Accuracy in Media

When you look back over the campaign coverage, some of the worst cases involved the phony CBS News story against President Bush over his National Guard service, and the joint CBS News/New York Times investigation of missing explosives in Iraq.  CBS News had wanted to run that story just three days before the election.  The Times beat its partner to the punch, running the story about a week before the election and giving John Kerry the opportunity to beat Bush over the head with it.  The essential elements of the story soon came into question, but not before Kerry used the Times story in a negative campaign ad against Bush.

Another atrocious story which made Republicans look bad was carried by the Washington Post on October 17 under the headline “Gatherings.”  It was about a so-called “Republican barbecue” of people engaging in strange behavior.  The Post claimed that the event was “punctuated by the possibly unprecedented occurrence of a young woman in a cowboy hat pretending to make out with a poster of Dick Cheney.”

Five days later, the Post ran this correction, which we quote in its entirety: “In the Oct. 17 Sunday Source, the ‘Gatherings’ story described a Republican barbecue held to watch a presidential debate.  The item reported ‘the possibly unprecedented occurrence of a young woman in a cowboy hat pretending to make out with a poster of Dick Cheney.’ The item should have explained that the woman was asked to pose with the vice president’s picture by the photographer working for The Washington Post.  The woman also did not pretend to ‘make out’ with the picture; at the photographer’s suggestion, she pretended to blow a kiss at it.  The item should have explained that the party was hosted in response to a request from The Post, which discussed the decorations and recipes with the host and agreed to reimburse the cost of recipe ingredients.”

This correction should have been an apology.  The Post asked for the party to occur and paid for some of it.  Then the Post asked the participants to engage in strange behavior, including kissing that picture of Cheney, which was transformed into something it was not.  The story had manufactured elements in order to make it more dramatic than it actually was. 

A reader’s short letter ran in the Post under the title, “Ethical Embarrassment.” The writer, from Fairfax, Virginia, commented, “According to the Corrections column of Oct. 22, your Sunday Source editors partially funded a meal to watch a presidential debate, sent along a photographer to take staged pictures, and then reported the event?with all the objectivity of a supermarket tabloid.  I expect better from The Post.”

These incidents help demonstrate how major organs of the national liberal media will do almost anything to make Republicans and Republican officials look bad.  Yes, a correction occurred in the case of that “Republican barbecue,” but it appeared five days later and in a different section of the paper.  The correction, of course, was much smaller than the original story.  It’s a safe bet that most people who saw the original story did not see the correction.  No wonder some people call the paper the Washington Compost.

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