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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Media Is Lazy

Let's face it, the so-called liberal media is lazy. They are not reporters but "transcribers" of events, as Neal Gabler so accurately described it on this weekend's Fox Report. Liberal media, conservative media, it doesn't matter. They present information to us, passing it off as the truth, when in reality, what we seem to get, time and time again, is misinformation.

What happens is, a piece of information will be distorted, and that distorted information is then repeated for public consumption.

I'll use an example I've used before: conservatives who say that John Kerry is the "most liberal" member of the Senate, and John Edwards is the "fourth most liberal" senator. This line has been repeated many times, but when it's said, rarely does anyone say "for 2003." The rankings come from the magazine National Journal. If you were to look over the Kerry/Edwards rankings over a period of years, you'd find that their lifetime average doesn't even place them into the top 10. Rarely does the media challenge this claim when it is made (see The Daily Howler for in-depth analysis of this and other examples of laziness in the mainstream media).

Now, to the Swift Boat Vets for the Truth. John O'Neill, the group's co-founder, has been making the rounds on the news debate shows to present his distortions and outright lies about John Kerry. To his credit, Chris Matthews of Hardball grilled O'Neill pretty hard, and James Carville on Crossfire last week was...well...mad at John O'Neill. It probably wasn't the most productive interview on television. Here's a sample: (you can read the transcript here).

O'NEILL: I'm the guy that took over John Kerry's boat in Vietnam, PCF94. There are 60 people of the people that were in our unit who contributed to this deal, including most of the officers who served with John Kerry no further away than that camera is from me right now. I met and debated John Kerry in 1971. I didn't wait for 35 years.

CARVILLE: Did you wait -- did you meet him in Vietnam?

O'NEILL: No.

CARVILLE: You mean you never met him in Vietnam?

O'NEILL: No

John O'Neill and his Swft Boat Vets group are not telling the whole truth. There's just no way around that fact. For instance, a recent television ad attacking Kerry begins with a statement that the men in the commercial "served with" John Kerry. That's not true. The only connection these people have was that they were in Vietnam the same time. So, yes, in that sense, they "served" with John Kerry. Which means I can make a similar claim: during Desert Storm, I served with Colin Powell, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I also served with General Norman Schwarzkopf. See how that works? I didn't have any contact with either general, but since we were in the same theater of operation, I "served" with them.

Sixty men have signed on to smear John Kerry. None were crewmembers of the boat Kerry commanded. This is a pretty important piece of information.

What's more, these are men trying to remember events from 35 years ago. I have my doubts about what they claim to remember about John Kerry. But I'll bet someone helped them to "remember" what they claimed to have witnessed.

The truth in this instance is a bit subjective. In fact, there are three versions of the "truth" to deal with: the Swift Boat Vets; John Kerry and his crew's testimony; and the official military record. Having looked over the DOD records for John Kerry and the circumstances surrounding the awarding of his medals and ribbons, I'm going to go with the official record as being the most truthful account. The Swift Boat Vets I have no use for. I don't believe any of them. The person who gives Kerry's account of events the most credibility is Jim Rassmann, the U.S. Army special forces officer rescued by John Kerry and his swift boat crew.

The non-partisan group FactCheck has analyzed the claims of the Swift Boat Vets and, no surprise, found that most of their claims simply are not true. Give it a read, and you can see for yourself how truthful John O'Neill has been.


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