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COMIC RELIEF! Cal Thomas checked into a fancy hotel, recalling the corps’ dumbest moment:


YOUR PRESS CORPS SIGNS ON AT THE RITZ: How hard did the press corps struggle to make Gore a liar? “Kit” Seelye wasn’t alone in her work (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/7/02). AL GORE, LIAR was the corps’ favorite script, and scribes struggled hard to sustain it. Consider Walter Robinson’s front-page piece in the April 11, 2000 Boston Globe. “RECORD SHOWS GORE LONG EMBELLISHING TRUTH,” said the headline. But what did the article really show? It showed how far the press would go to extend its borking of Gore.

How absurd was Robinson’s work? Consider just one of his blizzard of charges. According to Robinson, Gore had been lying about his career as a journalist. “[S]tarting in 1994, Gore has added two years to his journalistic experience,” the deeply troubled scribe reported, “upping the figure from the five years he once claimed to seven.” Earlier in the article, Robinson put a plainly false claim in Gore’s mouth. “After his Army service, he spent seven years as a journalist,” Gore was alleged to have said.

Why had Gore said that he spent seven years as a journalist? Duh. He spent two years as an army journalist, then five more years at the Nashville Tennessean. Incredibly, Robinson didn’t include those facts in his piece; deceived Globe readers were left to think that Gore was pulling his claims from thin air. Meanwhile, had Gore ever claimed seven years as a journalist after the army? Sorry. We e-mailed Robinson, seeking his source. He e-mailed back, recommending a speech and a newspaper interview. Wasting our time, we looked each one up. In neither case did Gore make the false statement.

But so it went as the press corps dissembled about Gore during Campaign 2000. Scribes could launch a raft of charges, confident that no one would ever say boo. Scribes wouldn’t hear from Joshua Marshall. They wouldn’t hear from William Saletan. They wouldn’t hear from E. J. Dionne. They wouldn’t hear from Michael Kinsley. Indeed, some scribes are now extending the tradition, knowing their colleagues won’t speak.

Consider Cal Thomas’ groaning piece in yesterday’s Washington Times. He dragged out a treasured old chestnut:

THOMAS: Who would know more about being “to the manor born” than Mr. Gore, whose father, the late Sen. Albert Gore Sr., reared his son in a pricey Washington hotel…
Ah yes, the fancy hotel—a long-treasured RNC spin-point, used by dissemblers like Thomas. Have reporters ever been dumber than they were at the start of Campaign 2K, when they went on a tour of the fancy hotel? Simply put, there is nothing so stupid that your press corps won’t buy it, if it fits an Approved Press Corps Script. Readers, settle back and enjoy the Big Fun.

Mid-June, 1999: Gore would be launching his White House campaign with a June 16 speech in Tennessee. Two days earlier, the RNC issued a press release inviting scribes to a separate event. The invite promised real excitement. “!!!RNC’s Nicholson Invites You to Come See Al Gore’s REAL ‘Homestead’!!!,” the overheated invitation exclaimed:

Washington (June 14)—As Al Gore kicks off his presidential campaign on the front porch of his family’s hobby farm near Carthage, Tennessee, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson will lead credentialed reporters on a tour of the real Gore homestead—the 8th floor hotel rooms that used to be the Gore suite of the former Ritz Carlton on Washington’s Embassy Row…

Nicholson will arrive at the hotel (now known as the Westin Fairfax and previously called the Ritz Carlton) in a mule-drawn carriage at 10:30, and will then hold a news conference at the hotel’s “Terrace Room” before giving reporters a tour of the former Gore suite.

Oddly, the fact that the Westin Fairfax was once “called the Ritz Carlton” showed up twice in the RNC’s short dispatch.

Sure enough, Nicholson arrived at the Westin on June 16, rolling up in a mule-driven wagon. He led scribes through the building’s eighth floor. And incredibly, a host of reporters were stupid enough to describe the “tour” with journalistic straight faces. Who but a Washington scribe could be foolish enough to think she was touring the Gores’ former home? The Gores lived at the site in the 1950s. In 1982, the property was sold to the Ritz—and remodeled. In 1998, the Ritz was sold to the Westin—and remodeled. Interim renovations had happened as well. By 1999, floor plans were different, and so was the décor. In 1999, who could think they were touring the “suite” Gore had called home almost fifty years earlier? Alas, your Washington press corps could think this quite easily. And, happy to further their cohort’s borking, some of them went out and pretended that Gore had once lived at the Ritz.

For example, when the Boston Globe’s Anne Kornblut reported Gore’s launch, the Ritz turned up in her story:

KORNBLUT (6/17/99): Here in Carthage, there were no traces of the criticism Gore has faced for his elite roots and longtime residence in Washington, where he was raised during his father’s time as a senator from Tennessee—and where the Republican National Committee chairman, Jim Nicholson, yesterday staged an event at a onetime Gore residence, the former Ritz Carlton hotel, which Nicholson dubbed the “real Gore homestead.”
Nicholson’s spin-point showed up in the Globe. Other papers were dumb enough to report the tour too, implying or stating—falsely, alas—that Gore had been raised at the Ritz. Here was Jennifer Harper in the Washington Times. Her statement was just flat-out wrong:
HARPER (6/17/99): RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson rolled up to Washington’s swank Westin Fairfax Hotel in a mule cart yesterday morning to mock Mr. Gore’s oft-cited references to his farmhouse upbringing…The son of a powerful senator, Mr. Gore spent much of his childhood living in the hotel—called the Ritz Carlton in those days—in a suite on the eighth floor.
Two times, Jim had suggested they say it. Scribes did just what they’d been told.

Readers, the sheer stupidity of the Washington press corps has seldom been put on such vivid display. When the Gores lived in the building in question in the 1950s, it was a residential facility—the Fairfax Apartment Hotel—known as “Washington’s family hotel.” It was not the Ritz when the Gores lived there, and according to a string of Gore biographers, it was neither “fancy” nor “elegant” (nor “pricey”) at the time. In February 1998, for example, Marjorie Williams examined Gore’s childhood years in a profile for Vanity Fair. “Although the Fairfax Hotel later became the Ritz-Carlton,” she wrote, “it was not a posh place at the time Gore was growing up.” Bill Turque agreed in his later biography. “[T]he Fairfax was a bit more modest in Gore’s day,” he wrote. “[T]he bare linoleum floor and thick steel doors suggested transience and utility.” Why did foreign-service families often live at the Fairfax? “The hotel apartments were the only ones with kitchens that were within the State Department’s stingy temporary-housing allowance,” the Washington Post recalled in a 1998 retrospective. Sorry—the Washington press corps has always known that the Fairfax Apartment Hotel wasn’t fancy. But the embellished tale helped fit the mood as the trashing of Gore began picking up steam, and—helped along by Nicholson’s hinting—your “liberal press corps” typed up a tall tale.

Yesterday, Cal checked into that “pricey hotel.” This gonzo point was a tiny part of the corps’ remarkable borking of Gore. But why can Cal safely revisit it now? He knows that, with a few noble exceptions, his colleagues have checked in there too.

FIRST COUSIN TO BOSWELL’S JOHNSON: The Ritz found its way into reports of Gore’s launch at the Boston Globe, Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Times. In Washington, The Hill misled all of Capitol Hill. Elsewhere, craftier scribes avoided saying “the Ritz,” but touted that fancy hotel all the same. In Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Hartford, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and San Francisco, major papers told readers about the luxurious/posh/ritzy/fancy hotel where Nicholson’s Gore spent his youth.

TOMORROW! COMIC RELIEF! We visit cable’s most amusing “news” program. (Hint: It comes on at 6 in the morning.)