7 December 1999
A Howler extra: But who will correct the corrections?
Synopsis: The grumbling Post finally made a correction. Predictably, the correction is wrong. (Plus: Brian Williams does "margin of error.")
The Washington Post, 12/7/99
Commentary by Brian Williams
The News with Brian Williams, MSNBC, 12/6/99
We pretty much knew there would be a correction, based on our
conversation with a grumbling editor. But when we opened this
morning's Washington Postand signaled the analysts to start in
on their bagelswe had a pretty good idea that the Post's "correction"
would itself be wrong. The editor with whom we had spoken on Monday
had clearly never seen the text of Gore's statement. And she kept
asserting that Ceci Connolly's bogus "quote" meant the
same thing as what Gore had said.
Sure enoughhere is the hapless Post's sorry effort to "correct"
its gruesome error:
THE WASHINGTON POST: A Dec. 1 article and a Dec. 2 Politics
column item about Vice President Gore's involvement in the Love
Canal hazardous waste case quoted Gore as saying, "I was
the one that started it all." In fact, Gore said, "That
was the one that started it all," referring to the congressional
hearings on the subject that he called.
But "That was the one that started it all" plainly
does not refer to the hearings. Here, once again, is the
actual text the Post editor had apparently never seen:
GORE: I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing.
I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found
a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. Had the
first hearing on that issue and Toone, Tennesseethat was the
one that you didn't hear of. But that was the one that started
it all. We passed a major national law to clean up hazardous
waste sites. And we had new efforts to stop the practices that
ended up poisoning water around the country. We've still got work
to do. But we made a huge difference. And it all happened because
one high school student got involved.
"[T]hat was the one that you didn't hear of" clearly
refers to Toone, Tennessee. Gore also includes this element in
his account of this matter in Earth in the BalanceLove
Canal became famous, Toone didn't (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/7/99).
"But that was the one that started it all" also, plainly,
refers to Toone. ("[T]hat was the one that you didn't
hear of. But that was the one that started it all."
Children could figure this out.) What Gore is saying is
rather plain to those who aren't pushing agendas. GORE: You
never heard of Toone, Tennessee. But that was the one that started
the process that led to hearings and to important "new efforts."
And it all happened because of that kid in Tennessee. Ironicallygiven
the widespread buffoonism that followedthis statement was an
exhortation to students not to be cynical, to get involved in
the public process.
In this statement, Gore does not say that his hearings "started
it all." He clearly says that Toone, Tennesseeand that high
school kidstarted it all. The fact that the Washington Post can't
figure this out helps explain why their reportersCeci Connolly,
for exampleshould do as little interpreting as possible.
Quite literally, any college-bound high school student would be
expected to scan a text like this. One prays that the average
high school teacher would not accept work of this caliber.
We repeat what we have said beforework like this is an ad
for C-SPAN. What happened last week in the Washington Post continued
and extended an eight-month-long fraud. Sorry, folkswe hate to
be rude. But in the Post's bumbling correction this morning, we
see the very limited skills of the hapless elite that's involved.
And speaking of hapless elites: Newsweek's current
New Hampshire poll has Bradley ahead, so Brian Williams featured
the numbers last night (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/16/99, to recall
what happens when Gore polls ahead). In the process, Williams
offered the most incompetent application of "margin or error"
we have ever seen anyone make:
WILLIAMS: Let's go to Democrats. [ON SCREEN: Bradley: 47, Gore:
40] Bradley-Gore, six point margin of error. Gore wishes that
was a little bit more of a comfortable margin for him. He's behind
by one percentage point.
That is the most ridiculous application of "margin of
error" we have ever seen. It is incredible to think that,
in a nation of 270 million people, this absolute, groaning technical
ignorance sits at the head of our national discourse.