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Daily Howler: Maureen Dowd ginned up that fake NASCAR quote. Why isn't Maureen Dowd fired?
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DOWD MAKES IT UP! Maureen Dowd ginned up that fake NASCAR quote. Why isn’t Maureen Dowd fired? // link // print //

DOWD MAKES IT UP: We finally have the full information. Yes, Maureen Dowd invented that fake NASCAR quote—the comical “quote” from pretentious old Kerry (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/21/04). And once Dowd invented the phony quotation, it spread through the great New York Times. It was repeated by Tierney; repeated by Stolberg; repeated by Egan; repeated by Rich—and Kerry was mocked for his pompous (fake) statement every single time that they did it. Five separate times in the past several months, Kerry was mocked in the Times for his comment. And oh yes, let’s repeat this—the “quotation” in question was phony. Kerry never made the statement in question. Maureen Dowd simply made the “quote” up.

We discussed this matter on September 21, and last week, we finally got the full facts. Did pretentious Kerry really say, “Who among us doesn’t 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 wouldn’t you know it? Kerry never made the laughable statement! Writing in Slate, NPR’s 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.

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.”

Indeed, Pesca even provides a link to the tape of Kerry’s actual comment (you can still play it). Here’s the fuller transcript of what Kerry said at that union event:
KERRY (2/17/04): 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—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, that’s where Pesca’s tape shuts off. Fairly typically of the press corps, Pesca doesn’t even let us hear the end of Kerry’s substantive point. But one thing is perfectly clear from that tape. Kerry’s NASCAR reference was a trivial aside on his way to a larger point. And oh yes, one other thing. Kerry didn’t make the statement which made him seem like pretentious Mr. Collins. He didn’t make the statement Dowd put into quotes. As usual, Maureen Dowd made it up.

But oh, we’re sorry—Dowd didn’t make it up. No, let’s use pandering Pesca’s polite constructions, the constructions we see in the passage above, the constructions he employs as he fawns to authority. Actually, Dowd “leaned about” Kerry’s 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.” Let’s put that into simple English. Dowd didn’t 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 wasn’t funny enough any more, so Timothy Egan jacked it up just a tad. “Who among us doesn’t 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 didn’t seem fake enough any more. The fake quote now needed improvement.

No, this latest fake quote didn’t 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 Clinton’s 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—it’s 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 Kerry’s 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 couldn’t 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 isn’t someone like Maureen Dowd fired? Dowd has a long history of this kind of fakery—please don’t 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, you’d still think that John Kerry said it. (Maybe that’s why the Hartford Courant ran a syndicated column by Steve Chapman mocking Kerry for the comment. When did the column run? Yesterday!)

No, Maureen Dowd’s fake NASCAR quote hasn’t 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, let’s understand why this conduct persists. Let’s go back and look at the way Pesca describes the facts of this story.

To Pesca’s 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 isn’t done! You don’t tell the truth about Dowd and Rich—about two people who are such powers—and Pesca was writing for Slate’s 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 didn’t this fake quote get checked? It can’t be that Dowd just didn’t 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 doesn’t say what’s reported, Stolberg is allowed to offer this comment, which her confessor reports with straight face.

And, of course, it’s all Kerry’s 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 it’s 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 Pesca’s piece, as he explains that Kerry doesn’t speak quite as crisply as Bush does.

But just drink in that highlighted sentence. The Kerry campaign can hardly cry foul! Amazing, isn’t it? Dowd and her colleagues make up a fake quote. They’ve 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 can’t cry foul.

WHY ISN’T MIKE PESCA FIRED: Do you think we’re kidding about this strange breed? If so, just read the transcript of Pesca’s report on this matter for NPR. On the September 23 Day to Day, Pesca wasted listeners’ time with a report about Kerry’s 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.’”

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...

“Here’s what he actually said,” Pesca reported. And no, Kerry hadn’t “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 didn’t “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 doesn’t he simply drop the fake quote? Or even better: Why doesn’t 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 Kerry’s pretentious quote never happened.

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 didn’t say that Bush “won” that initial Bush-Gore debate; in fact, he didn’t say anything like that. Of course, as with Dowd’s fake NASCAR quote, this doesn’t 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. We’ll present all the details Monday morning.