bringing back the Willie Horton issue by accusing the vice president of injecting racism into that 1988 presidential campaign. You may recall then Al Gore attacked Dukakis for releasing the black prisoner from jail early. The man named Willie Horton then went on while on furlough to rape a woman
[Gore is] the one that brought up the Willie Horton ad in spite of the belief of many that it was Republicans
Of course, Mellman was wrong on that one final point. As we noted on Friday, the press corpsdeeply involved in its Clinton paybackallowed Bill Bradley to say what he liked, so long as he kept sliming Gore. Later, Mellman scolded Sean again:
MELLMAN: Well, there is not even a kernel of truth in that Big Lie, Sean. I mean, the reality is youre rewriting history and rewriting it in a big way. Al Gore never mentioned Willie Hortons name. He never mentioned Willie Hortons race. I have a lot of respect and affection for Bill Bradley. But Bill Bradley cant go around saying hes above the fray while hes hitting below the belt.
MELLMAN: The reality isthe fundamental charge here thats being made is that Al Gore injected Willie Horton into the 1988 campaign. That is fundamentally false. It is inaccurate. It is misleading. And when you state that its true, youre misleading people.But then, misleading people is Hannitys business. The Horton Canard played a minor role in Campaign 2000, but Sean still pushes the bogus tale now. And dont worryhell push it again. Misleading the public is Hannitys goal. Bossman is pleased when he does it.
ONE MORE THOROUGHLY SEMINAL POINT: A pithy e-mail made another key point about the Horton matter:
E-MAIL: I would love to know why the information was not printed on the front pages of our newspapers. The sad part is, Mr. Hannity is on national television nightly on Fox channel. Why has not someone faced him with this information and made him admit this terrible lie? The older I get the harder it is to believe anything I read in our papers.
That e-mail came from an American voter. And shes rightsad but true, its very unwise to assume the truth of things you read in our papers. In fact, any time pundits all say the same thing, you can be almost sure that its bogus. In the fall of 1999, a string of journalists all told the public that Al Gore revealed his nasty side when he introduced the public to Willie Horton. All of them said it, within a matter of weeks. Its too bad that their claim was so false. Sean, of course, still loves to push it.
TOMORROW: Election 02!