Dowd picks and chooses her facts: Should we the people be upset about Chelsea Clinton’s vile conduct?
Everything is conceivable! That said, Maureen Dowd is deeply upset about the former first daughter’s behavior. Rending her garments and tearing her hair, Dowd started Sunday’s column like in this way, headline included:
DOWD (7/13/14): Isn’t It Rich?Dowd started by retro-sliming Jenna Bush, although without using her name. Then, she landed on the Clintons’ daughter, who has “join[ed] her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.”
Chelsea Clinton never acted out during the eight years she came of age as America’s first daughter.
No ditching of her Secret Service detail. No fake IDs for underage tippling. No drug scandal. No court appearance in tank top and toe ring. Not even any dirty dancing.
Despite a tough role as the go-between in the highly public and embarrassing marital contretemps of her parents, Chelsea stayed classy.
So it’s strange to see her acting out in a sense now, joining her parents in cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.
Under the circumstances, that is truly remarkable language. Other such language litters the piece.
According to Dowd, Chelsea Clinton is “gobbling whopping paychecks not commensurate with her skills, experience or role in life.” Like her parents, she is involved in “gross money grabs.” As she closes, Dowd says the Clintons “needs to protect their daughter...from their wanton acquisitiveness.”
That's some very tough language. But does that language make sense?
Is Chelsea Clinton “cashing in to help feed the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.?” Is she “gobbling whopping paychecks?” Has she been drawn into the rapacious maw of “wanton acquisitiveness?”
Not exactly, no—at least, not in this instance. Let’s run through a few basic facts, several of which were excluded from Dowd’s overwrought column.
First fact: According to the news report Dowd cited in her column, Chelsea Clinton doesn’t keep her speaking fees for herself. She donates all fees to the Clinton Foundation, which is, of course, a charity.
Several other basic facts appeared at the start of the news report Dowd cited. Below, you see reporter Amy Chozick’s second and third paragraphs:
CHOZICK (7/10/14): Aides emphasized that while Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton often address trade groups and Wall Street bankers, Ms. Clinton, now 34, focuses on organizations whose goals are in line with the work of the family’s philanthropic organization, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Organizers said her star power helped sell tickets and raise money.According to that news report, the majority of Chelsea Clinton’s speeches are unpaid. She stays away from corporate groups, “focus[ing] on organizations whose goals are in line with the work of the family’s philanthropic organization.”
And unlike her parents’ talks, Ms. Clinton’s speeches “are on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, and 100 percent of the fees are remitted directly to the foundation,” said her spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, adding that “the majority of Chelsea’s speeches are unpaid.”
How strange! Those last two facts didn’t appear in Dowd’s column, in which she shrieked about the “rapacious” conduct of the former first daughter.
How about that other fact—the fact that Chelsea Clinton’s fees all go to the Clinton Foundation? Dowd did include that fact in her column, but she did so in such an accusatory way that many commenters to Dowd’s column didn’t seem to have noticed.
In this passage, Dowd reveals the fact that Chelsea Clinton donates all her fees to the Clinton Foundation. She does so in such a hostile way that some readers didn’t seem to catch what she had said:
DOWD: As the 34-year-old tries to wean some of the cronies from the Clinton Foundation—which is, like the Clintons themselves, well-intended, wasteful and disorganized—Chelsea is making speeches that go into foundation coffers. She is commanding, as The Times’s Amy Chozick reported, up to $75,000 per appearance.Dowd is a skillful attack dog. She knows how to tell you that Chelsea doesn’t keep the money while making it sound like she’s doing something vile.
Reading through comments to Dowd’s column, we were struck by the large numbers of commenters who didn’t seem to realize that Chelsea Clinton doesn’t keep her speaking fees for herself. As such, that paragraph by Dowd is a lesson in deceptive writing—in how to include an ameliorating fact while making it sound like you’ve described additional rapacious conduct.
In fact, Dowd’s column teaches a set of lessons in the “journalism” of pseudo-scandal. Here are two:
1) Omit ameliorating facts. 2) If you must include an ameliorating fact, surround that fact with scathing language and your readers may not notice.
Yesterday, we showed you another of Dowd’s deceptions. She said she couldn’t imagine “why on earth” an organization would pay $75,000 to someone as undistinguished as Chelsea Clinton. This raised the obvious suggestion that something untoward might be going on.
But in the news report Dowd cited, that question was answered in some detail. According to reporter Chozick, Chelsea Clinton is a celebrity. People of a certain ilk will pay good money to see her.
According to the news report, organizations hire her to speak at fund-raisers because she’s a draw. Because they hire her to speak, they make a lot of money.
This phenomenon was described in detail in Chozick's news report, starting in paragraph 2. Feigning indignant incomprehension, Dowd simply left it out.
For many years, Dowd has been the most unbalanced of all major national columnists. Sunday’s column was the latest in a very long walk of shame.
For unknown reasons, Dowd has always enjoyed beating up on the wives and daughters of male Dem pols. In our view, her strange imbalance was on display again in Sunday’s bomb-throwing column.
Basic facts were disappeared. The column’s one ameliorating fact was camouflaged by hostile language. In the process, some very rough language was aimed at a person who speaks for free more often than not and who doesn’t keep the money when she speaks for pay.
Yesterday, Media Matters filed a report about Dowd’s speaking fees. (Warning: In the report, Joe Strupp compares Dowd’s average speaking fee to Chelsea Clinton's maximum fee.)
We can’t vouch for the accuracy of Strupp’s figures. But let us guess that Dowd’s speaking fees go straight into the maw of Dowd’s deep and rapacious pockets.
Tomorrow: How to invent a scandal