One of the most laughable displays of the major media is claiming to correct misstatements by politicians and getting their own facts wrong in the process. A good example is David Shuster, NBC election correspondent, who falsely claimed to have nailed the Bush campaign for airing false charges against John Kerry.
The media realize that Kerry can be seriously hurt politically if he is perceived to be weak on fighting terrorism. So, appearing on the Chris Matthews MSNBC Hardball show, Shuster suggested the Bush campaign was lying. He aired part of a Bush ad which said the following: “President Bush signed the Patriot Act, giving law enforcement vital tools to fight terrorism. John Kerry, he voted for the Patriot Act, but, pressured by fellow liberals, he’s changed his position.” Shuster shot back: “The problem is that the charges are false. Kerry has never endorsed scrapping vital law enforcement tools and his proposal to give judges greater control is the same position held by several top Republicans.” Shuster went on to say, “Kerry is not calling for repealing the law-enforcement powers alluded to in the ad. He’s calling for modification?”
On John Kerry’s own website, you can find one of his speeches in which he talks about “replacing the Patriot Act with a new law?” Replacing the Patriot Act with a new law clearly means that he is changing his position because he voted for the original law. And if judges are being given control over these powers, that is a significant and radical departure from existing law. Judges could use that new power to deny law enforcement the ability to pursue terrorists. So how is the Bush campaign ad false? Shuster goes on to say that Kerry’s new proposal is a position held by several top Republicans. That may be true, but it is irrelevant. Most of the opposition to the Patriot Act is driven by the liberal-left, including the ACLU.
Shuster claimed to have found another false charge in a Bush campaign ad, which said that Kerry “supported the 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax.” Shuster countered that, “Actually, Kerry never introduced such a gasoline tax. He mentioned the possibility 10 years ago in a magazine interview and then quickly dropped the idea.” But the ad did not charge that he introduced such a tax, only that he supported it.
Former CNN reporter Brooks Jackson, who runs something called factcheck.org, is being portrayed by public broadcasting as an arbiter of the truth on such matters. He, too, tries to dispute the Bush campaign ad by claiming that, “Kerry’s support [for the 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax] was so fleeting that the only evidence of it to surface so far are two old newspaper clips in which Kerry complains that he deserved more credit as a deficit-cutter.”
But if newspaper clips exist and Kerry did make the proposal, then why is it unfair to mention that he supported such a tax? Jackson says that Kerry “never voted for, or sponsored, legislation to impose such a tax, and he doesn’t support one now?” That’s fine, and Kerry can make that claim in his own ads. Jackson, Shuster & Company are trying to save Kerry the expense of defending his own record.