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A GUTTER RUNS THROUGH IT (PART 3)! Did Drudge’s fake tale affect Wisconsin? Big pundits don’t seem to care:


THEY JUST KEEP HOLDIN’ ON: We’re sometimes surprised when our readers strain to retain belief in favored, false stories. Did “the right-wing press” drive the War Against Gore—the war which decided the last White House race? Alterman and Tomasky seem to say this (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/18/04), but the claim is patently bogus. From start to finish, the War Against Gore was driven by the mainstream press—by the Washington Post and the New York Times. By the first week of April 1999, it was perfectly clear that the Post was driving an aggressive agenda against Gore, and for the next twenty months, the Post and the Times led the press assault on the Dem hopeful. Indeed, in several of the iconic Gore Stories (Love Canal is the perfect example), “the right-wing press” accidentally engaged in some accurate reporting, and were therefore forced to play catch-up when the mainstream made up phony tales. To see the Washington Times scramble to get Love Canal wrong, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/8/99.

But some of our readers just won’t accept it! It has to have been “the right-wing press.” Here is one e-mail, out of several:

E-MAIL: Hmm. I’m not sure you’ve got this one right, DH. While it is true that the NYT and WP did first print the War-on-Gore stories, it has always been my assumption that their respective decisions to run stories were the result of gradually caving in to incessant goading from right-wing pseudo-political orgs like Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch. So maybe the right wing outlets didn’t PUBLISH the stories, but they didn’t have to and it probably wouldn’t have served their interests to do so. Instead, they simply cowed the “respectable” mainstream outlets to cover the stories by sending a bunch of press releases and publicly calling them the “liberal media.” The stories DID originate with the right-wing media apparatus, even if they weren’t originally published there.
Let’s file this one under “tortured reasoning.” The Times and the Post did start the Gore Tales. But only because they were forced to!

For the record, many (not all) of the War-on-Gore stories originated at the RNC, as we have shown in the past. But the route these stories took is clear: The RNC dished to the mainstream press, and the mainstream press ran to bruit them. The “right-wing press” played no role in this process. Indeed, when the “right-wing press” tried to make up Gore Lore, their stories generally failed to gain purchase. In July 1999, for example, the Washington Times ran reports about Gore’s troubling canoe trip on its front page for seven straight days. But the story got almost no play in the mainstream press. The mainstream press had its own bogus tales, and needed no help from pretenders.

Why do liberal writers often say different? In individual cases, we simply can’t say. But one potential motive is clear. Mainstream career writers get paid (and invited to parties) by mainstream press organs and by mainstream press figures. With that in mind, it’s safer and easier to ignore what occurred—to pretend instead that Rush and Sean somehow drove the War Against Gore. The story is pleasing, but it just isn’t true. Citizens should learn to see past it.

The good news? The press is running no such war as it covers Campaign 04. That explains the relative change in the weather described by Eric and Mike in their piece. No, the War Against Gore has blown out at last. But that doesn’t mean we should reinvent the press scandal that occurred four years back.

A GUTTER RUNS THROUGH IT (PART 3): What do you do when a gutter runs through it? When a gutter runs through your national discourse? On this morning’s eponymous program, Don Imus wanted to know who started “this rumor about the woman with Kerry.” Newsweek’s Evan Thomas stated the obvious. “We definitely know where this stuff started,” he said. The whole thing had started with Drudge—nowhere else. And no, it hadn’t begun at big news orgs. Drudge’s tale was just wrong, Thomas said:

THOMAS: As I recall, he said that the Washington Post and the New York Times and Time magazine were hot on the trail. That just wasn’t true. I mean, those news organizations were not hot on the trail. He just made it sound that way.
Oops. Meanwhile, at the New Republic, Ryan Lizza says Drudge was just wrong about what Wesley Clark said. Did Clark really say that Kerry’s campaign would “implode over an intern issue?” Lizza was there. He says no:
LIZZA: Just in case anybody was still wondering whether anything in the original Drudge item about John Kerry was accurate, I can confirm that Wesley Clark did not say what Drudge says he said at that off-the-record conversation with reporters in Nashville one week ago.

I was there when Clark spoke, and just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I’ve also checked with other reporters who were there. Since it was off the record (sort of), I can’t get into what Clark actually said (let’s just say it was not his finest moment on the campaign trail), but I can report that the quote Drudge attributes to him—“Kerry will implode over an intern issue”—is not accurate. He never said that.

So Drudge was wrong about that too, just as Ceci Connolly suggested (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/17/04). For the record, that bogus quote was the way Drudge worked the word “intern” in his latest slimy story.

So Matt Drudge—a dirt-bag—was wrong on all counts. But that doesn’t mean that his fake, phony story hasn’t already affected your lives. Why did Kerry lose ground in Wisconsin last weekend? On yesterday’s Imus, Jeff Greenfield wondered—and he thought of a famous web dirt-bag. “No, Drudge kept this thing alive,” he said, when Imus said that well-meaning Drudge had just been trying to “cover the coverage.” And then he continued, saying this:

GREENFIELD: You know, we don’t even know—it’s interesting, because I don’t think that exit polls can measure this—we don’t know whether or not the three or four days of under-the-radar, widely speculated stories may have hurt Kerry in Wisconsin, even though there is apparently absolutely nothing to it.
So let’s see. Dirt-bag Drudge sent out a fake story—fake all the way to its last phony detail. And it may have affected the Wisconsin race, in a way which gave Edwards new hope.

Amazing, isn’t it? A well-known dirt-bag peddles some porn—and he affects a White House campaign. But try—just try—to find mainstream journalists who seem upset by all this. For the last two days, Imus has been shilling for Drudge, saying that he was just “covering the coverage.” And here at THE HOWLER, we’ve searched high and low, looking for a member of the press elite who even pretends that he cares about this. What do you do when a gutter runs through it? If you’re a millionaire newsman, you yawn and then hide. To his credit, Tom Oliphant lodged a complaint in the Boston Globe—in a column which principally chastised Clark for having made the now-debunked “intern” remark! But how much outrage have you seen around your millionaire press corps this week? As noted, Imus has spent the past two days trying to vouch for Drudge’s intentions. And how many pundits have you seen mentioning Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity by name? The pair of dirt-bags ran quite fast to lovingly linger on Drudge’s fake tale. But when will the mainstream press call them by name—call them the dirt-bags they are?

Sullivan said it best, to Kurtz: I “don’t know how to talk about” this. Well, here at THE HOWLER, we do know how. We’ll lay it our clearly tomorrow.

TOMORROW: Part IV: How to talk.

FOX DEMOCRAT KNOWS HOW TO TALK: Meanwhile, famous “Fox Democrat” Susan Estrich slithered out of the wood-pile last night, intent on spreading more slimy tales and dragging your discourse into the mud. Incredibly, she brought up that old Boston Herald story—the one that Kaus had run to revive (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/13/04). But then, that’s what Estrich is paid for:

ESTRICH: I could not get over the fact, Brit, that last week when rumors started flying, I heard from Democrats across the country who said to me, “No, not again.”

HUME: You are talking about the rumors about John Kerry and the possibility that he may have had a dalliance. Now denied by him and by the other alleged party to this, which may be the thing that broke it into mainstream press, first in the tabloids and then elsewhere, was the denial. But there it was by week’s end.

ESTRICH: Right. And the story got out, does John Kerry have, as we Democrats like to call it, a Clinton problem? And if it weren’t for Clinton, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. It didn’t make it to Fox News. [sic!] It didn’t make it to a lot of the mainstream media. But if you look at the election season, you see the jitters that happen along the elite can translate to voters really quickly. So what I’ve been hearing in the last week, and it remains to be seen, maybe this was all a Republican dirty trick. Maybe there’s no truth to it.

But I think one of the factors that may have been playing in Wisconsin was the jitteriness among primary voters that maybe we don’t know everything we need to know. If there is any truth to this, we don’t want to go down this road again, particularly when we have got a situation with John Kerry where he doesn’t have a wife of 30 years who’s going to stand by her man, like Hillary did or Maria Shriver did. When we have this more complex situation where his wife has said I will maim him if I catch him cheating. That got Democrats nervous.

HUME: Well, he—so far, he doesn’t seem to show any bruises or the results of any attempts—

ESTRICH: No, he’s sitting. You know, there was a story about five years ago in Boston that made the press then about some other, you know, late-night drop-off of a resume at John Kerry’s house. This was public record at the time. He said she was just dropping off a resume. I remember at the time saying, we have got to see if John Kerry is still sitting after this story hits the paper because then we’ll know what Teresa has to say. I mean John Kerry has a very attractive, interesting wife, but it’s not one where the public, or I think, the wife in particular, is going to go, well, for any allegations of infidelity. I know in both of them hope there’s no truth to it, we march on.

But I’ve got to tell you, Brit, it was a lousy weekend for people in the Democratic Party who’ve lived through the Clinton business for a lousy couple of days.

As we Democrats like to call it! It may have been a lousy weekend for Dems—but it was clearly a great time for Estrich. She and her pals simply burned up the lines, recalling old tales about John.

But then, that’s what Estrich is paid for. Indeed, we remember that recent New Hampshire evening when a certain well-oiled Fox pundit staggered over to the comedians’ table and told us all—two separate times!—about how well they paid her at Fox. We all felt good for Susan then—and last night, we saw her deliver the goods. She brought up a pointless old gossip report—and even lustily slimed Kerry’s wife! As we Democrats like to call it, Susan Estrich played dirt-bag again.

But then, your press corps is crawling with people like this. How should pundits “talk about it?” Tomorrow, we provide helpful hints.