Supplemental: The journalism of pseudo-scandal!

TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014

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?

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.
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.”

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.

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.”
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.”

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


  1. I'm surprised that TDH didn't take more exception to this lazy line in Dowd's column:

    Dowd (7/12/2014):
    "Or let her speak for free. After all, she is in effect going to candidate school. No need to get paid for it, too."

    As TDH points out:
    Chozick's (7/9/14):
    [Chelsea's] spokesman, Kamyl Bazbaz, add[ed] that “the majority of Chelsea’s speeches are unpaid.”

    Dowd can't be bothered to read what's printed in her own paper a few days before?

    1. Is this the real fear, that Chelsea might enter politics herself at some point by running for office?

    2. I think the real fear is blurting out "Is there really someone named Kamyl Bazbaz?"

    3. Yes, Americans with ethnic backgrounds have funny names. Lets all laugh at them. Ha ha ha. Do you suppose Clinton might have met some of those people with funny names in the global foundation work she has been doing, helping to improve living conditions around the world?

    4. No, I don't suppose. I know she plucked this one from her mama's employ at the state department and deposited him as her Press Secretary at the Chelsea Bill Hill Gaping Maw Foundation where presumably he is paid in part from proceeds of her paid, rather than volunteer, speeches.

      Bazbaz is a NYC native and graduate of prestigious Ivy League Brown University and was a paid staffer of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign before becoming a Schedule C employee of the US taxpayers.

      I think Krystal Ball is a funny name too. She, like Chelsea Clinton, gets paid by NBC.

      It's a small, small world after all.

  2. It really is disgusting behavior. Unbalanced doesn't begin to capture it. I hope Bill and Hillary, both of them, will takes the calculated risk and go after them for attacking their daughter. "She's a real piece of work, isn't she?" I can hear Bill say. See how far the NYT will go to defend her.

  3. I'm sure Maureen uses the funds to help feed children.

  4. Judging by the pitter patter of little commentary feet away from this I would say nobody cares if TDH trashes Dowd because once is enough.

    1. Sad. Because "Got My MoDo Workin'" is one of Boxcar Bob's greatest hits. He never tires of singing it.

    2. Does this column trash Dowd -- or has Dowd simply produced more garbage?

      Is the fact that Dowd's work is often deceptive crap a good reason to stop pointing it out when she does it again from her big platform?

      Or are you just a couple of douchebag trolls?

    3. No, no, no. By all means, point out every stupid column Dowd writes. Obviously "we, the people" are too dumb to judge them for ourselves, and if Somerby keeps hammering away, soon she will have no readers at all and the Times will be forced to fire her.

      I can't wait for next week's "Mansions of the Media" series, in which we will no doubt be reminded once again of Dowd's Georgetown digs once owned by the JFKs, and the Nantucket playhouses of Chris Matthews and the late Tim Russert, right next to Jack Welch.

      You can never point that out often enough.

      But we will wait patiently for that "Greatest Hit" to be sung again. We will, with little doubt, be treated today to another installment of how the whole Whitewater scandal was invented out of whole cloth, as well as all the mean things said about Al Gore 15 years ago.

      Boxcar Bob's Greatest Hits. And if you act now, we'll send you a Bonus CD -- Boxcar Bob Live from Tuscaloosa.

    4. Meanwhile, we have one heck of a refugee crisis at our southern border, plus ongoing crises in Gaza, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

      By all means, let's focus on Dowd's Sunday column.

      Yes, yes, yes. I know. This is a "media criticism" blog, and apparently there is nothing in the media coverage of the above crises worth criticizing as much as Maureen Dowd's column on Chelsea's speaking fees.

      After all, if Bob does not speak out, who will? Dionne? Drum? Digby? MSNBC people? Don't make me laugh. They are all part of the vast conspiracy of liberal media silence, their lips sealed by their plutocratic paymasters.

    5. Yes @8:54, it doesn't matter who becomes president in 2016 and it certainly doesn't matter if the media starts trashing the putative candidate in 2014. No need to push back because who cares who gets elected when there are so many larger problems in the world.

    6. @ 8:25 my point, if I improperly stated it @12:04 is this:

      Dowd wrote another horrific column. Bob did a post on it.
      Dowd's horrific column was based on an Amy Chozik article. Bob had done a post on it.

      No doubt the Chozik article deserved a critique and 77 commenters joined the discussion. Dowd columned deserved a thrashing. 88 readers piped up.

      Now Somerby is back beating the same horse, Dowd.
      The topic, if not Dowd's career, is, if not dead, of dubious futher interest to commenters.

      For that you call me a douchebag troll. Sorry, but that comment is as stale as bread baked by Aristotle's mommy.

    7. 8:43. Sarcastic critiques are really ineffective. You should try to say what you mean straightforward way. Just a suggestion. I'm not dissing you saying that what you are saying is wrong or that you are a bad person or that you are not right about what you're saying. Just

    8. OK, I'll say it in the straightforward way you desire.

      Like a 40-year-old guy still wearing his high school letter jacket, Bob wants to spend his time revelling in his Glory Days, some of which was all the attention he got when he first revealed the horribleness of Dowd.

      And like a comic that has long run out of new material, or a singer who hasn't had a hit in years, you can always thrill your fans with the old stuff.

    9. This is a straightforward criticism of a person you have probably never met. It says nothing whatsoever about what you find objectionable in the content of what he writes. For example, what did you disagree with in the current post, the one these comments are supposed to refer to?

    10. "Judging by the pitter patter of little commentary feet away from this I would say nobody cares if TDH trashes Dowd because once is enough."

      See how cute a little douchebaggery can be!

      Just look at him, uncle KZ! Ain't he cute?

  5. OMB (Dancing around a point with OTB)

    Somerby alluded to something about Dowd that IS worth commenting on and that he is not the best person to pursue further.

    One of the reasons that Dowd is so vicious toward spouses and children of her political targets is because she had never had either of her own to worry about.


    1. But Bob cares so much about other people's black kids, even if there is no possible solution to the segregated schools which they attend.

  6. I think Bob also means "mitigating" instead of "ameliorating." But then again, he's always been a sloppy writer badly in need of an editor.

    Cue the Bobfan wordshmith who will chime in how perfect a word "ameliorating" is, and how "mitigating" and "ameliorating" are actually perfectly synonymous.

    Well, knock both of your selves out.

    1. Which Bobfan would you prefer? The expert on "creating" or the one who knows the ins and outs of "inventing"?

  7. I am beginning to see the error in TDH's thinking. I think Dowd must have cost Gore Florida instead of Chris Matthews

  8. Lynn Vavreck has an interesting piece on the current state of affairs for Hillary Clinton. Bob may find much to like about it if he can get over the fact she is a professor, a woman, under fifty, has been on MSNBC, and her piece appears in the New York Times.

    1. This part of the URL pasted above gets you to the story:

      What is the rest of the URL for?

      Another negative article about how Clinton is too stupid to know when to announce her candidacy and whatever happens to her as a result must be her own fault. There is nothing new or interesting here.

      If Clinton were simply conducting a book tour and had no plans whatsoever to run for the presidency, how would the press be treating her any differently? When you announce your candidacy you have to start filing forms, adhering to rules, doing fund-raising and paying staff. Why start any of that TWO YEARS before the next election? Another lazy journalist with nothing current to write about, piling on Clinton.

    2. In response to Question 1, I have no idea. I am just a lazy commenter who clicked on the address, copied it, and pasted the result.

      In response to Paragraph 2, in a vein similar to your first question:

      "Another negative article about...Clinton" was all you needed to write for us to know you are too stupid and lazy not to see anything other than glowing praise for Hillary or attacks on her perceived enemies as negative.

      Vavrek is not a journalist. But I guess not fully reading my comment or her opinion piece, you didn't learn that.

    3. You thought that was a positive article?

    4. 2:09 Are you still having trouble seeing things which are not there and missing those things which are?

      I believe the only adjective I used was "interesting."

  9. I'm going to be a little redundant which I think I'm paradoxically sort of entitled to because I don't abuse my fellow posters by being the twelfth
    peson signing on as "Anonymous." Please, take a day and think up a handle. More people will read you, no one will know it's you, and you'll feel better about yourself.
    Anyway, what I think Bob misses, and maybe it's good and bad, is that to a large degree we have simply stopped listening to each other. Take the IRS Scandal, a ridiculous circus dreamed up for one sort of news consumer, yet too lame to even argue about by the rest. Maureen Dowd is not taken seriously by serious people. Period. Why does She keep her job? Well, She is really in Show Business and once you have a hit in Show Business it can take you a long way.
    In Hillary's run it will be interesting to see how some play the game. Will Ariana bring the deranged Marc Cooper out of retirement to "cover" the election? Maybe, but the L.A. Times and Weekly won't. Will anybody call Matthews out on his 180? Maybe, but who will care? Will the Newsmax Rape Victim, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey grace us with there presence? Maybe, but these laughingstocks probably stand a better chance of taking home the 20 our so grand they are looking for by repenting.
    But, the past is likely to be prologue in Hill's triumph. Watching Dowd flip out in desperation will be fun for a few of us... but, most will NOT CARE.