We discussed this matter on September 21, and last week, we finally got the full facts. Did pretentious Kerry really say, Who among us doesnt like NASCAR? According to Dowd, when Kerry made this laughable statement, it made him come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in Pride and Prejudice. But wouldnt you know it? Kerry never made the laughable statement! Writing in Slate, NPRs Mike Pesca finally laid out the basic facts:
PESCA (9/28/04): Dowd wasn't at the event where Kerry supposedly said "Who among us ... " She learned about it in a casual conversation with Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who said Kerry said it on Feb. 17 at a union rally in Milwaukee.Indeed, Pesca even provides a link to the tape of Kerrys actual comment (you can still play it). Heres the fuller transcript of what Kerry said at that union event:
What Kerry actually said at that rally was "There isn't one of us here who doesn't like NASCAR and who isn't a fan." Because of the roundabout way in which the quote got into print, it didn't get the normal vetting, i.e., playing back the tape. Stolberg now says it's possible that she made a mistake and that Kerry never said who among us.
KERRY (2/17/04): This president went to Florida just the other day to start the NASCAR races. There isnt one of us here who doesnt like NASCAR and who isnt a fan, but Ill tell you what—instead of just saying, Gentlemen, start your engines and during the race listening and looking at a race while 350 manufacturing jobs were lost and $171 million was—Yes, thats where Pescas tape shuts off. Fairly typically of the press corps, Pesca doesnt even let us hear the end of Kerrys substantive point. But one thing is perfectly clear from that tape. Kerrys NASCAR reference was a trivial aside on his way to a larger point. And oh yes, one other thing. Kerry didnt make the statement which made him seem like pretentious Mr. Collins. He didnt make the statement Dowd put into quotes. As usual, Maureen Dowd made it up.
But oh, were sorry—Dowd didnt make it up. No, lets use pandering Pescas polite constructions, the constructions we see in the passage above, the constructions he employs as he fawns to authority. Actually, Dowd leaned about Kerrys statement from Stolberg, who said Kerry said it on Feb. 17 at a union rally in Milwaukee. And you know what happened next! Because of the roundabout way in which the quote got into print, it didn't get the normal vetting, i.e., playing back the tape. Lets put that into simple English. Dowd didnt bother to check the quote—a quote which was simply too luscious to check. She simply put the quote into print, mocking Kerry for having said it, and four of her colleagues then followed suit. From July 25 through September 5, pompous Kerry was mocked four more times for having made this laughable statement. And you know how those Timesmen are! By August 22, the fake quote wasnt funny enough any more, so Timothy Egan jacked it up just a tad. Who among us doesnt love NASCAR, Kerry was now alleged to have said. Frank Rich also used the embellished version of the original fake in his September 5 column. The fake quote didnt seem fake enough any more. The fake quote now needed improvement.
No, this latest fake quote didnt have the effect of past Dowd-Rich inventions. One past and potent example: In December 1997, the highly inventive pair of scribes created the damaging Love Story incident; when Gore began his White House campaign in March 1999, the nonsensical story was widely adopted, and the press corps used it for the next twenty months as it waged its war against Clintons successor. But for some reason, the wider press corps showed restraint about the Times fake NASCAR quote. Although it ran five times in the Times, almost no one else picked the quote up. It never appeared in the Washington Post. The AP never ran the fake quote; neither did the Washington Times. In this case, as in so many others, our greatest paper was also our fakest. And by the way—just how fake are the stars at the Times? Drink in the irony—its just delish—as Stolberg, the person who attended the original event, recycled the fake, phony quote:
STOLBERG (7/30/04): To anyone who has listened to Mr. Kerry extemporize at length—who among us can forget his ''Who among us doesn't like Nascar?'' remark? —the thought of the Brahmin from Boston disdaining speechwriters and trying humor seemed odd, shall we say, for the most important address of his career.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Darlings, it was simply delish! Who among us can forget Kerrys remark, Stolberg asked—the remark which Kerry never made! Indeed, Stolberg had been there to hear him not make it! Now, the phony reporter chose to pretend that she couldnt get it out of her head. And yes—this is the way the fakes and the frauds work at the fake New York Times.
Question: Why do these people still work at the Times? More specifically, why isnt someone like Maureen Dowd fired? Dowd has a long history of this kind of fakery—please dont make us run through it here—but she just keeps making a joke of your lives with fake, phony stories about your leaders. And by the way—the Times has now known, for a good chunk of time, that Kerry never uttered this much-maligned quote. But so what? No correction has appeared. If you read these five articles on time, youd still think that John Kerry said it. (Maybe thats why the Hartford Courant ran a syndicated column by Steve Chapman mocking Kerry for the comment. When did the column run? Yesterday!)
No, Maureen Dowds fake NASCAR quote hasnt changed the current race, the way her Love Story fol-de-rol did. For some unknown reason, most of the press corps ignored this invention. But before we leave the scene of this latest fraud, lets understand why this conduct persists. Lets go back and look at the way Pesca describes the facts of this story.
To Pescas semi-credit, he examined this story after it got in the press. But Pesca works in New York for NPR, and he knew what he had to do—he knew he had to play down the clowning at the great newspaper which is such a power in his profession. Darlings, it simply isnt done! You dont tell the truth about Dowd and Rich—about two people who are such powers—and Pesca was writing for Slates Jacob Weisberg, another fraternal bag-man (more on Monday). So Pesca showed some good common sense. Pesca put his pander boots on and pandered and fawned to Big Power.
How deferential was Pesca? Readers, treat yourselves to a good solid laugh. Go back and reread what he said:
PESCA (9/28/04): What Kerry actually said at that rally was "There isn't one of us here who doesn't like NASCAR and who isn't a fan." Because of the roundabout way in which the quote got into print, it didn't get the normal vetting, i.e., playing back the tape. Stolberg now says it's possible that she made a mistake and that Kerry never said who among us.Pesca produces a convoluted, passive construction to explain why the quote didn't get normal vetting. Why didnt this fake quote get checked? It cant be that Dowd just didnt bother, or that Dowd simply chose to use a fake quote. No—it has to be because of the roundabout way in which the quote got into print, the excuse Pesca mounts for the occasion. And treat yourselves to a mordant chuckle as Pesca carries water for Stolberg as well. Stolberg now says it's possible that she made a mistake? Even after Pesca presents the tape in which Kerry doesnt say whats reported, Stolberg is allowed to offer this comment, which her confessor reports with straight face.
And, of course, its all Kerrys fault. The weak little boys who type for your press corps always know to blame the pols in matters like this; instead, they might upset powerful colleagues, and that might affect their careers. And so, as he continues from the passage above, Pesca presents the eternal explanation. Dowd invented a quote about Kerry. But its OK. John Kerry asked for it!
PESCA (continuing directly): The Kerry campaign, though, can hardly cry foul, having helped create the intense competition over the "First Fan" title. Once you get the full context, Kerry seems to know more about sports than the Football Fans for Truth would have you believe, but less than a seasoned candidate should. For instance, Kerry's full NASCAR line might not have included "who among us," but it wasn't nearly as sharp as the president's cheesehead barb.For entertainment purposes, you can read the rest of Pescas piece, as he explains that Kerry doesnt speak quite as crisply as Bush does.
But just drink in that highlighted sentence. The Kerry campaign can hardly cry foul! Amazing, isnt it? Dowd and her colleagues make up a fake quote. Theyve run the fake quote five times in their paper. Each and every time they run it, they mock Kerry for his pretentious, Brahmin-like ways. And yes—this is the way our White House hopefuls can lose in close elections. But get this—although Kerry never uttered the quote, the Kerry campaign can hardly cry foul! They can hardly complain about what the Times did! And yes, this is the way they think, the weak little boys who type for the press. Result? In the past dozen years, you and your interests were badly damaged as they made up fake stories about Clinton and Gore, and as they comically drew themselves up and said that the Dems cant cry foul.
WHY ISNT MIKE PESCA FIRED: Do you think were kidding about this strange breed? If so, just read the transcript of Pescas report on this matter for NPR. On the September 23 Day to Day, Pesca wasted listeners time with a report about Kerrys alleged sports bloopers. As you will clearly see in the transcript, he already knew that the NASCAR quote was fake. But so what? The fake quote came from the New York Times. So the weak little man stayed the course:
PESCA (9/23/04): Take another sport-related Kerry line that has been presented as evidence of the candidate's stilted manner. The quote is: "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?" The first media mention of that line was in a March column by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. Even when he puts on that barn jacket over his expensive suit to look less lockjaw and says things like, Who among us doesn't like NASCAR? he can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in Pride and Prejudice.Heres what he actually said, Pesca reported. And no, Kerry hadnt actually said the thing that Dowd and Stolberg had been mocking. But so what? Even holding tape of what Kerry actually said—even knowing that Kerry didnt actually say the funny thing that had been reported—Pesca just went ahead with his report. If Kerry actually said something else, why is Pesca still quoting Dowd—still quoting her attack on pretentious Mr. Collins? Why doesnt he simply drop the fake quote? Or even better: Why doesnt he start his report with the basic fact—the fact that the Times made up a fake quote? Of course! Because the fake quote came from Dowd, no one can say that the quote is a phony! Instead, they must create convoluted reports, from which a careful listener might be able to tell that Kerrys pretentious quote never happened.
Dowd got her quote from Sheryl Gay Stolberg, another Times reporter who was covering Kerry in the week leading up to the Wisconsin primary. At the specific event, Stolberg recalled Kerry saying `Who among us.' Here's what he actually said.
KERRY (audiotape): This president went to Florida just the other day to start the NASCAR races. There isn't one of us here who doesn't like NASCAR and who isn't a fan, but I'll tell you what...
PESCA: Around that time, two days after the Daytona 500, Kerry was making many NASCAR-related remarks. But three reporters other than Stolberg who were traveling with the Kerry campaign do not recall the specific `Who among us' formulation.
The latest beanball in the sports debate for president is a Bush-Cheney TV commercial called "Windsurfing," which depicts John Kerry's participation in that sport as a symbol of his alleged vacillations...
Try to believe that these people exist, and that NPR puts their work on the air. And try to believe that you live in a world where a fake like Maureen Dowd is still typing.
MONDAY: Yes, we checked all the relevant tapes, and Fineman invented his fake story, too (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/1/04). No, he didnt say that Bush won that initial Bush-Gore debate; in fact, he didnt say anything like that. Of course, as with Dowds fake NASCAR quote, this doesnt really make any difference, except as another revealing portrait of a deeply dysfunctional and dishonest press corps. But you need to know who these people are. Well present all the details Monday morning.