14 January 2000
A Howler EXTRA: The quiet voices
Synopsis: Once again, the Posts Ceci Connolly simply makes up a statement by Gore.
The Similarity Is Merely Rhetorical
Ceci Connolly, The Washington Post, 1/14/00
Why are we peeved with the Washington press corps? Because
there are things of value to do in the world, and our grumbling
analysts have to waste their time cleaning up after Ceci Connolly.
But again today, in the Washington Post, Connolly makes up a statement
by Gore. Connolly's article argues that Gore is sounding more
and more like his opponent, Bill Bradley. "The similarity
is merely rhetorical," the headline says. Sub-headline? "Gore's
speeches in Iowa take on a philosophical tone close to challenger
Bradley's." And Ceci Connollyyou know heris willing to
work hard to "prove" it.
Connolly wants you to think that Gore is mimicking things Bradley
says. Here is one passage that "proves" that:
CONNOLLY: Although Gore did promote campaign finance reform
in Congress, it is Bradley and GOP Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) who
have most aggressively pushed the issue in the presidential contest.
The two staged a joint appearance in New Hampshire last month
vowing that if they won their respective nominations they would
reject all unregulated "soft money" from the political
parties. That didn't stop Gore from announcing in an Iowa debate
last weekend that if he and McCain are the nominees, they will
turn down the party contributions.
The last statement showcases two of Connolly's skillsillogic
and outright fabrication. Bradley and McCain did hold a meeting
in which they pledged to eschew soft money. But that fact provides
no reason why Gore shouldn't make the statement Connolly describes.
There is no reason on earth why Gore shouldn't say that he would
also reject soft money. In fact, Gore has said that he would do
so if he faces McCain in the fall.
But Gore made no such statement in last weekend's Iowa debate.
Gore didn't utter a word at that debate that resembles what Connolly
says. Two different questions in the debate dealt with matters
of campaign reform. Here is the only statement Gore made that
concerns the topic in question:
GORE: Well, we basically agree on campaign finance reform.
We support the same proposals. I feel like we could make the immediate
progress I talked about earlier by getting rid of the majority
of campaign finance that goes into these 30-second TV ads. But
you know I support the McCain-Feingold measure, I support full
public financing of federal elections, I refuse to accept any
PAC contributions, I have the smallest average contributor in
the Democratic race. I called 2_ years ago for both political
parties to give up the so-called soft money and I honestly
believe that we ought to try to revolutionize the way we go about
our democracy by doing, in the rest of the country, what we see
happening in Iowa and in New Hampshire, where people rely on going
into living rooms more frequently. That's been a great experience
This is the only reference to McCain in the entire forum. Gore
said nothing that even dimly resembles the statement placed in
his mouth. Gore did not "announce in the forum" that
"if he and McCain were the nominees, they will turn down
[soft money] contributions." Nothing dimly resembling that
statement was uttered in the course of this event.
Again, why did Connolly make this claim? She wants to claim
that Gore is mimicking everything Bradley says. Her story got
better when she told her readers that Gore made the statement
in question. But Gore said nothing like the statement she describes.
Connolly's statement, highlighted above, is her latest outright
No, nothing will change because Ceci Connolly has again invented
a comment. But we thought you should know the kinds of practices
that are apparently OK at the Post. We aren't going to bother
poor Maralee Schwartzwe don't like it when people hang up on
polite queries. Maralee Schwartz has a rather short fuseand an
apparent soft spot for creative reporting.
But Maralee, let us ask you something. Is it true? Did
Al Gore "announce in an Iowa debate last weekend that if
he and McCain are the nominees, they will turn down [soft money]
contributions?" Where exactly did Gore "announce"
that? We'll be glad to report what you tell us.
Hearing quiet voices: Ceci Connolly hears the quiet voices other
people don't hear. On December 1, she misheard a quote about Love
Canal, and turned it into a pair of provocative stories. See THE
DAILY HOWLER, 12/6/99 and 12/7/99. On December 17, she accidentally
thought she heard Gore say something about how many atheists there
are in the country. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/18/99. As we explained
yesterday, we called editor Schwartz at the Post asking for an
explanation of that second "error." Schwartz abruptly
hung up the phone. But that seems to be how the big smart people
conduct the world's work at the Post.