FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2003
EXTRA! We focus here on one topic only. Later today, and tomorrow, well explore other issues. For now, though, only one question obtains: When will the Washington Post fire its dissembling columnist, Charles Krauthammer? And one other question obtains: What are the papers obligations to its misled readers?
THE POSTS LATEST LYING LIAR: Charles Krauthammer is deeply dishonest. In fact, the Washington Post should fire him, now. In a fire-breathing column in this mornings Post, Krauthammer tells the world what a crackpot that Howard Dean is. To promote his point, Krauthammer presents a transcript from Mondays nights Hardballa transcript he has artfully doctored. Heres how the scribe presents one Q-and-A from Monday nights Hardball program:
KRAUTHAMMER:Wow! On ideological grounds, Howard Dean wants to break up Fox! According to Krauthammer, this exchange shows that Dean is now exhibiting symptoms of a related illness, Murdoch Derangement Syndrome (MDS), in which otherwise normal people believe that their minds are being controlled by a single, very clever Australian.
Of course, Krauthammer was playing Post readers for fools. Because weve dealt with people like Krauthammer for years, our reaction to this transcript was virtually preordained; our eyes were drawn to those suspicious ellipses which broke up Krauthammers pleasing text. And so we did what weve done for yearswe checked the official transcript. And yes, we found what we frequently do; Krauthammer was playing Post readers for fools. The key words in the transcript are [LAUGHTER], which Krauthammer deftly removed:
OFFICIAL MSNBC TRANSCRIPT:So you see what Krauthammers ellipses removedand you see how men like Krauthammer subvert your democracy. As anyone watching this program would know, Dean was joking when he made his statement about wanting to break up Fox. But then, anyone who read the transcript would know that toothe transcript records audience laughter two times, and shows Matthews asking Dean to be serious. But men like Krauthammer hate your democracy; they want to reduce you to the status of rubes. So the creative man began cutting-and-pasting, making you think that Dean had been serious. The Washington Post should do the right thing. They should fire Charles Krauthammernow.
Of course, theres little chance that the Post will do so. The Post established its very low standards back in March 1999, when Michael Kelly dissembled so hard about Al Gore and those troubling farm chores. As we pointed out at the time, it was clear that the Kelly had deliberately misled Post readers. But the mighty Post kept their man on the job. Why should they do different now?
For the record, we had started today to focus elsewhere. Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist, loves to offer psychiatric judgments about disturbing Democratic hopefuls. He has endlessly aimed this behavior at Gore; this morning, in a somewhat joking tone, he indulges himself at the expense of Dean. We were going to start by noting that Dean was foolish to make a certain statement on the Diane Rehm programthe statement which begins Krauthammers column. But first, we looked up this second quoteand Krauthammer was misleading readers again. Can we trust his quote from Rehms program? Obviously, nonot without checkingand the Rehm programs transcripts are hard to obtain. Can this be the standard the Post holds for readers? Yes, you can read the Washington Postif you have independent ways to check the truth of its factual assertions?
There will be other days to discuss Howard Dean. This morning, the question must go to the Post. To Fred Hiatt: Are you willing to let this dissembling go on, right there on your op-ed pages? Krauthammer treats your readers like fools. When do you plan to release him?
NOTE TO FRED HIATT: The Delusional Dean! Fred, thats the headline on todays column, a column you put into print: So lets see if we have this straight. To persuade your readers that Dean is delusional, Krauthammer deceived them about basic facts. Is this acceptable at the Post? How soon will your writer be fired?
KRAUTHAMMERS FOREBEAR: For simplicitys sake, here is the text of a letter we wrote about Kellys Farmer Al column. (Our text was lightly edited by the Post.) The letter ran in the Post on April 10, 1999:
Refresher From the FarmNeedless to say, Kelly was neither fired nor publicly reprimanded. But you know how your discourse now works! For the next three months, Gore was trashed aswhat elsedelusional, for making perfectly accurate statements. Plainly, Kelly knew that Gores statements were accurate. Unfortunately, many Post readers didnt know this, because Michael Kelly baldly deceived them. Krauthammer does the same thing today. When will this pundit be fired?
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Weve never written the full story of the farm chores episode, in which Gore was attacked as delusionaland a liarfor months. For our fullest account, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/26/00. For real-time accounts of Kellys dissembling, enter Kelly AND farm chores in our whirring search engines. For the record, we conducted a three-day exchange on this topic with Kelly himself in the widely-read insider publication, The Hotline. Of course, you know how these people play it; Kelly had only been joking, he said.
Imagery from Kellys artful deception was used to trash Gore for many months. The Post, refusing to reprimand Kelly, established this as their great standard.