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12 November 2001

Our current howler (part IV): They’ll catch the movie

Synopsis: Those Fox "all-stars" discussed Clinton’s speech. Too bad that no "all-star" had read it.

The Washington Times, 11/12/01

Commentary by Brit Humes, Fred Barnes, Mara Liasson, Ceci Connolly
Special Report, Fox News Channel, 11/8/01

Commentary by Bill O’Reilly, Jeffrey Kuhner
The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel, 11/8/01

How dishonest is Wes Pruden’s Times? "Pathological" would be a good place to start. On Monday, the paper’s page 2 "CULTURE et cetera" column ran this clip from Andrew Sullivan’s web site:

"So it seems that the sins of the United States’ past make it impossible to judge the massacre of September 11, according to our 42nd president. Americans’ treatment of blacks and native Americans renders unequivocal moral judgment impossible.

"I must say that even I found Clinton’s comments Wednesday at Georgetown University truly shocking. I always thought he was a charlatan, but often a clear-headed one. This speech suggests he has imbibed any amount of leftist nonsense.

"But the truly revealing fact is that he calls upon America to be introspective, to look into ourselves for the causes of this massacre…

"If any American deserves any guilt for laying the groundwork for September 11, Bill Clinton’s name must come at the top of most lists. How fitting that he should seek to deflect this fact by casting aspersions on the country whose highest office he besmirched and disgraced."

-Andrew Sullivan, writing on "Clinton Speaks," Thursday at

What’s so amazing about that clip-job? Sullivan placed these idiot comments on his web site last Thursday, November 8—four days before the WashTimes ran it. The following day, he took it all back—noting that he had been deceived by an "appallingly slanted" piece in the Washington Times! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/01. Incredibly, Sullivan hadn’t read Clinton’s speech when he posted his original, astonishing comments.) But Pruden’s paper runs on deceit; it exists to lie, dissemble and deceive you. Imagine! Knowing that Sullivan had renounced his essay—and knowing that he’d blamed the Times for its errors—the Times went ahead and published it anyway, not telling its readers about his later reversal. People who will lie in your faces like that are people who will lie in your faces about anything. There’s a word for Wes Pruden and his slimy little band. And you know that word—anti-American.

But then, high buffoonery is now the norm all over your Washington press corps. Consider the performance turned in Thursday night by Brit Hume and his gang of Fox "all-stars." Joseph Curl’s dissembling piece had appeared in the Washington Times just that day. With a slippery article—and a bogus headline—the Times was pulling its latest scam. With the practiced deceit that is Wes Pruden’s trademark, the paper was falsely suggesting that Clinton had said that, on September 11, we got what we deserved.

You’d think that journalists would check very closely before offering comment on charges like that. For example, you’d think they might check out the AP report of Clinton’s speech, which had been sitting on the wire since Wednesday. Why, you’d even think that an overpaid scribe might read Clinton’s speech before making a comment. In matters like this, you could even imagine that major pundits might want to know what they’re talking about.

If you think that, of course, it means one thing—you’ve never watched Special Report. Hume opened last Thursday’s panel with a quick clip from Clinton’s vile speech:

CLINTON (on tape): Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless.

Blameless for what? It wasn’t quite clear. Then Brit played a slightly longer excerpt:

CLINTON (on tape): Here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery. And slaves, quite frequently, were killed, even though they were innocent. This country once looked the other way when significant numbers of Native Americans were dispossessed and killed, to get their land or their mineral rights, or because they were thought of as less than fully human. And we are still paying the price today.

Those were the only clips played from Clinton’s lengthy presentation. And then the Gang of Three began to discuss What It All Meant—and it quickly became clear that none of the three had ever looked at the actual speech.

For the record, the clips that embarrassing Hume played this day were a fleeting, trivial part of this speech. The excerpts had almost nothing to do with what Clinton went to Georgetown to say. By the way, does anyone doubt that "here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery," or that "we are still paying the price today" for the moral errors in our nation’s racial past? These fleeing comments are utterly commonplace—and they had almost nothing to do with the overall thrust of Clinton’s actual speech.

But when the heralded "all-stars" began to talk, it was clear that none of them knew this. In fact, it was perfectly clear that none of the three had even read through Clinton’s speech. None, of course, was honest enough to say that he just wasn’t able to comment. Each one fumbled and phonied along, sometimes seeming not to know that it’s even possible to read a real speech.

Consider Mara Liasson, for example. Fred Barnes, commenting first, said he doesn’t feel any guilt about slavery. (Clinton hadn’t said that he should.) And he said, "I don’t understand why [Clinton] wants to join the ‘we don’t come to this with clean hands’ school. That’s ridiculous." (There’s no sign that Clinton was saying that, either.) No matter. Fred folded his arms as he closed. Then Brit turned to unprepared Mara:

HUME: Is that how you took it, Mara?

LIASSON: You know, I would have liked to have known where he was going with that, and what does it have to do with terrorism, and is he equating the two? It’s certainly true that many atrocities have been conducted in the name of religions all over the world. And certainly, Christianity is not immune from that. But I’m just wondering if he is trying to make some kind of moral equivalence.

Mara didn’t have a clue. She "would have liked to have known" where Clinton was going. It didn’t seem to occur to the scribe that she could have found out by reading the speech. But now nit-picking Brit turned to Ceci Connolly—and Connolly didn’t have a clue either:

HUME (continuing directly): Well, what strikes me is he said, "those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless." He’s not talking about our ancestors. Ceci, do you think he may have misspoken there, and he meant to say our forebearers are not blameless?

CONNOLLY: It’s hard to say. I mean, it appeared from that clip that he had some point and some thought-out sequence there, but it’s not clear to me, sort of, what either the larger message was, or how he is trying to apply it to this circumstance.

It "wasn’t clear to" her, "sort of," what "the larger message was"—because she hadn’t read the speech either. By the way, there was absolutely no sign—none at all—that Hume or Barnes had read Clinton’s speech. But that didn’t stop Inexcusable Barnes from drawing a bogus—and quite ugly—conclusion:

BARNES: I mean, you look at what he said, and he’s implying a moral equivalence between us and Usama bin Laden and his terrorists. And that’s—well, it’s incorrect, but it’s also a ridiculous thing for him to say.

CONNOLLY: Maybe he just wants back in the spotlight.

BARNES: He got it.

HUME: He got a little bit of it, anyway. All right, everyone. Thank you very much. That’s all the time we have for the panel.

Repulsive, isn’t it? And anti-American? In truth, there isn’t a word in Clinton’s speech about "implying a moral equivalence between us and Usama bin Laden and his terrorists." But how in the world would Connolly know—she clearly hadn’t looked at the speech! On the other hand, she did understand her role on this show—she’s there to make snide remarks about Clinton’s motives. At a time of massive national stress, Connolly was too corrupt, too lazy, too empty to know what Clinton had actually said. But she was eager to keep the slander game going. How Roger Ailes beamed with pride!

So let’s see. Andrew Sullivan hadn’t read Clinton’s speech. Ceci and Fred hadn’t read the speech either. They still went ahead and explained what it mean. Our question: How in the world did losers like these get to play such key roles in our discourse?

Next: Trembling, knock-kneed, quaking in fear, Howard Kurtz knew his role. He kept quiet.


The Daily update (11/14/01)

It got worse: Later that evening, Jeffrey Kuhner—the Washington Times assistant national editor—guested on the O’Reilly Factor. Remember, there’s nothing they won’t do and say at the Times. So Kuhner went ahead and said this:

O’REILLY: Mr. Kuhner, what’s your objection to President Clinton’s remarks?

KUHNER Well, I mean, it’s—it’s just sort classic Clinton. The statements, I think, were irresponsible and just frankly silly. To say that the United States is paying a price today for slavery and the mass murder of Indians is not only false, but it’s morally reprehensible.

That was so dumb that Bill had to speak. He let Kuhner try it again:

O’REILLY (continuing directly): Aren’t we paying a price in slavery in the continuing divisiveness of the black and white peoples and the asking for reparations and all of that?

Duh! But not to Jeffrey Kuhner we aren’t:

KUHNER (continuing directly): Well, I think the people that are asking for reparations are playing on the divisiveness of slavery. But look, I mean—look, the problem with, with the speech, with Clinton is that it doesn’t understand history. The United States in the 19th century, for all of its sins, including slavery, was the most progressive nation in the history of the world. So I mean, for him to somehow say that now we’re paying a price for slavery, it’s just—it’s absolutely outrageous. And I mean, look, the people that committed these atrocious acts on September 11th weren’t attacking us because of slavery. They’re attacking us for other reasons, like our policies in the Middle East.

Where does Pruden find people this stupid? Not a word in Clinton’s speech suggested that bin Laden attacked New York as a payback for slavery! Sorry, but the question does need to be asked: How in the world did we reach the point where simpering idiots like Jeffrey Kuhner play such key roles in our discourse?

But make no mistake—the people who work at the Washington Times are willing to do and say anything. Indeed, they’ll go on TV and lie in your face at times of great national stress. There is no slander they won’t try to sell you; no nonsense so vast that they won’t swear it’s true. That must be why Kuhner lied in Bill’s face, making this baldly false statement:

KUHNER: It was a long, rambling, incoherent speech. I mean, he made some good points about the need to reduce global poverty, you know, and the need to provide more education and health care in that part of the world. All that is fine and good. But look, Clinton doesn’t understand one thing. The people who committed the heinous acts on September 11th are evil, and they despise the United States and everything it stands for. And what we need to do is to wage war on terrorism, smash bin Laden, smash the Taliban and smash al-Qaeda. And we got none of that from Clinton’s speech.

We didn’t? In paragraphs four and five of his lengthy speech, Clinton—quite quickly—said this:

CLINTON: First let me say that anything I say has to be viewed in the context of my present job. I am just a citizen, and as a citizen I support the efforts of President Bush, the national security team, and our allies in fighting the current terrorist threat. I believe we all should… I would submit to you that we are now in a struggle with the soul of the 21st century and the world in which you students live and raise your own children and make your own way. I believe that there are several things that as Americans we ought to do and I would like to outline them in a fairly direct fashion.

First, we have to win the fight we are in…

Which part of "we have to win the fight we are in" doesn’t the slandering Kuhner get? And which part of this early statement escaped his careful gaze?

CLINTON: So what I want to say to you first is, we have to support the war in Afghanistan and the work at home, and it may be frightening to you, but you have to stay centered, and you have to understand that you’re trying to create something that is really special, a country where everybody can have a home if they share the same set of values. And you can’t give in to it. It’s going to be all right.

We could, of course, go on and on. But what would be the point of that? Jeffrey Kuhner was baldly lying—right in the face of O’Reilly’s viewers. And he was baldly slandering an important public figure. At times of great challenge, there’s a word for such conduct. And you know that word—anti-American.