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5 February 1999
Our current howler (part I): Were suggesting that viewers watch out!
Synopsis: The comely host of the new show Watch It! was in the middle of a day filled with howlers.
Commentary by Laura Ingraham
Watch It!, MSNBC, 2/3/99
Commentary by Sean Hannity
Hannity and Colmes, Fox, 2/3/99
Commentary by Bill OReilly
The OReilly Factor, Fox, 2/3/99
Commentary by Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, Mara Liasson
Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox, 2/3/99
Sidney on Point
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 2/3/99
The analysts simply love Laura Ingraham--they think shes even cuter in person--and theyd just settled in to watch her new show when she ran old tape of Sidney Blumenthal, speaking after a grand jury session (2/26/98). When broadcasters need a mustachioed villain, they turn like robots to Mr. B, and there was Sidney, braying complaints about what hed been asked to discuss:
BLUMENTHAL: Ken Starrs prosecutors demanded to know what I had told reporters and what reporters had told me about Ken Starrs prosecutors. If they think that they have intimidated me, they have failed.
But the comely new host wasnt buying. She mentioned that a grand juror had criticized Sid, in June, for what hed said after his previous appearance. And then she made the following statement, which happens to be completely untrue:
INGRAHAM: I seem to remember, on our network and others, people saying, Oh, how could Ken Starr, how could Ken Starr, be actually asking questions about contacts with the media? That intrudes on the First Amendment rights of reporters. Well, it turns out that actually didnt happen. [Our emphasis]
Oops. The simplest review of the 2/26 deposition shows Blumenthal repeatedly asked such questions. Heres some questions thrown at Sid, regarding talking points from the DNC:
QUESTION: And you received this from the DNC?
Sid said, Yes.
QUESTION: Did you distribute it to anyone outside the White House?
Sid named a number of news organizations.
QUESTION: Would you, though, distribute the talking points? Would you cause the talking points to be distributed to any of these news organizations?
QUESTION: [Did] you disseminate the talking points that you received from the Democratic National Committee to any news organization?
Hey. We could go on and on like this, but we believe that youre getting the point.
QUESTION: Did you discuss with any members of the news media the contents, that is, the material that was in the talking points that you received from the Democratic National Committee?
QUESTIONS: You received talking points from the Democratic National Committee. The White House, I suppose, has produced talking points...Have they produced any such talking points relating to the Monica Lewinsky matter that you have seen or heard about?...Have you heard about the White House disseminating to any news organizations any type of document like that, any talking points, factual summaries or anything like that to any member of the news media?
But, though Blumenthal was questioned by the OIC in exactly the way his words described, Ingraham was only one of several who falsely said otherwise Wednesday. Maybe shed read the Wall Street Journal, in its Wednesday editorial:
WALL STREET JOURNAL: [E]veryone...should remember his performance when he emerged from the Starr grand jury last February. He charged that prosecutors had demanded to know what I told reporters and what reporters had said to me. Mr. Blumenthal lied about that line of questioning, and the press fell for it.
Maybe because theyre so gullible. Fred, Brit and Mara must have read Bartley too. Heres what they said Wednesday evening:
BARNES: We know Sidney is willing to lie. Remember when he testified before the grand jury he came out, spoke to television cameras in public, and lied about what hed been asked about.
And the truth is, were not too surprised about that. We suspect maybe Sid wants that too.
HUME: He complained, if I recall, that he never thought in his life he would see the day when he was called in to the grand jury to testify about what he told the news media, which is not what he was asked about.
LIASSON: And the grand jurors called him on the carpet the next time he was in there, which was pretty interesting. They were angry when they heard him say that on the courthouse steps, and they wanted the record corrected.
The howling errors were especially sad, because the topic was covered, in some detail, in the New York Times Wednesday morning. Heres what James Bennet correctly penned about what Sid had said:
BENNET: [P]rosecutors did repeatedly ask him to whom he had given information, an open-ended question that seemed to invite the names of news organizations.
It made us go back and reread what Sid had been asked. Too bad Laura and the folks at Fox were busy reading the Journal instead.
Part II (later today): The slander of Sid was just one of many in a day full of stunning Fox howlers.