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PLAYING DOCTOR! Readers complained when a shrink doctored texts. But no one complained to the Post!


THE DOCTOR IS HIDING HIS TRANSCRIPT: Strange, isn’t it? Nexis still hasn’t posted the transcript of Thursday’s Special Report. On the program, Charlie Krauthammer did it again; he identified himself as a psychiatrist, then called Howard Dean a big nut (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/03). We’d like to give you the actual transcript. But for whatever reason, Fox and/or Nexis don’t seem to want it on-line

For the record, many newspapers published letters complaining about Krauthammer’s nationally-syndicated, December 5 op-ed column. We offer some examples below. For our own review of this Krauthammer piece, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/5/03.

Some of the writers simply complained about the inappropriateness of Krauthammer’s conduct—the inappropriateness of pretending to “diagnose” public figures after identifying oneself as a shrink. Others knew something that was even more serious—they knew that Krauthammer had simply faked basic facts to make Big Dems sound “delusional.” One letter notes that Krauthammer lied about something Barbara Streisand (never) said. Other letters note that Krauthammer doctored a Hardball transcript to make a joke by Dean sound very weird.

But isn’t it strange? Such letters appeared around the country. But at the mighty Washington Post—the paper responsible for the doctor’s deceptions—no such letter has been published. At the Post, Fred Hiatt is hiding behind his big desk, looking at his big, pleasing pay-stub. At the Post, Hiatt will let the rubes be fooled as much as a certain shrink likes.

So let’s wish happy holidays to Hiatt and his. Several newspapers let readers know that they had been conned by a shrink’s doctored transcripts. But at the Post, you’re treated like rubes. A sampling from nobler environs:

Dallas Morning News, 12/14/03
Former psychiatrist, former Mondale speechwriter and current right-wing hawk Charles Krauthammer “diagnoses” a mental disorder in Howard Dean based on Dr. Dean’s speculation that the president may be hiding something by refusing to cooperate with the 9-11 investigation committee. In a puzzling tangent, he then claims Barbra Streisand wrote a memo linking the logging industry to “Iraq a country that is two-thirds desert.” You may see this memo at and note that Mr. Krauthammer is untruthful as to the authorship of the memo and the silly claim that it stated a logging interest in Iraq. Dr. K proceeds to identify Dr. Dean as having “no detectable sense of humor,” then alters a transcript of MSNBC Hardball by deleting “laughter” annotations, so that he can claim that humorous banter initiated by Chris Matthews was a serious comment on breaking up a news network. The public is clearly safer with Dr. Krauthammer as a right-wing columnist, but I would suggest to him that he dig out a copy of DSM-IV and read up on “narcissistic personality disorder.” This may be a case of psychiatrist, diagnose yourself.
Joe Budd, Big Spring

The Raleigh News & Observer, 12/14/04
A clear sign of a morally bankrupt political position is when its defenders stoop to “diagnosing” its critics with mental illness, as did Charles Krauthammer in his Dec. 5 column, “Shrink-rapping Dean.” This is an especially egregious approach by someone trained as a psychiatrist, as Krauthammer is.
On the one hand, under the guise of humor, he is nonetheless attempting to “medicalize” political criticism, which as he should very well know, is the same tactic used in Stalin-era Russia to imprison political dissidents in mental hospitals. On the other hand, he is doing a grave disservice to people with real mental illness, a physiologically based medical condition that causes great suffering and hardship. This trivializes a serious, and too often stigmatized health condition, again, as he should know as a former psychiatrist….
Janet R. Nelson, Raleigh

Newport News Daily Press, 12/12/03
As a columnist, Charles Krauthammer has the right to interpret events in whatever way he chooses. However, his Dec. 8 column (“The delusions of front-runner Howard Dean”) is an exercise in selective reporting, revealed by the ellipses he used to truncate Howard Dean's response to a question from MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.
Looking at the transcript from the Dean interview, available at, it is plain that Dean’s initial response was a joke, as indicated by the laughter of the audience, the interviewer and Dean himself. Further, those ellipses erase several minutes of give and take in which Dean lays out his thoughtful position on concentrated media ownership.
This tactic reminds me of the promoters of dud movies, who can pull any complimentary adjective from a review and trumpet it in their ads, regardless of the overall negative review. By stringing elliptical phrases together and by placing them out of context, anyone can prove anything. And who among us has the time and resources to track down every original quote?
This is precisely the kind of abuse and manipulation that passes for national journalism these days. If the Daily Press continues to accept Krauthammer’s column knowing his practices, it casts doubt on the newspaper’s own standards for reporting.
Andrew Smith, Williamsburg

Miami Herald, 12/12/03
Charles Krauthammer needs help. In his Dec. 5 column, The delusional Dean, he says that those who oppose Bush-administration policies suffer from a “BDS”—Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Krauthammer manifests acute symptoms of DDDD—Demagogic Demonization of Dean Disease, a virulent strain of dissembling that only recently mutated from CCCC—Characterize Clark as Crazy Contagion…
To conjure an attack on Howard Dean’s sanity, Krauthammer altered a recent exchange between Dean and Chris Matthews. A jocular, tongue-in-cheek comment about “breaking up Fox” drew laughter. Yet Krauthammer made it seem to have been an alarmingly serious policy discussion.
I’m all for a wide range of opinion, even snarky satire. But we, and democracy, deserve better than cynical manipulation of content.

Newsday, 12/12/03
It should be with great concern that one considers the column Charles Krauthammer wrote about Howard Dean [“Heads Should Be Examined,” Currents, Dec. 7]. One could possibly attribute some of the phraseology Krauthammer uses to an attempt to be funny. But even if that is so, Krauthammer gets away with some rather hateful conclusions by hiding them in the context of supposedly using psychology. He is a board-certified psychiatrist. But it should never be accepted that his training be used to exhibit animosity, and it only belittles that field of study which presumably exists for the alleviation of, and not spread of, hate. Newsday, which knows better, should not condone such stuff.
Jean Weil, Flushing

Seattle Times, 12/11/03
Charles Krauthammer attempts to make the case that Howard Dean suffers from “Murdoch Derangement Syndrome.” To make his argument, Krauthammer cites the transcript of Dean’s appearance on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program on Dec. 1, alleging Dean states he will break up Fox News on “ideological grounds.” However, Krauthammer conveniently excises well more than 100 words from the actual transcript, including an exchange that clearly indicates Dean’s answer was a humorous response to the host’s question. This is even more ironic given Krauthammer’s preceding comment that Dean “has no detectable sense of humor.”
By stooping to such a level of intellectual dishonesty in an effort to smear Dean as “deranged,” Krauthammer inadvertently reveals that he himself suffers from an previously undiagnosed malady currently spreading among the neo-conservatives and their apologists in the media: Fear of Dean Syndrome.
Eric Salmassy, Mill Creek

Raleigh News & Observer, 12/9/03
After reading Charles Krauthammer's Dec. 5 column “Shrink-rapping Dean” I am forced to wonder why Krauthammer no longer practices psychiatry. I hope it is not because he considers himself a better writer than psychiatrist, because that would certainly make me fear for the current mental health of his former patients.
While it is clever to invent witless new mental disorders to trivialize people’s discontent with the most clandestine administration of the past 100 years, it does little to further the intellectual discourse on important issues facing the country and the upcoming election.
I honestly do not know who should be more offended by this—Howard Dean, the millions of people who support him, the millions of people with real psychological troubles, current” psychiatrists, or effective writers and professional journalists. I know as a reader of The N&O, I’m offended that it was even published. If you are going to feed tripe to people, at least try
to spice it up with some creativity and the illusion of intelligence.
Roger Mills-Koonce, Durham