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Daily Howler: Kristof and his cohort will lie until liberals and Dems make them stop
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KRISTOF CORRUPTED! Kristof and his cohort will lie until liberals and Dems make them stop: // link // print // previous // next //

KRISTOF CORRUPTED: For the record, there are things we agree with—or may agree with—in Nicholas Kristof’s boo-hooing lament. For example, this claim may be accurate:
KRISTOF (4/12/05): We also need more diverse newsrooms. When America was struck by race riots in the late 1960's, major news organizations realized too late that their failure to hire black reporters had impaired their ability to cover America. In the same way, our failure to hire more red state evangelicals limits our understanding of and ability to cover America today.
It’s possible: Some newspaper might do better work if it employed more “red state evangelicals.” (We note that Kristof, like other Bernie Goldberg-style analysts, doesn’t show an actual problem with current religious coverage.) We also agree with some of this, which comes early on in his piece:
KRISTOF: Those of us in the press tend to get defensive about our dwindling credibility. We protest that we've been made scapegoats by partisan demagogues, particularly on the right, and I think that's true. But distrust for the news media, even if it's unfair, is the new reality—and we will have to work much, much harder to win back our credibility with the public.
We agree: Conservative demagogues still yell liberal bias decades after it stopped making sense. But that doesn’t mean that distrust for the media is “grossly unfair,” the absurd conclusion Kristof reaches near the end of his boo-hooing column. Indeed, distrust for the media is good common sense, as recent history shows all too well. Kristof, though, refuses to see this. “[W]e in the news media are widely perceived as arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy,” he writes. But why are scribes perceived this way? In part, because they are out of touch, untrustworthy, arrogant! Kristof is either too out of touch to know this—or too arrogant and untrustworthy to admit.

Is it true? Are modern journalists “arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy?” For the moment, just consider a few examples we have reported at THE HOWLER. How do Kristof’s colleagues behave? They go to a birthday bash for John McCain, where they disgracefully sing “Happy Birthday”—to a future White House hopeful, one they will all be covering. They brag about their dinners with Condi, then fail to ask her obvious questions about her apparent misconduct. They perform at a testimonial dinner for Colin Powell—then rush off to the TV studio, unprepared for a crucial interview. They even create tearful religious ties with the Big Pols they allegedly cover. And of course, they say that it is just too “frightening” to ask tough questions of President Bush. They tell Larry King that it “hurts their head” to get straight on the facts on our basic debates. And when Powell presents fake facts at the UN, they stampede to swear that his statements are true—just as they stampeded fives years earlier, when they swore that Kathleen Willey’s attacks on Clinton were true. And oh yeah! When the Independent Counsel ended up calling Willey a liar, they all knew that they just mustn’t tell.

“Arrogant, out of touch, untrustworthy?” Why shouldn’t our scribes be seen this way? Why shouldn’t they suffer from “dwindling credibility?” Specific critiques may be misguided, driven by the gang of “demagogues” Kristof and his trembling colleagues are too uncaring to confront. But there’s nothing “unfair” about such criticism. Keep reading—such critiques are too soft.

Yes, today we’ll review one nasty case in which the press corps Kristof luvvs established its bald-faced corruption. But first, let’s make one point for the record: It’s odd to see Kristof complain about demagogues attacking the press from the right, because that’s what he inevitably does when he engages in these ruminations. In yesterday’s column, for example, he offers two examples of the press corps’ failings—and both of the complaints he affirms come straight from conservative play-lists. First complaint? The press corps doesn’t employ enough red-state evangelicals (quoted above). But then, here is the second complaint he affirms. It’s another complaint from conservatives:

KRISTOF: I think we're nuts not to regulate handguns more strictly, but I also think that gun owners have a point when they complain that gun issues often seem to be covered by people who don't know a 12-gauge from an AR-15.
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Even after the press corps’ trashing of Clinton and Gore—and even as they refuse to challenge the latest kooky-con best-seller—Kristof gives two examples of press corps misconduct. And in both examples, he pictures his press corps being unfair to those on the right! But then, the key fact in this has long become clear: Pundits like Kristof will always type thus—until they are driven from power.

Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! For those who have read Kristof over the years, it’s impossible to imagine the sensitive scribe offering fair-and-balanced sets of complaints. It’s impossible to imagine that Kristof would ever type up a passage like this one:

KRISTOF REVISED: I think journalists should be tough on White House hopefuls, but I also think that Democrats have a point when they complain that the press corps, including the New York Times, conducted a twenty-month “War Against Gore” during the 2000 White House campaign—and when they complain that the press corps’ conduct may have put Bush in the White House.
No, you will never see Kristof type such a passage, and there are two reasons why you won’t. First, Kristof always panders to “red state” redoubts like Yamhill, Oregon—his much-lamented rural home town. And second, polite “liberal spokesmen” never complain about what happened in Campaign 2000. Conservatives yell—and “liberals” don’t. And brave Kristof goes with the flow.

As we’ve told you: One group keeps yelling things that are false. One group refuses to say what is true. And scribes like Kristof go with the flow, affirming only complaints from the right. Yes, specific criticisms of the press corps may be misguided, inaccurate. But there’s absolutely nothing “unfair” when the press is seen as “arrogant, untrustworthy.” And there’s absolutely nothing unfair about this cohort’s “dwindling credibility.” Nicholas Kristof will never tattle. But it’s a rep they’ve worked hard to obtain.

DISTRUST FOR THE MEDIA IS COMMON SENSE: Nicholas Kristof will never admit it; men of his type will deny to the end. But distrust for his cohort is unavoidable, given their own unending misconduct. Let’s examine a pair of cases—one of which almost surely put George W. Bush in the White House.

Case one: Dissing Quayle: How inane, how arrogant, is Kristof’s class? In June 1992, Vice President Quayle misspelled a word—and your vacuous press corps was off to the races. For years, Quayle was trashed as an idiot for this troubling bit of behavior. And by the way—how inane, how inept, were the lords and ladies who staged these endless attacks? Consider the way the Washington Post treated Quayle’s run for the White House. In April 1999, Quayle announced that he would be a candidate. Result? We quote from the start of David Von Drehle’s astonishing front-page “news report”—from the Post’s astonishing, front-page report about “Quayle, the human punch line:”

VON DREHLE (4/14/99): Dan Quayle doesn't see himself as others see him.

That's the key, according to his close friends and advisers...

Dan Quayle, the human punch line, scorned on scores of Internet sites, shoo-in for the late-night talk show Hall of Fame—enshrined somewhere between Joey Buttafuoco and Kato Kaelin. The man who said:

"I didn't live in this century."

And, at an AIDS clinic during the early days of the drug AZT: "Are they taking DDT?"

And, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind." (He was trying for, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste.")

That is not the way he sees himself. The Dan Quayle running for president is another character altogether...

Von Drehle amused himself and his readers with a portfolio of Quayle’s greatest hits. But uh-oh! How inept—how “untrustworthy”—was the Post scribe? In fact, Dan Quayle had never made that laughable comment about AIDS and DDT. In 1992, Quayle had actually said “ddC”—not “DDT”—in discussing the treatment of AIDS. In fact, he had correctly inquired about a real treatment for the disease. But uh-oh! A Post reporter had known less than Quayle, and so the paper had bungled this matter in real time; back in 1992, the Post had ridiculed Quayle for saying DDT, then had quickly moved to correct its error. But so what? Seven years later, on the day Quayle announced, Von Drehle went out and bungled the topic again! And of course, he did this as he told the world how utterly stupid Quayle is!

“Untrustworthy?” “Arrogant?” Tell us why people should think something different as we review that “news report” from page one of the Post—a “news report” whose mocking tone would have been amazing even if its claims had been accurate.

Case two: The War Against Gore: Of course, the dissing of Quayle was small potatoes—in effect, a test run for the destruction of Gore. Indeed, in May 1999, Republican honchos were quoted saying that they hoped to do the same thing to Gore that had been done to Quayle. And the press corps was already helping out, inventing a long chain of bogus stories about the Dem White House hopeful. Is the press corps “arrogant,” “untrustworthy”—even corrupt? Consider just one case out of dozens. Consider the press corps’ astounding behavior as they ginned up the Love Story nonsense.

Quick summary: In November 1997, Gore made a fleeting remark that turned out to be accurate; he said that he had once seen a newspaper story in which Eric Segal was quoted saying that the main characters in Love Story had been based on Gore and his wife. (The three had been friends when Gore was in college.) As it turned out, Segal had been slightly misquoted in the news report Gore had seen—the male character in the book was partly based on Gore, but wife Tipper had been no role model. But when Gore’s pointless remark was reported, half-witted people at Kristof’s own Times got their knickers heavily knotted, and soon a cause celebre obtained. (Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd were the hapless pair who created this ludicrous story.) Eventually, Melinda Henneberger reported on the burgeoning flap—but uh-oh! When she interviewed Segal in December 1997, it turned out that Gore had been taking a serious and major bum rap. According to Segal, Gore had correctly described that old newspaper story—a report in which Segal had been somewhat misquoted. Speaking with Henneberger, Segal strongly defended Gore and the accuracy of what Gore had said. None of this was worth discussing, of course—but for the record, Segal sardonically criticized Time, the magazine which had started the flap by reporting Gore’s fleeting remark (slightly misquoting Gore in the process). Again: Segal didn’t criticize Gore. Instead, he criticized the magazine in which this dumb story began.

Key point: Segal defended every word Gore had said. There had been a report like the one Gore described—and the male character in his book had been based on Gore. But so what? Eighteen months later, when Gore began his run for the White House, your vacuous press corps was very upset about Bill Clinton’s naughty misconduct. Three weeks earlier, Clinton had been acquitted at his Senate impeachment trial, and the press corps was still in a big major tizzy. So they began inventing strange tales about Gore—and they kept it up for the next twenty months. And one such invention, out of dozens, did concern Gore and Love Story. How “untrustworthy” is Kristof’s class? Back in 1997, Segal had defended every word Gore had said. But within a week of Gore’s announcement in March 1999, the press corps had a different tale, one they found to be vastly more pleasing. And six years later, Nicholas Kristof is still boo-hooing about his poor mistreated class.

Just how wrong—how repetitively wrong—was your “press corps” willing to be? Back in 1997, Segal had agreed with every word Gore had said. He had done so in the Sunday New York Times—a paper that happens to be widely read. And as we’ll see, the whole press corps knew it. But here’s a taste of the Standard Account Americans got from the press two years later. Gore began to campaign in March 1999. And when he did, journalists ran as fast as they could to recite their latest fake story:

Calvin Woodward, The AP, 3/18/99: More than a year ago, [Gore] claimed he and his wife were models for the romantic novel “Love Story,” leaving the author of that book “befuddled.”

Deborah Orin, The New York Post, 3/18/99: A few years ago, Gore boasted that he and his wife, Tipper, had been the inspiration for the tear-jerker Harvard romance, “Love Story”he ate his words when the author said no way.

Cal Thomas, The Washington Times, 3/19/99: In 1997 Gore announced that his college romance with wife Tipper inspired the writer Erich Segal’s book “Love Story.” Segal responded that Gore was wrong about that.

New York Post editorial, 3/19/99: Gore, recall, claimed that he and wife Tipper were the inspiration for the 1970s best selling novel “Love Story”—which came as news to the book’s author, Erich Segal.

Bruce Morton, CNN, 3/19/99: Then there was Love Story.Gore once claimed the two characters in the movie Love Story were based on his wife, Tipper, and himself. The author said, “News to me,” and Gore backed off.

Sean Hannity, Fox News Channel, 3/19/99: For comic relief we have Al Gore, inventor of the Internet… Love Story was made after him—until you talk to the author of Love Story.

According to Thomas, “Segal responded that Gore was wrong.” According to Morton, Segal said “News to me” when asked about what Gore had said. These statements, of course, were baldly inaccurate. But so what? Thomas was the nation’s most widely syndicated political columnist, and Morton starred at the great CNN. With lightning speed, the Standard Story spread into regional newspapers:
Philip Gailey, St. Petersburg Times, 3/21/99: A year ago Gore told reporters that he and his wife, Tipper, at the time when they were college sweethearts, were the inspiration for the novel Love Story. That came as news to the befuddled author, Erich Segal.

Lee Davidson, The (Salt Lake City) Deseret News, 3/24/99: Last year, Gore said main characters in the novel “Love Story” were based on him and his wife. The author, Erich Segal, said that “befuddled” him, and it was flatly wrong.

William Rusher, The Chattanooga Times, 3/24/99: A couple of years ago, he let it be known that, as a young man, he had been the real-life model for the male protagonist in Erich Segal’s affecting novel (later a hugely popular movie) “Love Story.” Segal had to go to the trouble of denying the story publicly.

David Reinhard, The (Portland) Oregonian, 4/1/99: This, of course, was before Harvard—where, Gore told Time magazine, he and Tipper were the inspirations for Erich Segal’s “Love Story,” a fact that eludes Segal.

Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, 4/5/99: Gore claimed in 1997 that he was the inspiration for Oliver Barrett IV, the preppy protagonist in “Love Story.” That came as news to Erich Segal, the book’s author who had known Gore at Harvard.

Wayne Woodlief, The Boston Herald, 4/8/99: He once said he and his wife Tipper had been the models for author Erich Segal’s “Love Story.” Uh, not quite, said Segal, who had known Gore at Harvard

Meanwhile, back to the Washington Times for a bit of reinforcement:
Jeffrey Hart, Washington Times, 4/3/99: There is also the claim, in a throwaway remark to reporters, that he had been part of the inspiration, along with Tipper, for the couple in Erich Segal’s novel “Love Story”...Erich Segal, the author, rejected Mr. Gore’s claim to have inspired it.

Henry Miller, The Washington Times, 4/5/99: He claimed, for example, that he and Tipper Gore were the model for the novel, “Love Story,” an assertion author Erich Segal denied.

All these accounts were grossly inaccurate—but the press corps kept it up for two years, putting George W. Bush in the White House. And in fact, the Love Story hoax was only one of dozens of tales the press corps ginned up about Candidate Gore. But so what? To this day, men like Kristof still pretend they have never heard about this! To this day, the great man finds it “grossly unfair” when peons and proles scold the press.

By the way, how “untrustworthy” is Kristof’s class? Let’s enjoy a mordant chuckle as we see how the AP handled this matter. In December 1998, Gore’s father, Senator Albert Gore Senior, died in his native Tennessee. The AP’s Nancy Benac filed a report on the memorial service. And of course, the War on Gore hadn’t yet begun. So Benac was allowed to type an accurate passage on Love Story:

NANCY BENAC, ASSOCIATED PRESS (12/7/98): The younger Gore absorbed politics at his father's knee. The elder Gore recalled his son once listening in on an extension when President Kennedy telephoned, "mad as hops" and uttering expletives. "Whew! Dad, I didn't know a president talked like that!" young Al declared.

But while the younger Gore eventually followed his father's path, there were inevitable frictions along the way. Author Erich Segal, who knew Gore at Harvard in the 1960s, said he modeled the relationship between "Love Story" hero Oliver Barrett IV and his controlling father on the Gore father and son.

"That was the conflict, to keep up the family tradition," Segal said.

Duh! In December 1998, the AP knew all about what Segal had said! And because the War on Gore hadn’t started, Benac was even allowed to report it! But three months later, press corps bullshit had started to run like a mighty stream on its way to the sea. Result? Emit low chuckles as we recall what the AP’s Calvin Woodward was now saying:
CALVIN WOODWARD, ASSOCIATED PRESS (3/18/99): More than a year ago, [Gore] claimed he and his wife were models for the romantic novel “Love Story,” leaving the author of that book “befuddled.”
What a difference three months can make! The AP’s Woodward reinvented the past to get in line with the corps’ open lying. But so what? Six years later, Kristof still pretends that it’s “grossly unfair” when people look down on his brilliant, fine cohort. And guess what? Kristof et al. will keep on lying until libs and Democrats force them to stop—until your dainty “liberal spokesmen” screw their courage and type up the truth.

ONCE MORE, FOR THE RECORD: As we’ve noted many times, Gore’s trivial, fleeting Love Story comment was made to two writers on a long plane ride. In September 2000, one of these writers—Time’s Karen Tumulty—gave her view on the phony flap her colleagues had pimped for two years:

TUMULTY (9/7/00): I was sort of appalled to see the way [the Love Story flap] played in the media. I mean, it was an offhand comment made during a two-and-a-half hour conversation that was mostly about other things and it was a comment that was, you know, true in most respects. I mean, he was a model, Erich Segal said, for the preppy character in Love Story, and it had been reported in Tennessee newspapers that it was modeled on both of them [Gore and his wife]. But all of that got lost in again, this kind of snowball—I think that there was probably something there worth gigging him about, but the degree to which it became a symbol of the man’s integrity I thought was very unfair. And I say that as the person to whom he made the comment and who wrote it.
Tumulty was “sort of appalled” by the “very unfair” way this matter had been played in the press. To our taste, Tumulty was slightly understating, but she made her viewpoint perfectly clear. But so what? Five years later, Kristof thinks it’s “grossly unfair” when he sees his brilliant cohort derided. Where on earth—where in the world—do they go to find such men of this type?

EVERYONE ALWAYS KNEW THIS: Here are some major chunks of Henneberger’s report in December 1997. In the press corps, everyone always knew about this material, as Benac’s piece in December 1998 made clear. But so what? When Gore launched his race for the White House, they decided to craft a more pleasing tale—and Kristof still pretends that it’s “grossly unfair” when peons and proles trash the press corps:

HENNEBERGER (12/14/97): Mr. Segal said that when he met Mr. Gore and Mr. Jones at Harvard in 1968 he liked them very much and started writing the screenplay that eventually became "Love Story."

He also knew Mrs. Gore, who was attending Boston University and was dating Al Gore. But Mr. Segal said he did not draw literary inspiration from Mrs. Gore, whose father ran a plumbing supply company, for the character of Jenny Cavilleri, a baker's daughter who married Oliver despite the opposition of his blueblood family.

The part of the Oliver Barrett character that was inspired by Mr. Gore, Mr. Segal said, "was that he was always under pressure to follow in his father's footsteps and that was the conflict, to keep up the family tradition. Albert Gore Sr., Albert Gore Jr., Oliver Barrett 3d, Oliver Barrett 4th—you have to change some things.”

HENNEBERGER (12/14/97): In their phone conversation a few days ago, Mr. Gore reminded Mr. Segal that while Mr. Segal was on his book tour for "Love Story," a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean who knew that Mr. Gore and the author were friends had asked if there was not a little bit of Al Gore in Oliver Barrett. Mr. Segal said yes, there was, but the reporter "just exaggerated," Mr. Segal said. "He made it to be the local-hero angle."

Mr. Segal said the Vice President told him that all he had said on the plane was that the article had made the connection—and got it wrong...

"Al attributed it to the newspaper, he talked about the newspaper," Mr. Segal said at another point in the interview. "They conveniently omitted that part. Time thought it was more piquant to leave that out. He was talking on the plane off the record, a drink with the boys after a tiring day. I don't think he will be reminiscing much anymore."

HENNEBERGER (12/14/97): Ms. Tumulty said that on the plane, Mr. Gore had been talking about how ironic it was that his old roommate, Mr. Jones, got his acting break in the movie "Love Story."

"He said Segal had told some reporters in Tennessee that it was based on him and Tipper," Ms. Tumulty said. "He said all I know is that's what he told reporters in Tennessee."

Richard L. Berke, a reporter for The Times also traveling on the plane, said Mr. Gore left the impression that he and Mrs. Gore were the models for the couple in the book, but also left room for doubt by attributing it to reporters in Tennessee.

One last question: Where did that quote about Segal being “befuddled” come from? Segal told Henneberger that he was “befuddled” when he first read the Time report, apparently because the part about Tipper was wrong:
HENNEBERGER (12/14/97): Mr. Segal said he knew [Gore and Jones] at Harvard when he was on sabbatical there in 1968, and knew Mrs. Gore as well. But the character of the cool, smart-mouthed Radcliffe musician, Jenny Cavilleri, was in no way based on Mrs. Gore, Mr. Segal said, and the wild romance in the novel was not inspired by the couple.

"I did not draw a thing from Tipper," he said. "I knew her only as Al's date."

Mr. Segal said he had been "befuddled" by the report, which was published in Time magazine this week, and had called the Vice President to find out what had happened. Mr. Gore told Mr. Segal that the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

After Segal reconstructed what had occurred, he was no longer “befuddled.” He told Henneberger that there had been a Tennessean report like the one Gore had recalled—a report in which Segal had been somewhat misquoted. But so what? Two years later, reporters cadged the “befuddled” quote from Henneberger’s report—and omitted all the rest of the info. But then, that’s how your “press corps” does business. They do so, of course, specifically because they’re arrogant, corrupt and untrustworthy.

None of this was ever worth discussing, of course. But when they did discuss it, your press corps played dumb, creating a bogus tale they enjoyed. And this was just one of dozens of tales the “press corps” ginned up about Candidate Gore. Today, people like Kristof pretend they don’t know this. Sic semper corrupt hacks from the “press corps.”