Part 4—McMorris Rodgers and us: Speaking in one of our most august forums, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers did in fact make a misstatement.
She was delivering the official GOP response to the president’s State of the Union Address. At one point, she said what follows.
What she said was wrong:
MCMORRIS RODGERS (1/28/14): Not long ago, I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who had hoped the president's health care law would save her money, but found out instead her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We've all talked to too many people who've received cancellation notices they didn't expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have.Out in Spokane, the Spokesman-Review fact-checked her claim, which experts had judged to be unlikely. Here’s what they found:
Bette Grenier of Spokane actually did get a cancellation notice. Her premiums would have gone up.
But they would have gone up only $400 per month. Speaking to the American people in one of our most august forums, McMorris Rodgers embellished the size of the hit by a substantial amount.
Should people be told about such misstatements? As best we can tell via Nexis, the New York Times has never cited McMorris Rodgers’ misstatement as part of its news reporting.
Presumably, many Times readers watched McMorris Rodgers make her high-profile misstatement. Unless they read Paul Krugman’s column on February 3, they have never been told that she stretched the truth by a substantial amount.
Using Nexis, we find no sign that the Washington Post has ever corrected this misstatement, although the paper explicitly reported the claim about Bette in Spokane two days after the address. Beyond that, we find no sign that the Post’s Fact Checker blog has corrected or challenged this statement.
By modern standards, of course, McMorris Rodgers’ stretcher was barely a blip on the screen. For many years, we have lived in a world where pretty much anything goes.
Routinely, politicians make bogus claims. But then again, so do our most famous “journalists.”
Famous journalists invent quotations, then pretend that politicians said them. And not only that! If it weren’t for fanciful paraphrase, would we have any paraphrase at all?
Ridiculous claims are quite widespread about all sorts of policy matters. Meanwhile, a raft of accurate basic facts never get mentioned at all.
Al Gore said he invented the Internet, and Susan Rice said it wasn’t al Qaeda! Mitt Romney said he enjoys firing people. He strapped a dog to the roof of his car!
We live in an age of clowns and buffoons. Many such life forms appear on TV, or somehow manage to struggle along as our most famous columnists.
When major figures make ludicrous claims—If we lower the tax rate, we get extra revenue!—major “journalists” don’t bat an eye. Bogus claims get pimped for decades. Tens of millions of people end up believing them, fervently.
Even after the Spokesman-Review did its work, McMorris Rodger got a pass for her mini-howler. She uttered her misstatement in one of our most august forums. But to the nation’s yawning “press corps,” it was apparently close enough for major health care pronoucement.
McMorris Rodger got a pass. What about Rapmaster Cantor, concerning whom Krugman wrote this?
KRUGMAN (2/7/14): [P]oliticians and, I'm sorry to say, all too many news organizations immediately seized on the 2 million number and utterly misrepresented its meaning. For example, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, quickly posted this on his Twitter account: ''Under Obamacare, millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs and those who keep them will see their hours and wages reduced.''Using Nexis, we find no sign that Cantor was tweaked for this misstatement in New York Times news reporting. That seems odd because, as Krugman noted, he's House majority leader.
Not a word of this claim was true...
The Times did report on the general issue involved in Cantor’s song. On February 5, it published a front-page report by Lowrey and Weisman—a mealy-mouthed recitation which ought to go straight to The National Museum of What The Two Parties Have Said.
To call this news report “wishy-washy” would be an insult to wishing and washing. This is the best the bold reporters could manage to say about Republican claims:
“The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated.”
The analysis was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated! Or, as Krugman later put it:
“Not a word of [their claims] was true.”
Lowrey and Weisberg struggled to avoid such judgments, as you can see if you review their report.
In the modern age, pretty much everybody agrees that pretty much anything goes. Sadly enough, you can see this playing out as the liberal world emerges from the decades-long slumber it had enjoyed before the war in Iraq.
It’s startling to see the way liberal orgs have patterned themselves on the conservative orgs liberals long derided. As it turns out, we are largely ditto-heads too! We long to see Our Maddows clown and tell us our side is right.
Sometimes, this is achieved through false statements. Perhaps more often, it’s being achieved by omission of accurate fact.
Meanwhile, did Krugman’s column perhaps overstate the size of McMorris Rodgers’ error? Because she spoke in an august forum, McMorris Rodgers should have been corrected. We’d also say that Krugman may given a slightly false impression about the size of her error.
Maddow has been playing the fool, a role to which she brings many skills. In an age when anything goes, that explains why we ditto-heads love her.