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OUR SWEETHEARTS OF THE RODEO! Wilgoren and Pickler played Minnie Pearl—and threw propaganda at Kerry:

MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004

OUR MINNIE PEARL OF THE NEW YORK TIMES: Jodi Wilgoren had the goods on what “some Democrats” were fearing. John Kerry was going to spend the Father’s Day weekend at his home on Nantucket. But uh-oh! “[S]ome Democrats were concerned about the image of their wealthy candidate frolicking among the fabulously wealthy here on an island where the average home sells for $1.4 million,” the scribe reports in this morning’s Times. And guess what? Wilgoren’s article proves that Dems really had something to fear in this matter. Were Democrats afraid of the image of Kerry’s wealth? In her latest clowning piece, Wilgoren throws this image in readers’ faces at every conceivable turn.

The scribe warms up in her opening paragraph, in which she reports that Kerry spent the weekend at “his wife’s seaside retreat here in one of the nation’s most exclusive summer playgrounds.” But soon, the clowning gets started in earnest. On Saturday, Kerry tried to go kite-surfing. And Wilgoren starts to play Price Is Right:

WILGOREN (pgh 3): “The wind died,” Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told reporters as he cruised by on the 32-foot Contender, a gentleman's fishing vessel said to cost about $150,000.
Did Kerry’s boat really cost that much? Wilgoren doesn’t know, but that’s what is “said.” And don’t worry—the scribe has price-tags for every outing. For example, she notes what Kerry spent for his fancy-pants dinner on Saturday night:
WILGOREN (4): Mr. Kerry and his family did dine out Saturday night at the Pearl, where sauteed yuzu-dusted day boat sea scallops go for $36, with his fellow senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy, his wife, Vicki, and her parents. But on Sunday afternoon, he canceled a beachside brunch at one of the island's most expensive restaurants, with aides explaining that his two adult daughters preferred a quiet meal at home.
Wow! This guy must really be rich! By the way, how much does “his wife’s seaside retreat” really cost? Wilgoren has that for you also:
WILGOREN (7): Mr. Kerry has been coming here regularly since at least 1995, when he married the ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz at the three-story, five-bedroom house she owns on Brant Point, where the clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger also has a home and H. Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, recently sold one. Valued at $9 million in 1995, the house...has a large screened-in porch, decorative columns, and a green-and-white love-seat swing on its sandy front lawn.
Readers, that sounds like something you can’t have, costing $9 million and all! No wonder some Dems were so upset when Kerry dared to take his vacation! Indeed, when Wilgoren announced the Dems’ concern, she quickly threw in one more price-tag:
WILGOREN (9): Though some Democrats were concerned about the image of their wealthy candidate frolicking among the fabulously wealthy here on an island where the average home sells for $1.4 million, Mr. Kerry insisted not only on coming, but also on trying to kite-surf, a dangerous combination of waterskiing and parasailing with basic equipment costing about $2,500.
Her clowning today is endless and obvious. In the law, it’s called “more prejudicial than probative.” In journalism, of course, its called “propaganda,” and Wilgoren is proving to be a master at the format she adopts this morning. How does it work? First, she notes some image the Kerry camp fears—then crams that image right down readers’ throats! Does Kerry’s gang fear the image of wealth? Wilgoren says, “Let them eat price-tags.”

Readers, when Minnie Pearl played this silly game, she did so as a crowd-pleasing joke. She stuck that silly price-tag on her hat—where it plainly didn’t belong—and wore it around as a bit of self-mockery. Today, Wilgoren puts tags where they don’t belong, too—but she does so to go after Kerry. But alas! This is the state to which the Times had descended in the past several White House campaigns (a fact you won’t often read in them “perfessional fellers’” web sites). In Wilgoren’s crabbed mind, Kerry simply has way too much money. Today, the Times’ crusading crackpot sets out to punish him for it.

Oh yes, one final point: The scribe mentions Bush’s vacation home at one point in her clowning piece:

WILGOREN: The weekend was Mr. Kerry’s first real holiday since the week he spent at his wife’s Sun Valley, Idaho, home in March, where he was widely photographed snowboarding. It was reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s vacations in borrowed houses on nearby Martha’s Vineyard, and a sharp contrast to President Bush's frequent brush-clearing forays on his sweltering ranch in Crawford, Tex.
Weird, isn’t it? When Kerry sleeps at “his wife’s” house, it is reminiscent—for Our Sweetheart of Pure Propaganda—of Bill Clinton in borrowed homes.

Of course, “reminiscence” is in the mind of the reminiscer; propagandizing pundits “reminisce” about the things they want their readers to recall. But one thing didn’t come to Wilgoren’s mind—the price tag on Bush’s ranch in Texas. The ranch is “sweltering,” Wilgoren says, but to all appearances, it must have come free. She sticks price tags on everything else. But Minnie Pearls always know their crowd—and this one knows you don’t mess with Bush.

OUR MINNIE PEARL OF THE AP: Meanwhile, at the Associated Press, the endlessly egregious Nedra Pickler was belting this ballad out too. In this campaign, Pickler has distinguished herself as one of the nation’s most awful “journalists.” Incredibly, here is the start of her report on Kerry’s rich/wealthy/rich weekend:

PICKLER: After a week of campaigning for the less fortunate, John Kerry went on vacation with the fabulously wealthy.

Kerry is a rich man who promotes the Democratic ideal that government should do more to help the poor. He moves between both worlds, spending the past week traveling to downtrodden places like South-side Columbus, Ohio, and the affluent island playground of Nantucket.

Not since President Kennedy have Democrats been prepared to nominate a man of such riches. President Clinton didn't own a home until he left the White House and President Carter was a peanut farmer. Both grew up poor in the South, as did President Johnson before them.

Kerry was educated at boarding school in Europe, prep school in New England and at Yale. He married two wealthy women and his second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is heir to the $500 million Heinz food fortune.

Like Kerry, President Bush is a Yale graduate who has benefited from his wealth and family connections. But Bush spends his down time trying to be more of an everyman, preferring to spend vacations at his Texas ranch clearing brush.

“Most Americans don't sit in Martha’s Vineyard, swilling white wine,” he said at the ranch two years ago.

Inevitably, you’ll think we made this up—but Pickler’s plaint goes on and on. Kerry “is a rich man,” she plainly says. And oh yes—he’s also a phony.

But make no mistake. Pickler is belting out pure propaganda—but so is the egregious Wilgoren. Some weeks ago, our Minnie Pearl of the Times penned a front-page report about John Kerry’s “glorified valet.” In case you missed the point that day, she yodels more clearly this morning.

From the annals of grinning TV entertainers

BORGER’S RETREAT: Gloria Borger is there to be lied to. As the gang at FAIR pointed out this weekend, Dick Cheney made a bald misstatement to Borger last Thursday when he appeared on Capitol Report. Clearly, Borger knew that Cheney’s statement was wrong. But did Borger challenge what Cheney said? Please! Her reply to the veep was: “OK!”

Cheney appeared on Borger’s show to offer the Administration’s view about ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. At one point, Borger quoted (or tried to quote) something Cheney once said about Mohammad Atta:

BORGER: Well, let’s get to Mohamed Atta for a minute because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, “pretty well confirmed”
From the transcript, it isn’t clear if Borger got to finish her statement. But she was clearly referring to something Cheney said on the December 9, 2001 Meet the Press. Did Atta, one of the 9/11 pilots, meet with Iraqi agents in Prague before 9/11? Here’s what Cheney told Tim Russert:
CHENEY (12/9/01): What we now have that’s developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that—it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.
Clearly, that’s the statement to which Borger referred. But Cheney insisted he hadn’t said it. Here is the fuller exchange:
BORGER: Well, let’s get to Mohamed Atta for a minute because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, “pretty well confirmed”

CHENEY: No, I never said that.


CHENEY: I never said that.

BORGER: I think that is—

CHENEY: Absolutely not. What I said was the Czech intelligence service reported after 9/11 that Atta had been in Prague on April 9 of 2001, where he allegedly met with an Iraqi intelligence official. We have never been able to confirm that nor have we been able to knock it down, we just don't know.

Clearly, Cheney was wrong about this. To all appearances, Borger knew it. So what did the fearless TV host do? Of course! She said “OK,” and then changed the subject! Grinning TV entertainers like Borger make a joke of your national discourse. To read the full transcript of Borger’s Retreat, see the entry at FAIR.

FOR THE RECORD: Regarding that much-bruited meeting in Prague, there seems to be no ironclad evidence concerning Atta’s whereabouts. James Risen described the matter in last Thursday’s New York Times:

RISEN: In its report on the Sept. 11 plot, the commission staff disclosed for the first time F.B.I. evidence that strongly suggested that Mr. Atta was in the United States at the time of the supposed Prague meeting.

The report cited a photograph taken by a bank surveillance camera in Virginia showing Mr. Atta withdrawing money on April 4, 2001, a few days before the supposed Prague meeting on April 9, and records showing his cellphone was used on April 6, 9, 10 and 11 in Florida.

Does that evidence “strongly suggest” that Atta was in the US on April 9? That is a matter of judgment. To state the obvious, the April 4 photograph is totally worthless; as everyone on Earth surely knows, it’s possible to be in Virginia on April 4 and in Prague five days later. Only the phone records are relevant here, and they seem to be inconclusive. Atta’s phone was in use—but was Atta using it? The FBI doesn’t seem to know—and this evidence really can’t tell us.