The ConWeb's Bad Trip
In defiance of the facts, WorldNetDaily and the Media Research Center cling to the repeatedly discredited claim that President Obama spent $200 million a day on his trip to India.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily has demonstrated over and over again that facts are irrelevant when it comes to reporting on President Obama and his administration -- the president must be attacked and belittled, however untrue those attacks are.
That desperateness to smear Obama contrary to the truth popped up yet again over a claim that Obama's recent trip to India and Asia cost a mind-blowing $200 million a day.
The original report came from an Indian news organization, the Press Trust of India, citing an anonymous "top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit." A separate Press Trust article, citing no sources at all, claimed that "fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier ... will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there."
The claim was quickly shot down:
Indeed it was. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann touted the figure, as did the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck, and other conservative outlets.
Among them was WorldNetDaily. In the midst of sycophantically quoting yet another attack on Obama by "talk-radio titan" Rush Limbaugh over the India trip, Brian Fitzpatrick wrote in a Nov. 3 article:
Obama's trip to Mumbai reportedly will cost American taxpayers "a whopping $200 million per day" according the Press Trust of India.
Fitzpatrick gave no indication he made any attempt to verify the anonymous number.
It wasn't until the 17th and final paragraph that it's revealed that the Pentagon has discredited the 34-ships claim. Even then, WND adds that "Kinsolving then pointed out the Pentagon, while denying the '34 ships' report, did not say how many vessels would be deployed as part of the president's security."
Of course, that misdirection was a strategy to keep the story going, as CNN's Ed Henry pointed out:
Critics are sort of keeping this alive in part by saying, look, the White House won't say how much it's really costing, so somehow that proves it's going to be $200 million a day. Nonsense. The reason they're not giving the figures, and the reason we're wouldn't give all the figures if we have them in real time, is for security reasons. We're in Mumbai, where two years ago this very month there were a whole series of terror attacks, killed about 168 people. So this is serious business, and the notion that it's $200 million a day is absurd.
Not too absurd for WorldNetDaily, though. Pat Boone -- who has a demonstrated adversarial relationship with the facts -- declared in his Nov. 6 WND column that the figure was true because he "Googled" it:
I simply could not believe what I'd heard. It couldn't be so. I Googled "Obama's $200 million a day trip" and found it was so!
Capping the parade of liars at WND was none other than its leader, editor and CEO Joseph Farah, who wrote in a Nov. 8 column:
By now every American knows how much U.S. taxpayers are spending for Barack Obama's 10-day trip to India this week.
It appears the aversion to facts at WND comes straight from the top.
WND was not alone in giving credence to the bogus numbers -- the Media Research Center joined in the fun.
In a Nov. 5 NewsBusters post, Ken Shepherd complained that, on MSNBC's "Hardball," Salon's Joan Walsh was "imagining the rationale of conservative critics" in their criticizing of the purported cost of Obama's trip to India. But Shepherd went on to imagine he knows something about journalism in India, writing that "Hardball" host Chris Matthews "was content to put down Indian journalism." But Shepherd failed to fully explain why Matthews would do such a thing -- or even why Indian journalism should be defended after hiding behind anonymity to forward such an utterly discredited claim, as Shepherd seemed to be saying.
The same day, a CNSNews.com article by Nicholas Ballasy stated that "National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told reporters that the alleged $200M a day cost of President Obama’s trip to Asia is 'wildly inflated' but he did not specify the actual cost. Ballasy reported denials from the White House and the Pentagon, but repeated his assertion that the White House "did not specify the actual cost of the trip" but not that it was for security reasons.
For sheer absurdity that beats even WND's defiance of the truth, it's hard to beat NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard, who posited in a Nov. 14 post that the bogus claim must be true because it appeared in a "Saturday Night Live" skit that praised Glenn Beck for being right about gold:
This sequence was surprising on a number of levels. First, Obama's defenders in the media aggressively attacked Fox News and conservative radio hosts for reporting this $200 million a day figure that came from an Indian website.
Who would a rational person believe regarding the issue of the cost of Obama's trip -- every legitimate news organization and fact-checking agency, or an anonymous source and an "SNL" skit? Sheppard, as well as WorldNetDaily and the rest of the MRC, have chosen the latter. Which tells you all you need to know about where they stand on the integrity spectrum.
UPDATE: WorldNetDaily is clearly not ready to let go of the lie. A Nov. 18 WND article details yet another attempt by Kinsolving to get the cost of the trip out of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. The article falsely suggests that the $200 million cost has some validity, stating only that the White House was "denying a report that the daily cost of President Obama's trip to India would be $200 million but refusing to reveal the actual cost."
At no point does WND acknowledge that numerous news organizations and fact-checking groups that have looked into the number have repeatedly discredited the figure.