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26 September 2000

The Daily update: Round, round, get around...

Synopsis: Seper’s bogus Washington Times story got bruited all around the Fox channels.

E-mails show Gore aides knew temple event was fund-raiser
Jerry Seper, The Washington Times, 9/23/00

Commentary by Paula Zahn
Fox News Sunday, Fox, 9/24/00

Commentary by Bill O'Reilly
The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel, 9/25/00

There was no apparent "there there" to Jerry Seper's story in Saturday's WashTimes (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/25/00). But bad stories have a way of getting around. Seper, you'll recall, had said this:

SEPER (paragraph 1): White House e-mail messages released yesterday show that Vice President Al Gore's office—despite repeated denials—was aware that an event at a California Buddhist temple was a campaign fund-raiser.

But Seper's article provided exactly no examples of e-mails that showed any such thing. Seper cited no evidence—none at all—that his aggressive assertion was accurate.

The truth is, Seper's story was bogus. But in today's press corps, bad stories stick around. Paula Zahn questioned Senator Tom Harkin on Fox News Sunday the next morning:

ZAHN: On to the issues of e-mails. Staff memos from Vice President Gore's office indicate that the White House coffees he held and his visit to the Buddhist temple in '96 were referred to as "fund-raisers" in these memos. Do you understand, now that the vice president has testified that he thought these were community outreach programs, why some people would be scratching their heads, saying, "Wait a minute—I can't trust this guy?"

Harkin responded about the Buddhist temple. In a follow-up, Zahn asserted that "all the staff members construed" the temple event as a fund-raiser. That assertion is patently false. It was explicitly established before the Thompson Committee (three years ago!) that top Gore staffers never described the event in that manner. That's right, folks—Zahn's account was a big-time embellishment. She had engaged in major league exaggeration.

Meanwhile, our pal Bill O'Reilly flogged the story on The O'Reilly Factor last night. Interviewing Dick Morris, O'Reilly said, "So Gore's people come out with the e-mails saying, 'Hey, we knew it was a Buddhist temple fund-raiser.' Is he going to have to explain that?" Morris didn't answer the question, continuing to discuss a previous topic. In his follow-up, O'Reilly said this:

O'REILLY: Is this going to be an issue for Gore, now that it looks like he didn't tell the truth on the Buddhist temple? Is this going to be an issue?

The truth is, nothing in Seper's Saturday story shed any light on whether Gore "told the truth on the Buddhist temple." O'Reilly congratulated himself during this session for persisting with stories the major press corps won't pursue. But Bill and Paula were passing on spin derived from an utterly bogus headline. Seper's story was utterly empty. But on Fox, it enjoyed a good run.