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Print view: Sometimes, accusers make sh*t up. The press didn't want you to know that
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KEEPING US BAREFOOT AND CLUELESS! Sometimes, accusers make sh*t up. The press didn’t want you to know that: // link // print // previous // next //

Global stupidification: In February, it snowed in DC—and the public was buried beneath an avalanche of The Inane, The False and The Stupid.

Sean Hannity (and others) paraded around, loudly proclaiming that the snow debunked the science of global warming. A journalist had to be extremely stupid to believe a pile of bullsh*t like that. But how did the New York Times react? On February 10, the Times published an utterly hapless front-page report which strongly deferred to these clownish claims. Truly, this was a low journalistic moment. For part one of our four-part report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/15/10.

A blizzard of Stupid was dumped on the public in the wake of last winter’s snow. And wouldn’t you know it? In the past few weeks, it has been exceptionally hot in DC—and the New York Times hasn’t breathed a word about climate change or global warming. Yesterday, the Times did offer this pointless editorial, musing on ways to beat the heat. And it offered this front-page news report, explaining how hot it has been.

But climate change has been missing in action as the east coast swelters this week. The topic wasn’t mentioned at all in either of yesterday’s pieces. Lesson: We get hit with The Stupid when it snows, but all is sane when it gets very hot. This represents a major problem with the way our discourse works.

Should the Times have mentioned climate change this week? Yes, it actually should have. As we all know, a stretch of hot (or cold) weather tells us nothing about the merits of climate science. But many people were handed a dose of The Stupid when it snowed in DC this year. Recent weather represented a chance to remind the public of the ludicrous way they got hustled.

Unfortunately, big newspapers like the Times have never developed a vocabulary for discussing The False and The Stupid. This problem even shows up in this morning’s report about “Climategate.” (This report is on the front page of our hard-copy Times.) Yet another expert panel has found that Climategate was a big load of crap. But right from his opening paragraphs, Justin Gillis seems oddly constrained in his reporting:

GILLIS (7/8/10): Scientists Cleared of Rigging Climate Research

A British panel on Wednesday exonerated the scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate of charges that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.

But the panel also rebuked the scientists for several aspects of their behavior, especially their reluctance to release computer files supporting their scientific work. And it declared that a chart they produced in 1999 about past climate was “misleading.”

That’s odd! Why would scientists avoid releasing files which supported their work? Gillis never explains, so we’ll take a wild guess: Could it be because an international gong-show is underway involving climate science? On the very dumbest level, clowns like Hannity prance about, deceiving voters about the meaning of snow. On a slightly less ludicrous level, some of the people Gillis describes as “global-warming skeptics” will seize upon details from any known file to advance worthless accusations.

Gillis is polite throughout when it comes to the “skeptics” who offer “critical analysis” of climate scientists’ research. He’s so respectful that he doesn’t even bother identifying the ideology of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, as he quotes Myron Ebell, one the group’s “climate skeptics.” (Ebell’s statement appears on our front page.) It may well be that people like Ebell have to be treated with full respect in front-page news reports like this. But Hannity is a public clown—a public dissembler; an enemy of the people—and he played the public for fools when it snowed last winter. To this day, the Times hasn’t developed a way—or an inclination—to talk about people like that.

Hannity played the fool last winter, misleading millions of voters in the process. In a more rational world, that would be seen as a major news event—as something that should be reported. But you don’t live a rational world. You live in a world in which the Times is seen as a journalistic authority—a world in which the “liberal journals” are tolerant of this lazy work.

Millions of voters were conned last winter, played for fools by Hannity (and others). This would have been the perfect time to remind the world of this problem.

KEEPING US BAREFOOT AND CLUELESS (permalink): In the case of The Latest Sex Allegation, the mainstream press corps, by and large, has behaved with a stunning degree of good sense (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/7/10).

Pitifully, Jay Leno has been telling his sad inept “jokes,” helping spread imagery all through the land. (Lesson: When you can’t think up real jokes, you go with the gifts you’ve been given.) Byron York got a bit overheated in defense of his latest love—and a couple of scumbags have trafficked in scum, the only product they have. But all through the mainstream press corps, big players have shown a type of restraint which comes as a welcome relief—and defines a change in the culture. Hannity excepted, cable broadcasters haven’t been burning up time with speculations, misstatements, ruminations and gossip. Even the ladies Collins and Dowd have set this juicy new topic aside, choosing instead to focus on John Edwards and Levi Johnston. (To enjoy Lady Collins, click this.)

It’s stunning to see the mainstream press corps behave in such an intelligent way. A great deal is at stake when claims like this are made. And no—absent some unlikely evidentiary breakthrough, there is absolutely no way to know if the current claim is actually accurate. Within standard pseudo-liberal precincts, hapless players will leap into action, insisting that women who make such charges are always, or almost always, truthful.

We would assume that’s true, as a general matter. But when big money and fame are part of the mix, the calculus does get altered a bit. Sometimes accusers make things up, a fact with which we should be conversant after the Clinton years.

Do famous accusers say things which aren’t true? Yes, they sometimes do—although the mainstream press, and the liberal world, worked quite hard to bury that fact during the Clinton jihad. One example: It seems abundantly clear that Gennifer Flowers made up a whole lot of crap about Clinton. (She raked in a whole lot of dough for her trouble.) But so what? By 1998, a jihad was on, with all the fools chasing Clinton around, determined to prove he was vile. As a result, the fools all stood in line to vouch for Flowers’ moral grandeur. Below, you see one such harlequin, Frank Rich, writing perhaps the most comically foolish sentence of the entire Clinton-Gore era. Tragicomically, the headline on his column this day was “The Liars’ Club:”

RICH (3/12/98): If [Kathleen] Willey did lie on "60 Minutes"—and fool the audience as she did so—she is hardly alone. We now know that the Clintons also got away with exceedingly disingenuous image-mongering in their famous '92 appearance on the show, during which the soon-to-be President responded to a question about a 12-year affair with Gennifer Flowers by saying "That allegation is false." This year, in a sworn deposition, Mr. Clinton conceded having an affair with her, disputing only its duration.

Disputing only its duration! Let’s translate: Gennifer Flowers had written a book claiming a torrid, twelve-year affair. Her Bill had even introduced her to the wonders of oral sex! (Weird! In the entire book, Flowers never named a time and place when she and Clinton had been together.) By way of contrast: In his sworn deposition, Clinton testified to one sexual encounter of some kind with Flowers, not intercourse. To Rich, this meant that Flowers and Clinton now agreed that they’d had “an affair!” To Rich, the paramours only disagreed about how long the affair had lasted!

Gaze on the dumbness of big buffoons when they sign on to a thrilling sex hunt! Gennifer Flowers had said twelve years; her Bill had said maybe five minutes. But so what! By 1998, this was enough to constitute agreement in the small minds of hunters like Rich. Working back through that clownish paragraph, Clinton had basically agreed with Flowers, Rich judged. To Rich, Clinton’s “exceedingly disingenuous image-mongering”—that is, his denying a claim which was wildly inaccurate—tracked back to a virtual “lie.”

Translation: If a candidate has had one brief shining moment with someone who isn’t his wife, he is required to go on TV and confess it, perhaps in detail. If someone has published a wild misstatement, this candidate can’t say that it’s false.

In fairness, Rich was hardly alone in pimping this ludicrous nonsense. For Establishment Washington’s long list of harlequins, 1998 was the year of “that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” All the clowns were standing in line to recite their latest Group Statement: We now know that Gennifer Flowers was telling the truth! The harlequins knew no such thing, but the affirmation was universal. Forgotten were the groaning, embarrassing factual errors in her initial tabloid “confession.” (Example: She and her Bill had staged their first assignation in the Excelsior Hotel, which hadn’t yet been built on the date in question.) Forgotten were the other weird misstatements Flowers had made about various matters. People like Rich were hot to trot—the blood was rushing through tired old veins—and they were therefore hot to insist that Flowers had been truthful. One year later, this gruesome person was being paraded on Hardball (thirty minutes), then on Hannity (the full hour), where she told the world all about the Clintons’ murders—and that Hillary Clinton was the world’s most gigantic lesbo. But so what? Citizens almost never heard about Flowers’ groaning credibility problems—or about her disgraceful surrounding conduct. The child named Rich never said a word about the lady’s bizarre murder claims. Children like Rich had been on the prowl—and the target they hunted was Clinton.

(By 1998, of course, Rich had already invented the Love Story bull-sh*t, thus starting the press corps’ war against Gore. But so what? We pseudo-libs love him!)

Let’s return to 1998. In that ridiculous, gong-show paragraph, Rich also referred to Kathleen Willey, who had just appeared on 60 Minutes, making a sex claim of her own. Was Willey telling the truth on the program? To this day, we have no idea, although evidence to the contrary quickly appeared. But a long line of hapless, love-sick boys stood in line to say how “credible” this upper-class lady had been. In their claims of True Belief, the children took turns topping each other.

So typical! The press corps’ children stood in line to voice their love for their darling, Faire Willey. Three years later, the Starr office announced that they had considered prosecuting Willey for perjury, she had misstated to them so often and so directly. The mainstream press corps broke its neck to keep you from learning that fact. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03, with links to earlier reports.)

Gennifer Flowers made lots of money from her florid sex accusations. (And from her recollection of Hillary Clinton’s “big, thick glasses,” “ugly dress” and “bit, fat butt.” No wonder Bill loved Gennifer best!) Sad but true: Some people will make up some facts to generate a huge pay-day. Most accusers don’t do this—but when big money comes into play, it’s clear that some people do. But the public isn’t fully aware of this fact—in part, because the mainstream press, and the liberal world, worked so hard to keep the public from learning about the unpleasant side of these two famous accusers.

In the case of The Latest Sex Accusation, there is no way—no earthly way—to know what is actually true. In such matters, we’re all better off when cable talkers and fatuous columnists waste your time with talk about Edwards, where the facts can at least be known. Peoples’ reputations do get ruined when hacks like Leno peddle their “jokes”—when hacks like Rich spread garbage around, as he did so many times in the past. Peoples’ reputations do get ruined—and change does spread all through the world. (Could George Bush have reached the White House without the press corps’ sex hunt?)

Who knows? In the current case, maybe people like Rich think they did enough in the past, inventing that sh*t about Love Story and sending Bush to the White House. Maybe even people like this are able to learn a few lessons! But the hacks and clowns of the mainstream press have shown remarkable restraint in the past few weeks. In the past, they clowned and behaved like fools—and changed the course of world history.

(Make no mistake—the climate discussion has already been changed by the latest accusation. And by Leno’s jokes.)

That said, one aspect of the current case is worth mentioning. According to executive editor Barry Levine, the new accuser asked the Enquirer for $1 million to tell her story. That doesn’t mean that her story is false. But this is certainly part of the story, just as it was when Gennifer Flowers hauled in those massive big bucks for an Enquirer story which was riddled with clownish misstatements.

By the way, did this accuser end up getting paid? We don’t really know at this time. But there’s a very good reason for that—we read the Washington Post.

On June 25, Howard Kurtz reported the fact that the accuser hd asked for $1 million, citing Levine as his source. He also quoted Levine saying that “no money changed hands.” At this point, the Enquirer hadn’t yet published its full, florid account of the matter—the article which named the accuser and required her cooperation.

On June 27, Kurtz interviewed Levine on CNN. “Let's start with the money,” Kurtz said. “The Enquirer is known for checkbook journalism, but in this case, you refused to pay this woman when she asked for $1 million.” In his reply, Levine voiced a non-agreement agreement: “Well, Howard, I think first of all, attorneys who sometimes represent individuals like this will ask for pie-in-the-sky-type figures.”

That’s a classic non-statement statement. But Kurtz let it go with that.

Did money change hands before the Enquirer published its full, charge-all piece? (Will money change hands in the future?) We have no idea. But that’s what the Post’s Carol Leonnig reported on July 2:

LEONNIG (7/2/10): Hagerty initially declined in 2006 to file a formal sexual assault complaint and made allegations through her attorney. She went to the police herself in 2009 to make a formal complaint, after the Portland Tribune declined to publish information it had obtained from her and internal police records.

After hearing the announcement last month that Gore and his wife, Tipper, planned to separate, Hagerty turned to the Enquirer—and was paid for her story. Executive Editor Barry Levine said the newspaper rejected a $1 million request from Hagerty's attorney but acknowledged that "we do sometimes pay for exclusivity.”

Hagerty “was paid for her story,” Leonnig reported. But how does Leonnig know that? Welcome to the mainstream press corps—Leonnig didn’t say! Much like Kurtz before her, she simply quoted a statement by Levine—a statement which doesn’t confirm the fact she had just asserted.

The mainstream press corps has shown good judgment, staying away from this new accusation. But good God—they way these people “report!”

Truly, some things never change.