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CHALLENGED ON WOODRUFF! An e-mailer challenged our Woodruff-bashing. From us, an incomparable reply:


A CHALLENGE ON WOODRUFF: An e-mailer offers this reaction to our recent incomparable Woodruff-bashing. His points are worth addressing:

E-MAIL: I’m a bit puzzled by your ripping of Judy Woodruff over the Kerry hair affair. I watched much of that program, and a check of the transcript confirms that Kerry was a topic of a good part of the hour, with discussions of his views, his political standing and how Republicans will try to paint him as a tax-and-spender.

Plenty of comments, plenty of opinions, plenty to get upset about if you want to. The hair bit was the show’s “kicker,” a spot often reserved for a light-hearted, less serious comment on politics. While you may think it was out of line, it certainly (in my opinion) did not deserve the amount of space and vitriol you are giving it. And to disregard all the serious discussions about Kerry and concentrate only on that point as proof of Woodruff’s spinning comes across as severe spinning on your part.

In a rational world, we’d agree with the mailer. But the press corps made an utter joke of the 2000 White House election, almost surely deciding the outcome. And, as we tried to explain in yesterday’s HOWLER, their misconduct began in just this way—with the types of low-grade “ridicule” of Candidate Gore described in Alison Mitchell’s NYT piece. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/6/02.

Why are we being asked to think about John Kerry’s hair? Trust us: the topic didn’t turn up on Drudge because Drudge wanted to offer a “light-hearted kicker.” Ditto with Bill Whalen’s circus clown piece in National Review Online. Why did those items appear? Duh. Because Republican butt-boys want to make a joke out of Candidate Kerry, as they did with Candidate Gore. Is there any chance that Woodruff and crew don’t understand this obvious agenda? If there is, they should resign their jobs, go straight home, and never venture near cameras again.

In Campaign 2000, the public interest was badly insulted by the press corps’ astonishing spinning of Gore. And the public interest is baldly insulted when Woodruff—under whatever guise—tells us she’s reading an item, straight from Drudge, without even checking out facts! Amazing! Woodruff’s statement—however “light-hearted” in tone—is an outright insult to the public interest. If Campaign 2000 had never happened, one might view this as a puzzling outlier. But Campaign 2000 did occur. American citizens—Democrats in particular—must insist it not happen again.

To our mailer, we offer this overview, which now informs all our work: Your Washington press corps is deeply dysfunctional. They proved that over and over, again and again, in their spinning of Campaign 2000. On Inside Politics, the spinning of Gore began on Day One, with Bruce Morton’s appalling report about invented the Internet and the farm chores (see below). We’re sure that Woodruff and Morton are very nice people. But we were here to see their work the last time, and they have to be told, quite loudly and rudely, that it simply can’t happen again. Polite discussion has no effect on the people who now run your press corps.

HOWLER HISTORY/BRUCE MORTONWATCH: Here was Morton, on the 3/16/99 Inside Politics, reciting straight RNC spin. This “light-hearted” report by the hapless pundit was deeply misleading on all its points—and it set the script for the spinning of Gore which decided Election 2000:

WOODRUFF (3/16/99): Among other things, President Clinton had to answer questions [at a press conference] today about his vice president’s recent stories about growing up on the farm and his claim of creating the Internet. Mr. Gore’s musings have raised quite a few eyebrows, including our own Bruce Morton’s. [Note: Morton said nothing about Gore’s remark until the RNC sent out its spin.]

MORTON: There he was on this network’s Late Edition making an extraordinary claim.

GORE (on tape): During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

MORTON: Helping it, encouraging it, yes, but it was created as a defense project back in the 1950s.

CLINTON (on tape): I don’t know exactly what he said or exactly how it’s been characterized, but he has been for 20 years one of the major architects of America's progress in technology, and he deserves a lot of appreciation for that.

MORTON: Then there were Gore’s comments to the Des Moines Register: “My father thought me how to clean out hog waste with a shovel and a hoe. He taught me how to clear land with a double-blade ax; how to plow a steep hillside with a team of mules.”

Well, Gore is a city kid—father a senator, he grew up in Washington, went to St. Alban’s, a well-known private school here, and then to Harvard. Summers at the family farm, yes, but mules and double-bladed axes? What he meant, a spokesman said, was the fact that he spent his summers working on the family farm.

CLINTON (on tape): As far as his boyhood home I think—I know what you’re saying; you're saying he went to St. Albans and his daddy was a senator. But it’s also true that he is from east Tennessee, and he did learn to do all of those things he did on the farm. I’ve been on the—I've been there.

MORTON: Then there was Love Story. Gore once claimed the two characters in the movie Love Story were based on his wife, Tipper, and himself. The author said, “News to me,” and Gore backed off…

TUCKER CARLSON (on tape): I think Gore is just liable to say anything if he thinks it’s politically advantageous.

CLINTON (on tape): I’ll be happy to toot his horn, in terms of the years that we’ve worked together, because there’s no question that he has been integral to all the good things that have happened in this administration.

MORTON: Does Gore misstate? Does he just exaggerate? But those things can hurt you, if you’re running for president. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

Simply put, Morton was reciting hard RNC spin-points. Invented the Internet came straight from the RNC (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02). So did the stunning farm chores hoax. And by March 16, the RNC was flogging Love Story too. On that subject, Morton’s statement was baldly inaccurate (but a perfectly recitation of RNC faxes); in his only interview on the subject, author Erich Segal had plainly agreed with every word Gore had said. The record is perfectly clear on that point. But the RNC was faxing attacks on Gore, and their five-star butt-boy, the hapless Bruce Morton, “light-heartedly” ran to recite them. Every word Morton said this day came straight from those RNC memos.

By the way, how “extraordinary” was Gore’s “claim” about the Internet? The claim was made on CNN—and no one at CNN said one word about it until the RNC sent out its scripts! Morton’s “eyebrows” didn’t move an inch—until he was handed the RNC faxes. And by the way, was the Internet “created” in the 1950s? That claim is utterly foolish—but the RNC was faxing it too. Result? The RNC’s silly history of the Net was repeated all over the press corps. Gore hadn’t said he invented or created the Net to begin with—but this embellished point made the tale more rich, and Bruce Morton ran to repeat it.

This was Woodruff and Inside Politics at a comparable point in the last election. Her program’s work was simply appalling—an insult to American democracy. We’re sure that Woodruff is a very nice person. But she must be told—loudly and rudely—that this simply can’t happen again.