The MRC gets caught in the act of misquoting Howell Raines and apologizes, sort of. Will WorldNetDaily's Times-bashing author do the same?
By Terry Krepel
Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler occasionally treads into ConWeb territory for the occasional debunking. His latest venture resulted in an apology of sorts from the Media Research Center.
Somerby has of late been exposing the hack work that litters Bernard Goldberg's latest (and appropriately titled) book, "Arrogance," such as the alleged overuse of the term "homophobia" by columnist Frank Rich and alleged anti-gun bias in the media. The big, embarrassing blunder, though, was an accusation that former New York Times editor Howell Raines wrote that Ronald Reagan "couldn’t tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it."
While that line does indeed appear in Raines' book, "Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis," the truth as Somerby discovered is that 1) Raines was quoting someone else as saying it, and 2) it was a reference to fly fishing, not IQ.
Where did Goldberg pick up such an erroneous quotation? From all appearances, the Media Research Center.
Somerby quotes Brent Bozell attributing the quote to Raines. In addition, the quote appears several places in MRC literature, notably in "Notable Quotables" posts from 1994 and 1995 and a profile of sorts of Raines when he was named to the Times editor post.
Thus caught, the MRC noted that the error "has come to our attention" and quickly added a "clarification" to the 1994 and 1995 pages that states the quote "came in the midst of a multi-paragraph quote in a chapter in which he favorably recited the comments on things great and small (during a fishing venture to Hunting Creek near Thurmont, Maryland), from his companion on the trip, Dick Blalock." The full quote from Blaylock is then printed, followed by an assertion that "the other quotes from the book attributed to Raines, in various MRC articles, are accurate" and a note that "we regret the confusion."
This, for the record, is the full text of the MRC's excerpt from the Raines book:
Then one day in the summer of 1981 I found myself at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine. I was a correspondent in the White House in those days, and my work -- which consisted of reporting on President Reagan's success in making life harder for citizens who were not born rich, white, and healthy -- saddened me....My parents raised me to admire generosity and to feel pity. I had arrived in our nation's capital [in 1981] during a historic ascendancy of greed and hard-heartedness....Reagan couldn't tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it.
This is noteworthy because, as a reader reported to Somerby, the "greed and hard-heartedness" quote appears on page 56 of Raines' book, and the "shoelaces" quote appears on page 84. That last ellipsis spans 28 pages.
That's not "confusion" -- that's a full-blown error, the correction of which ought to be displayed more prominently on the MRC site, given how the MRC demands corrections when the "liberal" news media gets something wrong, as it did in July when CNN's Aaron Brown reported something that was later discredited.
Speaking of corrections, there's another person who needs to make one -- Bob Kohn, author of the WorldNetDaily-published Times-bashing book, "Journalistic Fraud." He seems to have committed a little journalistic fraud of his own by copying and pasting the MRC quote, complete with 28-page ellipsis span, onto pages 7 and 8 of his book.
Don't count on it, though, because Kohn appears to be oblivious to the fact that his employer is guilty of the same type of "journalistic fraud" -- "slanting the presentation of the facts in leads, headlines, and placement; utilizing polls, labels, and loaded language to hoodwink readers; and staffing the newsroom with hacks who manipulate the news to further a leftist political agenda," as it was put in WND's promo-disguised-as-news-story. (Just substitute "leftist" for "right-wing.") He's now a regular WND columnist, where he's been doing things like claiming conservative talk-radio host Sean Hannity deserves a Pulitzer Prize for unearthing a memo that allegedly claims Democrats were plotting to use the Senate Intelligence Committee for partisan Bush-bashing purposes.
"Once you've read this book, you'll never read the Times or any newspaper the same way again," WND chief Joseph Farah is breathlessly quoted as saying in that same piece of PR fluff. He's right; with an big error like that made so early in his book, one can only wonder about Kohn's research and agenda -- and WND's motive for publishing it.
And while the MRC gets credit for "clarifying" Raines' quote, the veracity of its research -- combined with another out-of-context work previously caught by Somerby in which writer Joe Klein was derided for a pro-Clinton-sounding quote out of an article that overall was rather critical of Clinton and the Democrats -- has a cloud hanging over it as well.