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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
NewsBusters' Sheffield Tries to Twist Obama Context Debate
Topic: NewsBusters

Having been caught taking President Obama's "If you've got a business, you didn't build that" statement out of context, it was time for the Media Research Center to scramble. Their ingenious solution? Declaring that context doesn't matter.

That's what Matthew Sheffield argues in a July 21 NewsBusters post, insisting that putting Obama's words in their proper context makes them equally offensive to the out-of-context version:

President Obama's “you didn't build that” remark about business entrepreneurs touched a nerve on the Right, and sent liberal journalists and bloggers scrambling to explain away his gaffe by asserting that, “in context,” his statements weren't bad at all.

While it is true that Obama's remarks are frequently referred to in a short-hand manner, in their full form, his comments are just as insulting, if not more so. And no amount of media spin can make them otherwise.


No, the liberal media's effort to defend the president by putting his remarks “in context” doesn't help Obama at all, because his “you didn't build that” statement was, in context, even worse than if read as a standalone sentence.

Sheffield's source for this responsiblity-evading claim is the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein. Sheffield omits Klein's pedantic observation that "Obama’s defenders argue the 'that' in 'you didn’t build that' refers to 'roads and bridges.' I’m not so sure we can make that assumption, given that 'business' is the noun that directly precedes the pronoun 'that.'  -- which tells you just how hard one must strain to make Obama's in-context arguments a bad thing.

On top of that, Klein's argument is debunked by, yes, putting Obama's words in their full context. David Weigel:

Watch (again, can't believe I'm saying this) the body language. Obama is gesticulating to count off the various ways people have been helped -- great teacher, American system. At 0:44, he says "somebody invested in roads and bridges," and gyrates his arms as if mapping out said roads and bridges. "If you've got a business," he says, making one more gyration, "that -- you didn't build that." The extra "that," a false start, is not captured in transcripts. It really looks like "that" refers to the stuff that business-builders utilized on the way up, not the businesses themselves. Obama switched up, mid-sentence. These things happen.

The fact that Sheffield is making the argument that context doesn't matter after days of the MRC taking Obama out of context is nothing more than an attempt to change the subject from the fact that context obviously does matter.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:36 AM EDT

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