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Terry Krepel

Terry Krepel

Posted: November 19, 2010 12:08 AM

WorldNetDaily has demonstrated over and over again that facts are irrelevant when it comes to reporting on President Obama and his administration -- the president must be attacked and belittled, however untrue those attacks are.

That desperateness to smear Obama contrary to the truth popped up yet again over a claim that Obama's recent trip to India and Asia cost a mind-blowing $200 a day.

The original report came from an Indian news organization, the Press Trust of India, citing an anonymous "top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit." A separate Press Trust article, citing no sources at all, claimed that "fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier ... will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there."

The claim was quickly shot down:

  • Media Matters contacted the White House, where spokesman Matt Lehrich responded: "The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality. Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it's safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated." A Secret Service spokesperson also told Media Matters that the number is "significantly exaggerated."
  • Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell responded: "I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy -- some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier -- in support of the president's trip to Asia. That's just comical. Nothing close to that is being done."
  • FactCheck.org called the $200 million a day claim "highly doubtful," saying that "there's no evidence to support such a huge figure" and pointing out that "the entire U.S. war effort in Afghanistan currently costs less than that -- about5.7 billion per month, according to the Congressional Research Service, or roughly190 million per day."
  • The myth-busters at Snopes.com noted that "even if President Obama were accompanied by a prodigious 3,000 person entourage, with the U.S. government picking up the entire tab for all of them, the U.S. would have to be spending the unbelievably staggering sup of66,000 per person per day to reach that figure."
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper declared the claim "a made-up story," noting that "any information about costs would necessarily have come second-hand at best, an added reason for caution" and that a similar overseas trip by President Clinton, adjusted for inflation, was about5.2 million a day Cooper added that the bogus figure was being pushed by "a powerful congresswoman and powerful pundits."

Indeed it was. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann touted the figure, as did the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck, and other conservative outlets.

Among them was WorldNetDaily. In the midst of sycophantically quoting yet another attack on Obama by "talk-radio titan" Rush Limbaugh over the India trip, Brian Fitzpatrick wrote in a Nov. 3 article:

Obama's trip to Mumbai reportedly will cost American taxpayers "a whopping $200 million per day" according the Press Trust of India.

President and Mrs. Obama are reportedly bringing along a tremendous entourage of about 3,000 people, ranging from U.S. government officials to journalists to Secret Service agents to private chefs, for a two-day visit beginning Nov. 6.

[...]

The Press Trust report cites a "top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit."

Fitzpatrick gave no indication he made any attempt to verify the anonymous number.

The next day, WND followed up with an article detailing WND White House correspondent's bantering with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs over the purported $200 million per day cost cost, pretending that the issue is not that the claim WND reported has been discredited, but that the White House won't release "the actual cost."
It wasn't until the 17th and final paragraph that it's revealed that the Pentagon has discredited the 34-ships claim. Even then, WND adds that "Kinsolving then pointed out the Pentagon, while denying the '34 ships' report, did not say how many vessels would be deployed as part of the president's security."

Of course, that misdirection was a strategy to keep the story going, as CNN's Ed Henry pointed out:

Critics are sort of keeping this alive in part by saying, look, the White House won't say how much it's really costing, so somehow that proves it's going to be $200 million a day. Nonsense. The reason they're not giving the figures, and the reason we're wouldn't give all the figures if we have them in real time, is for security reasons. We're in Mumbai, where two years ago this very month there were a whole series of terror attacks, killed about 168 people. So this is serious business, and the notion that it's $200 million a day is absurd.

Not too absurd for WorldNetDaily, though. Pat Boone -- who has demonstrated an adversarial relationship with the facts -- declared in his Nov. 6 WND column that the figure was true because he "Googled" it:

I simply could not believe what I'd heard. It couldn't be so. I Googled "Obama's $200 million a day trip" - and found it was so!

Though liberal-tinted Snopes and ultra-liberal Huffington Post tried to downplay and justify the obscene expenditure - the numbers of fellow travelers involved and the numbers of planes and all the inexcusably extravagant "security measures" and the rest of the details for Obama's trip to Asia - I found that Reuters and other international news services confirmed the earlier stories. (While the administration denies the reported figure, it will not confirm any specific taxpayer cost of the president's Asian adventure.)

[...]

According to the various news services, and not denied by the administration, this president is taking an entourage of 3,000 with him on a 10-day trip to India, Indonesia, China and Korea. The reports indicate he'll need 40 planes, the whole Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai (recently the target of the murderous Islamist terrorists from Pakistan), and 30 or more U.S. warships maneuvered into the region for "security" for the whole mob. This is the choice of a president who should feel chastened and at least mildly repudiated by the unprecedented voter turnover of the House of Representatives to conservatives, and by all the polls, even the most liberal, that document the massive disapproval of his policies by an angry electorate.

Only a few tidbits of explanation have been offered by his aides as to the purposes and goals of this trip, but no one has been able to come up with any rationale for such an unprecedented, ostentatious caravan.

And the reported tab for this untimely Gypsy expedition? Two hundred million dollars, more or less, each and every day! And for 10 days, totaling somewhere in the vicinity of 2 billion dollars! I say it again ... 2 billion dollars!

Capping the parade of liars at WND was none other than its leader, editor and CEO Joseph Farah, who wrote in a Nov. 8 column:

By now every American knows how much U.S. taxpayers are spending for Barack Obama's 10-day trip to India this week.

The price tag is $200 million a day - or an even $2 billion for the whole excursion that involves the deployment of 3,000 people, 34 warships and hundreds of helicopters.

The White House denies the $200 million price tag, but that's what India officials estimated. The White House refuses to provide a figure.

It appears the aversion to facts at WND comes straight from the top -- and it is clearly has no intention of letting go of the lie.

A Nov. 18 WND article detailed yet another attempt by Kinsolving to get the cost of the trip out of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. The article falsely suggests that the $200 million cost has some validity, stating only that the White House was "denying a report that the daily cost of President Obama's trip to India would be $200 million - but refusing to reveal the actual cost." At no point does WND acknowledge that numerous news organizations and fact-checking groups that have looked into the number have repeatedly discredited the figure.

WND was not alone in giving credence to the bogus numbers -- the Media Research Center joined in the fun.

In a Nov. 5 NewsBusters post, Ken Shepherd complained that, on MSNBC's "Hardball," Salon's Joan Walsh was "imagining the rationale of conservative critics" in their criticizing of the purported cost of Obama's trip to India. But Shepherd went on to imagine he knows something about journalism in India, writing that "Hardball" host Chris Matthews "was content to put down Indian journalism." But Shepherd failed to fully explain why Matthews would do such a thing -- or even why Indian journalism should be defended after hiding behind anonymity to forward such an utterly discredited claim, as Shepherd seemed to be saying.

The same day, a CNSNews.com article by Nicholas Ballasy stated that "National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told reporters that the alleged $200M a day cost of President Obama's trip to Asia is 'wildly inflated' but he did not specify the actual cost. Ballasy reported denials from the White House and the Pentagon, but repeated his assertion that the White House "did not specify the actual cost of the trip" but not that it was for security reasons.

For sheer absurdity that beats even WND's defiance of the truth, it's hard to beat NewsBusters associated editor Noel Sheppard, who posited in a Nov. 14 post that the bogus claim must be true because it appeared in a "Saturday Night Live" skit that praised Glenn Beck for being right about gold:

This sequence was surprising on a number of levels. First, Obama's defenders in the media aggressively attacked Fox News and conservative radio hosts for reporting this $200 million a day figure that came from an Indian website.

Although no specific numbers were released by the administration concerning the real cost, the press were very quick to dismiss the $200 million a day estimate.

This is why when SNL sourced it to Beck, viewers probably thought the joke would end there.

Oddly, that wasn't the case as Hader then made the point that maybe Beck shouldn't be dismissed so quickly as a result of his correct advice on gold.

Who would a rational person believe regarding the issue of the cost of Obama's trip -- every legitimate news organization and fact-checking agency, or an anonymous source and an "SNL" skit? Sheppard, as well as WorldNetDaily and the rest of the MRC, have chosen the latter. Which tells you all you need to know about where they stand on the integrity spectrum.

(A version of this article appears at ConWebWatch.)

 

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