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1 October 1998

Read on, part I: Life with Morris means breakin’ all the rules

Synopsis: Those Three Amigos broke all the rules when they passed on Dick Morris’ charges.

Think of the reasons why The Three Amigos should have been more careful before passing on Morris’ story:

  1. They were dealing with Dick Morris, for cryin’ out loud. Dick Morris is famously unreliable. If there is anyone with whom a journalist should likely be careful, it would have to be Dick Morris.

  2. They had not seen Morris’ actual account. At the time they repeated Morris’ charges, the Amigos had not seen the oily adviser’s actual testimony; that would not be released for two more days. Instead, they were reporting what they’d been told that Morris had said--told by GOP operatives “who had seen the testimony.” This in a press corps that, just one week before, had told the nation how President Clinton would turn purple with rage in the course of his grand jury testimony. It’s quite clear: the press corps simply refuses to stop passing on unverified accounts from interested parties. And note, if you will, the way Press presents the charges, in the question we quote above. Press reports Morris’ charges as established fact. He doesn’t ask Carville if the charges are true; he simply asserts them, as if they’ve been established.

  3. Morris had denied that he had first-hand knowledge. At the time the Amigos repeated these charges, the Post had reported that Morris was admitting he did not have first-hand knowledge. Here at THE HOWLER, we were aware of this report by eight in the morning. Twelve hours later, when they went on the air, the Amigos had still somehow not heard.
In other words, the Amigos had been given an unreliable report of what an unreliable witness had said--and the witness had acknowledged he had no first-hand knowledge! So what did the Amigos decide to do? What else? They went on the air and repeated the charges! Of course! Their viewers were never told that Morris had denied direct knowledge of the matter in question. So have sophists and spinners, for their own varied reasons, created turmoil through the annals of time.

Read on: No one does it better than Chris. See Read on, part II.