Daily Howler logo
DUMB KILLS! Hannity pounded at weakling Obama–but so did a second big host: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2009

Burning bright: We’ll recommend a remarkable photo from the top of the Post’s front page. And yes: Any time you capture a face like that, it belongs at the top of page one. (It’s more striking fuller-sized, in hard copy. Here's the news report.)

But then, we’d already spotted a marvelous face—that of Molly O’Hare, age 10, found at the top of today’s KidsPost. That said: We don’t know why the Post tops a hard-copy page with a glorious photo, then crops it down on-line.

DUMB KILLS: Here at THE HOWLER, we hold an odd view. At present, we think the most interesting problems afflicting the media are those within our emerging liberal media.

The most interesting problems—and the most important. For one small taste of what we mean, let’s start with a weak news report in the mainstream press—in this morning’s Washington Post. Scott Wilson authored the report, with Al Kamen. Here’s how he began:

WILSON (3/25/09): The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase “global war on terror,” a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor.

The phrase “appears to be” is rather weak. The headline writer made things a bit stronger:

‘Global War On Terror’ Is Given New Name
Bush’s Phrase Is Out, Pentagon Says

Predictably, Sean Hannity was all over this story last night, mocking the weakling Obama. “If I'm a terrorist, I'm thinking America is giving up,” the insightful analyst mused. Soon, he and a pair of troubled guests were sharing a major tizzy:

HANNITY (3/24/09): Why can't we say "terrorism?”

DEBORAH NORVILLE: They want us dead! They want us dead!

HANNITY: Seventy-two virgins if you kill us.

NORVILLE: “War on terror” has become a Republican phrase. Who cares? Deal with the problems! Deal with the financial crisis. Deal with what's going on in the Middle East. We have not heard anything about Israel and Palestine.

JOHN RICH: If we are not going to be tough on terror—

NORVILLE: We have not heard anything from the administration on this.

RICH: This is a shirt for you, Sean. This is the best-selling shirt our on tour right now. It says, "If you don't love America, then why don't you get the hell out?" Would you mind wearing that? Love it or leave it, brother. You know what I'm saying?

For the record, a second major cable host devoted a chunk of time to this story last night. But first, let’s review the reporting with which Wilson supported his claim.

Here’s the fuller start to Wilson’s report. We’d call this reporting quite bad:

WILSON (3/25/09): The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase “global war on terror,” a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor.

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.’”

The memo said the direction came from the Office of Management and Budget, the executive-branch agency that reviews the public testimony of administration officials before it is delivered.

Not so, said Kenneth Baer, an OMB spokesman.

“There was no memo, no guidance,” Baer said yesterday. “This is the opinion of a career civil servant.”

According to Wilson, someone in a DOD office sent an e-mail with a directive, saying it came from the OMB. Kenneth Baer, the OMB spokesman, said no such guidance had been given—that the e-mail was sent by a career civil servant who was stating his own opinion. Wilson doesn’t identify the person who sent the e-mail—and there is no sign that he tried to find out if there actually was an OMB directive. There is no indication that Wilson asked the writer of the e-mail to respond to what Baer said.

The administration appears to be backing away from a certain phrase, Wilson says. But in the incident driving his piece, he seems to have made no real attempt to find out what actually happened.

We’d call that bad reporting. But so far, this is quite familiar—a bit of weak mainstream reporting paired with silly pseudocon ranting. But uh-oh! The reporting was even worse on a second cable program last night. And this was a progressive show—the type of show that's too important to fail.

But then, the reporting was even worse on a second cable program last night. Wilson at least lets readers know that his claim only “appears” to be true—and he quotes Baer’s denial. By way of contrast, on one of our biggest cable shows, we were treated to a long riff on the topic—and the riff offered no such disclaimers.

By now, it’s fairly clear: If liberals and progressives don’t get it right, absolutely nobody will. For that reason, we think the most important problems afflicting the media are those emerging within our growing progressive media. A modern nation can’t run on dumb. And if progressives and liberals don’t save us from dumb, it’s fairly clear nobody will.

We expect to be talking about this much more. Tomorrow, a long-time reader wants to know why we’ve criticized Olbermann.