September 4, 2004
The smoking gunBy Thomas Lifson
The Associated Press, a powerful worldwide news source owned by its member daily newspapers, has perpetrated a vile and slanderous lie about President Bush and his supporters, and been caught read—handed. The smoking gun exists safe and sound in the cache memory of countless blog sites. The AP's reporter wrote a dispatch claiming that when President Bush told a rally of his supporters in
'the audience "of thousands booed. Bush did nothing to stop them."
Within seconds, the AP dispatch went around the world, and the lie was repeated. In point of fact, eyewitnesses and listeners to radio and television reports could hear that there was no audible booing, but there was supportive applause when the President called on everyone to pray for ex—President Clinton's recovery.
Unfortunately for the AP, we live in the age of the blogosphere. Almost as quickly as the lie was spread, bloggers started work documenting the report and its factual refutation. Recordings of the crowd's reaction, contradicting the AP, are avilable to anyone on the web, courtesy of America's blogforce.
Caught, the AP behaved disgracefully. They pulled the byline appearing on the report, one Tom Hays, who appears to work in
Even more tellingly, AP moved to cover its tracks, pulling the original report from the Lexis/Nexis database, effectively throwing it into Orwell's Memory Hole. Jonathan Last summarized its behavior as follows:
First of all, good for the AP for fixing the faulty reporting and including what seems to be an accurate description of the Republican crowd's reaction to bad news about President Clinton's health.
But the AP's conduct with regards to the rest of this story is not reassuring. We have an un—bylined bit of faulty reporting which was incorporated into the bylined work of another reporter without accreditation. After being confronted by the blogosphere, the AP pulled versions of the bad reporting from the web and the first instance of it from Lexis—Nexis. After it was revealed here at Galley Slaves that the bad reporting lived on in other versions of the story in Nexis, the AP went into Nexis and disappeared it from there, too. Then, they inserted a cleaned—up version with no time—stamp whatsoever. By the time media reporters like Jim Romenesko and Howard Kurtz and Jack Shafer get back to the office on Tuesday, there will be no story, because the AP will have completely altered all of the evidence.
In fact, as it stands right now, the only evidence that the AP ever made this enormous error is on blogs, such as this one, which copied the offending stories——remember, Lexis—Nexis does not page—cache the way Google does.
The AP's conduct reminds me of the famous Soviet picture of the Bolshevik leaders sitting on the couch. It began with the entire high command, and over the years, as individuals fell out of favor and were disappeared, was airbrushed over and over until, in the end, it showed only Lenin and Stalin, who were mysteriously seated on opposite ends of an enormous sofa.
Powerline summarized the damage done by the false report:
The AP's lie is spreading rapidly around the globe. Salon says: "Audience boos as Bush offers best wishes for
I'll stop there, but there are many more. Do you suppose that all of these news outlets will offer corrections? What proportion of the people who hear this story will ever find out that it was a complete lie, fabricated, apparently, by a Democrat who works for the AP?
The mainstream press is already facing a crisis of credibility. The blogosphere has a new opportunity to report the compelling information the establishment press will not cover — in this case about the misbehavior of very news agency they collectively own, and on whom they rely for a huge percentage of their content. Christmas in
It required roughly ten days for the old media to acknowledge that their censorship of the Swiftees could not hold. Perhaps this story will take as long to break through, but such is the sense of outrage current in the blogosphere that this one will not disappear either.
What does AP need to do, if it wishes to avoid destroying its own credibility over the next two weeks?
One, it must acknowledge that it is responsible for an outright hoax, consciously intended to damage the image of President Bush and his supporters. The outright fabrication of "did nothing to stop them" proves malicious intent.
Two, it must apologize to President Bush and his
Three, it must publicly identify all the people who wrote and approved the issuance of the fraudulent story.
Four, it must present to the public the backgrounds of those people identified in step three, including identification of all other political stories written by them concerning President Bush and other Republican candidates.
Five, it must call a press conference, identifying it as a historic occasion, and publicly apologize.
Six, the staff identified in step three must be fired, and the top management of AP must resign. They permitted an organization to grow which casually believed, without checking, the worst sort of personal character slander of an entire large class of people. And we're giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Seven, the AP must launch an affirmative action program to recruit conservatives at all levels, to correct the systematic discrimination which has enabled such frauds to pass muster in its editorial screening process.
That's just for starters.
This story has it all. Human interest. Misconduct. A cover—up. And it has legs. Ex—President Clinton's health will be in the news for months. The Presidential campaign has 8 weeks left to it. Press bias continues. This one gets hearts beating faster, because it is the smoking gun proving proving hideous press bias at the core of the estblished old media.
AP—gate has only just begun, and Woodward & Bernstein's latest incarnations are all over the blogs.