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Monday, August 11, 2008
MRC Still Taking Writer's Kennedy Statement Out of Context
Topic: NewsBusters

Noting a Boston Globe magazine article speculating on what might have happened if Michael Dukakis won the presidency in 1988, Brent Baker writes in an Aug. 9 NewsBusters post:

While certainly hagiographic, staff magazine writer Charles P. Pierce avoided the ludicrous level of veneration he espoused in a 2003 profile of Senator Ted Kennedy:

If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

The MRC has been peddling this attack on Pierce for years ever since it appeared in a January 2003 article, even awarding Pierce the "Ozzy Osbourne Award (for the Wackiest Comment)" at its 2004 Dishonors Awards.

The problem? It's taken out of context. As Pierce wrote in an October 2004 American Prospect article:

In January of 2003, I wrote a piece for The Boston Globe Magazine ruminating on the 40 years that Edward Kennedy has been in the United States Senate. At one point early on, I decided to deal with The Great Unmentionable at the heart of that career, so I wrote:

And what of the dead woman? On July 18, 1969, on the weekend that man first walked on the moon, a 28-year-old named Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in his automobile. Plutocrats' justice and an implausible (but effective) coverup ensued. And, ever since, she's always been there: during Watergate, when Barry Goldwater told Kennedy that even Richard Nixon didn't need lectures from him; in 1980, when his presidential campaign was shot down virtually at its launch; during the hearings into the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, when Kennedy's transgressions gagged him and made him the butt of all the jokes. She's always there. Even if she doesn't fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy's anguished appeals to the country's better angels.

And then, a few paragraphs later, I concluded the passage with the following:

If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

Now, I thought that was a tough, but fair, shot. Some people disagreed. The following Saturday, some veteran liberals chided me over the hors d'oeuvres at a dinner party. Some other people agreed. James Taranto of OpinionJournal cited it as evidence that I didn't like the senior senator very much. And my friend Dan Kennedy called it a "paragraph of pure poison." I didn't necessarily agree with them, but they rather obviously got my point -- which is about as good as a writer can hope for these days from the public discourse.

Baker's original 2003 item doesn't mention that Pierce's statement came in the context of a larger statement about how the Chappaquiddick incident effectively keeps him from having the "moral credibility" to be president -- indeed, a search of the MRC archive indicates that it has never placed the Pierce quote in its proper context, nor has it apparently responded to Pierce's criticism.

And, to cap things off, the MRC didn't even invite Pierce to their little shindig to pick up that award personally:

I was crushed. This is a big event in Washington every year. Hundreds of sweaty fat guys in tuxedos lust across the ballroom at Laura Ingraham and my gal, Annie Coulter. A hip evening for people who haven't been hip since the night they quoted Ayn Rand to their dates at the Junior Prom. A night of lechery and drunkenness among people who should confine their involvement with the seven deadly sins to Envy, Gluttony, and Rage. I was owed this spectacle.

Hey, I was an award-winner here. I know where to get a tux in D.C. I even had a speech prepared. This is how it started:

"Thank you all. It's nice to be here and to see everyone in such a fine mood. I've never seen Bill Bennett this happy with anything that didn't have a handle on its side.

"Oh, come on, Rush. Twenty more milligrams and that would've been damn funny."

I would have killed, I tell you.

Instead, accepting in my place was ... Mohair Sam Donaldson.

Sam Freaking Donaldson?

Apparently, Sam was gracious. He said one day he hoped to write as well as I do, which apparently got a big laugh. But Sam's no Sacheen Littlefeather, I'll tell you that.

Not only do Baker and the MRC continue to distort Pierce's words years after they have been proven to be something other than what the MRC claims them to be, the MRC won't even pony up for dinner.

UPDATE: Baker's post also apepars in the Aug. 11 MRC CyberAlert.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:05 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 11, 2008 12:50 PM EDT

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