05/24/2007 10:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Journalistic Outrage of the Day, and Yesterday's Oversights

The award for today's most outrageous journalistic statement goes to David Espo of the Associated Press. In an article on the supplemental Iraq funding bill, Espo wrote:

"Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois (were) publicly uncommitted in the hours leading to the vote, two leading White House rivals tugged in one direction by the needs of 165,000 U.S. troops - and in another by party activists demanding rejection of the legislation."

When will journalists stop mindlessly echoing these GOP talking points? A timetable for withdrawal helps the troops' most basic need, for survival, by getting them out of harm's way.

Republicans love to spin a scenario where troops are left in unsafe territory to hitchhike their way home, like Alicia Silverstone coming back from her bad date in Clueless. We all know that's not what an Iraq deadline would do, so why do journalists like Espo repeat these falsehoods? Where is the evidence for a statement that soldiers' "needs" would go unmet if a deadline were imposed? And the phrase "party activist" is deliberately used to suggest that the Senators had a clear choice between "supporting the troops" or pleasing extremists, and chose the latter.

This sentence is a case study in miniature of how the U.S. press corps manipulates public opinion on Iraq. It demonstrates why journalists continue to bear responsibility for the ongoing bloodshed, by misinforming the public about its options. Bravo to Sens. Clinton and Obama for doing the right thing, despite knowing how their actions would be misportrayed by irresponsible reporters like David Espo. The AP should issue a correction immediately.

The striking thing about yesterday's coverage of Monica Goodling's testimony was the lack of emphasis on Ms. Goodling's confession to at least one Federal crime, her implcations that Alberto Gonzales perjured himself and then tried to influence her testimony, and her stunning allegation that Rove protégé (and now Federal prosecutor) Tim Griffin committed the Federal crime of intentionally disenfranchising minority voters via 'vote caging.'

Bradblog explains caging:

"It's the practice of sending registered mail to minority voters, asking for a reply, and if one doesn't come back, the voter's right to vote is challenged either at the polls, or attempts are made to remove them from the voter rolls --- usually without their knowledge."

By and large, the media spun Goodling's testimony as a win for the White House and even for Gonzales, the man she implicated in at least two major crimes.

Papers did cover the fawning statements Republican lawmakers made to Ms. Goodling, but failed to point out that they were heaping their praises on a confessed felon. Objectivity is one thing, and it's not reasonable to expect the papers to run headlines that read "GOP Hearts Criminals." But here are some balanced, reasonable headlines you didn't see in yesterday's papers:

"Former DOJ Official Says Rove Aide Illegally Suppressed Minority Vote"
"'Former Aide Says AG Lied to Congress, Tried to Influence Her Testimony"

Goodling did an excellent job shielding Rove, Miers, and Bush. She did far better than the Harvard-educated Gonzales did, as a matter of fact. (That Pat Robertson law school may be better than you think. Er, maybe not.) Goodling's testimony contained plenty of bombshells, but the reports of those explosions were few and far between in yesterday's papers.

In the last 24 hours the American public was left uninformed about one topic, and was actively mis-informed about another.


Yes, I've seen John Murtha's piece in which he appears to support the position being covertly espoused by Mr. Espo. I see no evidence for Rep. Murtha's statement, either, but both he and I are clearly expressing opinions on a matter about which we disagree.

Mr. Espo, on the other hand, has insinuated his (highly debatable) opinion into a straight news article. I find that indefensible. It's also an apparent violation of the Ethics Code of the Society of Professional Journalists, which says that "analysis and commentary should be labeled." If David Espo supports Mr. Murtha's political position or that of the Republican Party, he is free to do so .. in an editorial.

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