When misstatements go uncorrected

I was reading an editorial by a conservative writer this weekend who was focusing on Senator Michele Bachmann, who will be leaving the senate at the end of this year. During the editorial, Bachmann referenced Hillary Clinton as the “godmother of Obamacare.” While this may be a nice sound byte, it is not true and was not only left uncorrected, it was a key theme of the piece.

We deserve to hear the truth and while Bachmann may not like Hillary Clinton or Obamacare, the truth is Clinton is not the “godmother of Obamacare.” In fact, Obamacare traces some of its roots to an idea of the conservative thinking Heritage Foundation put forth by GOP Senator Bob Dole when he ran for president as an alternative to the Clinton proposal. It is also true that Senator Jim DeMint of Tea Party fame advocated for Romneycare, which borrowed from the Dole plan, until Obamacare patterned itself after it and Romney ran for president.

What frustrates me is when politicians try to rewrite history to mask their own hypocrisy and current agenda. It frustrates me more, when people let them off the hook when they do this. To be frank, this writer should have known better, but it is a good example of when editorialists have become “homers” for a way of thinking. This kind of writing disappoints no matter where it comes from. It is so very hard to know the underlying facts of an issue, when people who should know better, let misstatements go without being corrected. Or, this writer could be accused of being Machiavellian. I would  call it sophisticated name-calling, to paint something with a brush with intent to deceive.

I wrote a post a few months ago calling politicians on the carpet for calling something you don’t like as Nazism or Apartheid. The politicians should be vilified for doing this, as we are talking about a serious set of atrocities. To equate something with those atrocities against mankind, you better be talking about a serious offense. Reporters of any persuasion should call these folks on the carpet, as they are purposefully trying to deceive. We need to let politicians know that this is improper and that if they cannot come up with a better argument against something you disagree with than to call it Nazism, then maybe you do not deserve our trust as a leader.

Our problems are complex, so solutions need to factor in a multitude of issues. I realize that requires more of the reader (and writer), but we must do so, or the writer is doing a disservice to the public. Some solutions to problems even make good sound bytes, but unless you know the holistic issues or look at the real problem, rather than the problem as presented by an industry lobbyist, the solution will not address the problem or actually may make it worse. Whether the issue is gun deaths, climate change, eco-energy, education, poverty, etc., we need reporters and editorialists to focus on the issues and when politicians say things that are untrue, let people know they are.

I have noted this example before, but Senator John Kyl was caught in an incorrect use of facts and his response was priceless. “Don’t let my statements be confused with being factual.” I may not have quoted this exactly, but in essence he said do not trust me as I am a liar. This should have gotten more coverage than it did. The fact he was caught in a deception is outstanding in and of itself, but the fact he was not cornered on his excuse is amazing. Talk about an opportunity lost as an example for others. A reporter should have countered with a follow-up question that would ask him how should his constituents react to this statement.

I read editorials from many sources. It is one thing to have a bent one way or the other, but please do not misrepresent and don’t let people get away with comments that are incorrect. I realized they get thousands of emails, but I write editorialists on occasion with a job well done, but also to question why something was said a certain way. This is also why my favorite writers are the ones who tend to be more evenhanded. They see extremism for what it is and try to speak to the issues more. And, that is what we need to focus on, the issues and not the win-lose game of politics.

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4 thoughts on “When misstatements go uncorrected

  1. Good for you, catching the errors and calling them out. I think a lot of these errors are made out of sheer ignorance. The writer just doesn’t know better, follows someone else’s rhetoric, etc. But some are craftily couched attempts to muddle the minds of sound byte junkies. Frank Luntz wrote a book that discussed this in some detail. Words that Work:It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. http://www.amazon.com/Words-That-Work-What-People/dp/1401302599/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

    • Thanks Linda. This guy is a national columnist and should know better. With that said, I see so many pundits that don’t know enough detail about Obamacare to offer legitimate commentary, so there is a possibility he might not have known. The other issue is history and context. People seem to forget things that happened only a couple of years ago. I saw a piece written the other day to defend the governor of NC on an issue and then went back to 2012 on something. The problem is he was not governor in 2012. One final thought, since we run campaigns continually now, the rhetoric runs constantly, rather than giving it a rest. That “failed stimulus” campaign mantra of Romney and the GOP toward Obama is actually untrue, yet I heard Boehner use it the other day. Thanks for the link.

    • Thanks Hugh. Great to hear from you. Bachmann was being consistent with her practice of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. I recall her making John McCain furious when she went after someone without facts and he is in her own party.

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