Accuracy in Media

The Washington Post gives candidates a “Pinocchio” for lying in campaign ads. But the Post, known locally as the Compost, has been telling some whoppers of its own.

First, the Post ombudsman, or consumer advocate, has admitted that someone (unidentified) on the national desk of the paper misrepresented GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s remarks about terrorism and Iraq to make her look like a fool.

In another case, in what may be a first, the paper has criticized John McCain for running an ad based on information in the Post. The paper now claims that its own information was misleading.

Finally, at this late date in the campaign, the Post still has not uttered a word about Barack Obama’s childhood mentor, a communist named Frank Marshall Davis. Post writer David Maraniss wrote a 10,000-word article about Obama’s growing-up years in Hawaii, without noting that Davis was a significant influence over Obama during that time. Maraniss simply made the decision that the information was not significant or relevant and that Post readers didn’t have the right to know.

This is a case of lying by omission.

In addition to being a communist, Davis was exposed by Toby Harden of the London Daily Telegraph as a pot head, pornographer and sex pervert. Obama, an admitted drug user who drank alcohol with Davis, was ten when he met the communist and came under his tutelage. Davis mentored him for the next eight years.  

On the Fox News Channel, demonized by the left as the main source of anti-Obama news and information, Bill O’Reilly on September 17 finally mentioned the role of Davis and other Obama mentors, saying that Davis was an “activist” with “significant influence” over Obama. “Barack Obama met Davis when he was just 10 years old and sought his advice throughout his teen years,” O’Reilly noted.

O’Reilly’s guest, author David Freddoso, supplied some of the evidence of Davis’s communist activities. AIM had this information back in February of this year, meaning that O’Reilly was seven months late on the story. Freddoso borrowed heavily from our research.

O’Reilly let Freddoso speak but didn’t express any alarm over the fact that a member of the Moscow-controlled Communist Party had been one of Obama’s mentors.

While the handling of the Davis material may represent the most blatant example of how the  media are protecting Obama from a damaging story that could sink his campaign, the attacks on Palin demonstrate how news organizations spend their time making things up in order to destroy a member of the Republican ticket.

The Post ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has now documented something that William Kristol of The Weekly Standard and others had previously noted―that the paper deliberately misrepresented Palin’s remarks when she presided over an event sending troops to Iraq. Palin said the Iraq-bound troops would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoice in the deaths of thousands of Americans.”

This was a reference to al Qaeda in Iraq.

But the Post reported, in an article by Anne E. Kornblut, that Palin was referring to the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. It cited no evidence for the claim that this is what Palin said or meant. This was the Post’s false interpretation, designed to make Palin look like she didn’t know what she was talking about, since an Iraqi government link to the al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11 is not accepted by the Post and most of the media. 

The paper went on to say that Palin’s view―at least the paper’s false interpretation of her view―had been “rejected” by knowledgeable people. Hence, Palin was portrayed as a know-nothing.

Howell admits that this is not what Kornblut had actually reported, and that her story was “edited on the National desk” of the Post to claim that Palin was referring to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It was edited, therefore, to make Palin look dumb. Edited by whom? The dishonest Post editor was not named.

However, Howell reports that Kornblut did not object to this dishonest editing of her story. Five days later, the Post acknowledged that Palin was not referring to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq but rather al Qaeda in Iraq. The paper admitted, in effect, that it had lied.

Were there any apologies to Palin for trying to make her look like a dolt? Not from the Post. All that it did was issue a “clarification.”

In another example of dishonesty by the Post, on September 20 the paper ran a story saying that a McCain ad about Obama was a “stretch” and “dubious.” McCain was “clearly exaggerating wildly,” the paper said.

But the ad was based on reporting from the Washington Post!  

Here’s what the McCain ad said: “Obama has no background in economics. Who advises him? The Post says it’s Franklin Raines, for ‘advice on mortgage and housing policy.’ Shocking. Under Raines, Fannie Mae committed ‘extensive financial fraud.’ Raines made millions. Fannie Mae collapsed. Taxpayers? Stuck with the bill.”

The Post says this “flimsy” and “dubious” charge, which was “not made up completely out of whole cloth,” was based on reporting by a Post reporter named Anita Huslin. She had written a July 16 profile of Raines, the discredited former boss of Fannie Mae, saying that he had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”

So if Raines is taking calls from the Obama campaign and giving them advice on mortgage and housing, why is the McCain ad based on “flimsy” or “dubious” information and a “stretch?”
It seems that the Post “fact-checker,” Michael Dobbs, realized that her story was extremely damaging to Obama. So he went back to Huslin for a different version of the conversation and got her to say that Raines’s advice to Obama was about “general housing, economy issues.”

But wait. Didn’t Huslin report that Raines said that he was advising Obama on “mortgage” issues? Remember that her story said that Raines had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”

Isn’t this as plain as the nose your face? Do words mean what they say?

But this would mean that the McCain ad against Obama was true. And the Post couldn’t permit itself to come to this conclusion.

Having gotten Huslin to somewhat change her story about what she had previously reported, Dobbs reported that Huslin also now believed that Raines’s advice was “Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific” and, therefore, the McCain ad was misleading.

Please understand what is happening here. Dobbs was so determined to find McCain guilty of airing an inaccurate ad that he had to take issue with the reporting of his own paper that was the basis of the ad. The only way he could find McCain guilty of running a misleading ad was to find his own paper guilty of running a misleading story. This was th
e price that had to be paid to save Obama from a messy situation.

Huslin got the message and changed her story so that Dobbs could bash McCain. This is how bad the bias has become at the Post. It is embarrassing the lengths to which the paper will go to protect Obama.

Huslin’s new statement that Raines’s advice to Obama was about “general housing, economy issues” had now become “general discussions about economic issues.”

Since the new version doesn’t specifically include the word “mortgage,” the McCain ad is now dubious and flimsy.

But it gets worse. Dobbs said that the Obama campaign had issued a statement by Raines insisting, “I am not an advisor to Barack Obama, nor have I provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters.” Dobbs also reported that Obama spokesman Bill Burton told him in an e-mail that the campaign had “neither sought nor received” advice from Raines “on any matter.”

But remember that the Post had initially reported that Raines had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”

So who’s lying? If we are now to believe Dobbs and the Obama campaign, it is the Post.

Yet Dobbs also reports that “By Raines’s own account, he took a couple of calls from someone on the Obama campaign, and he or she had general discussions about economic issues. I have asked both Raines and the Obama people for more details on these calls.”

Dobbs himself doesn’t seem to know what really happened, but seems intent on discrediting the reporting of the Post’s own reporter, Huslin, so that he can accuse the McCain campaign of getting the facts wrong in an ad.  

It gets confusing, but the bottom line is that McCain is now guilty of misrepresenting a new version of a conversation that has been reinterpreted by the Post after the McCain ad came out! The new version has been conveniently provided to get Obama off the hook for taking advice from Raines about the mortgage mess.

The lesson is not to trust the Post when its reporting is the basis for a McCain ad.

A better lesson is not to trust the Post.

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.