Don’t believe everything — or even anything — that you read in the papers

From James Taranto’s Best of the Web Today:

The McCain campaign has released Todd and Sarah Palin’s 2006 and 2007 tax returns, the Associated Press notes in a brief dispatch, which ends as follows:

The McCain-Palin campaign had said the tax returns would be released Monday, but it suddenly put them out Friday afternoon–a time long used by government to reveal embarrassing news because few people watch TV or read newspapers Friday evening and Saturday.

And the Palins’ tax returns are embarrassing because . . . well, the AP doesn’t say in its brief (129-word) dispatch. A later, longer version of the dispatch, which contains the same closing paragraph about “embarrassing news,” reveals that the Palins’ tax liability for 2007 turned out to be greater than they thought when they filed for an extension in April. As a result they may owe the IRS interest but not penalties. That’s embarrassing?

Could it be that the AP just throws in that disclaimer about “embarrassing news” on all Friday afternoon stories? Nope, notes that when Joe and Jill Biden released their tax returns three Fridays earlier, no such disclaimer was included in the AP’s report.

It did, however, mention that “the Bidens’ move is designed to pressure Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin to release her financial records.” Apparently in the AP’s eyes, all news is embarrassing to Sarah Palin.

A hilarious example of press bias against Palin occurred last FridayI on “The Diane Rehm Show,” a production of Washington’s WAMU-FM. The exchange between hostess Rehm, caller Tom of Norwich, Vt., and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne begins at about 46:10 of the “10:00 News Roundup”:

Tom: I just wonder why not more has been made of the statement by Palin during the debate last night that “Maliki and the Talabani”–this is a quote from the transcript–“also in working with us are knowing again that we are getting closer and closer to the point of victory.” The Talibani obviously are our absolute enemy and have been since 9/11; Maliki, our central ally in Iraq. This to me is a tremendous blunder, revealing a very superficial familiarity with these sorts of terms.

Rehm: Thanks for calling, Tom. . . . E.J.?

Dionne: I think that “superficial” is absolutely the right word for the knowledge or the lack of knowledge Palin showed yesterday. I’m glad the caller raised that one, and I suspect there is going to be a scouring of that transcript for exactly that sort of gaffe. That has echoes of some of the stuff she said to Katie Couric.

If you look at the debate transcript, however, you will see that the reference is not to “the Talabani” but to Talabani–as in Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq.

Unlike Tom and Dionne’s misunderstanding, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi‘s misquotation of Palin can’t be chalked up to superficiality. Her Sunday column included the following correction of her Friday column:

My column on the vice presidential debate incorrectly quoted Sarah Palin. Here is the correct quote: “And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people.”

The correction is a bit of a misquote too. Palin actually said, “I may not answer the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear,” as the official transcript confirms; some media transcripts missed the two italicized words.

Although the Web version of Vennochi’s Friday column has the almost-correct quote, we were able to retrieve the original column from Factiva. Here is how Vennochi quoted Palin:

The strategy for John McCain’s running mate was clear. Be folksy and perky. Her answers were sprinkled with “darn right,” and “betcha.” Early on, Palin told moderator Gwen Ifill she could ask whatever she wanted; “I’m gonna answer whatever I want.”

The most charitable explanation for this is that Vennochi, making notes during the debate, wrote down her interpretation of what Palin said and then mistook it for an actual quote.
Oh, the Sunday column that includes the correction is headlined, “Instead of Hype, How About Honesty?” Good question!

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  • Oldflyer

    I am sure that I have mentioned that the Washington Post is our home newspaper. E.J. Dionne is, of course, a WashPost columnist. Toxic. Sometime ago I refused to continue paying for the paper. But, my wife wanted the crosswords so she pays. I do walk down and pick it up for her because I read the funnies, Dilbert (business page), and the sports news. (I hate to do even that, but cannot help myself) I believe the sports scores, but I don’t even believe their weather reports–I get my weather on-line.

    Given early indications, I fully expect the Obama administration to kill talk radio, and maybe the blogsphere. Then we will be pretty much in the dark. However, if he turns out as bad as I expect he will, even the MSM may have a turnaround and start reporting some truth.

  • Mike Devx


    I am convinced that the MSM has thrown in the towel on objectivity and there is no going back. Even were they to try to turn back the clock, due *solely* to slumping ratings, the audience won’t return. Critical mass has been reached in every way. (You probably were being satirical with that last wistful sentence, anyway!)

    As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that when you lose a class, it’s extraordinarily difficult to get it back. The same thing has happened in the TV studios and the newspaper rooms. The partisans are rocking and rolling, and they will not go back quietly to their computers, teleprompters, and desks. It’s just not going to happen.

    I liked the AP (American Pravda) story today accusing McCain directly, and in a no-holds-barred manner, of outrageous mudslinging. (They’re all throwing the book at him, as directed by the Obama campaign.) I must confess that I am *still* amazed at how blatant the bias is – every day brings a new heightened level! – but I’ll get over that shock soon. I guess I still wish I was wrong. I wish years of objective journalism since the 40s weren’t disappearing down the rabbit hole, in a return to the naked partisanship of 1789-1940. But it is.

    I understand your wistful thought at the end! And in fact, because the general American public hasn’t quite turned (yet), the mainstream media does still have the narrowest of windows to revert. Because “the class is out of control”, though, it’s simply too late.