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Political Corrections

Why won't the ConWeb admit they've told lies about Al Gore and the Clintons?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/16/2000

What is one difference between the ConWeb and other media? Most other media have provisions for corrections; the ConWeb, for the most part, does not.

NewsMax, to my knowledge, has never corrected or retracted an article, even after the advent of ConWebWatch. On the other hand, the Media Research Center, in its daily "CyberAlerts," will note the occasional mistake, mostly its own editing errors. In fact, MRC did retract one complete item in August, if only because its source, Fox News Channel's Brit Hume, got the quote the item was based on wrong in the first place.

I have generally tried to keep a hands-off attitude in my coverage of the ConWeb; just report what they do and not try to influence them. But seeing opinion and conjecture recently tilt into perpetration of outright lies prompted me to try and do something.

My quest down the road of actively holding the ConWeb to the truth began when the MRC CyberAlert of Sept. 13 noted that "it was Al Gore who first raised the name "Willie Horton" in his primary challenge to Dukakis."

Incorrect, and MRC writers needed only to consult with their sister site, Conservative News Service, for proof. In a April 21, 1999, article, CNS Executive Editor Scott Hogenson reports:

"During a debate near the end of the New York Democratic presidential primary campaign in 1988, Gore noted that two convicted killers in Massachusetts had been given weekend furloughs while Dukakis, Gore's rival for the nomination, was governor, and that both had committed additional murders while free on furlough. Gore then asked Dukakis, "If you were elected president, would you advocate a similar program for federal penitentiaries," according to an account of the debate on page 165 of Bob Zelnick's biography of the vice president Gore: A Political Life."

No mention was made of the name "Willie Horton" by Gore. (A copy of the article can be found here; CNS does not provide permanent links to archived articles.)

Given CyberAlert's provision for running corrections, I sent a polite e-mail to the CyberAlert editor telling them the above and requesting a correction. I received no response. A few days later, I sent it again. No response. This was, at first, so discouraging that I decided not to make a pest of myself and question MRC on why, in its Sept. 14 CyberAlert, they assert that Hillary Clinton "falsely denied her husband ever lied to cover up sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky" when there is no evidence that Hillary knew the truth about the affair at the time she made that statement.

Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell decided to spread a few discredited lies about Gore's alleged fabrications about "Love Story" and the Internet in an article that appeared Sept. 20 on WorldNetDaily (reported previously on ConWebWatch). I sent a e-mail to Falwell requesting a correction, receiving a "thank you for writing" auto-response in return. The same e-mail sent again a few days later generated the same auto-response. No sign that any actual human saw the message. The same message also went to WorldNetDaily, thinking they might be interested in holding a writer whose work appears under its name accountable for his accuracy. No response.

Then, in an Oct. 2 column, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah repeats the "Love Story," Internet and Love Canal lies. The e-mail I send Farah (which also mentions Falwell), amazingly, doesn't immediately disappear into the ether: it appears in WND's "E-Mail the Editor" section for about a week. But, since WND doesn't archive its letters column, it too eventually fell away.

Finally, on Oct. 10, L. Brent Bozell III spices up yet another MRC anti-Gore screed with -- you guessed it -- the "Love Story" and Internet lies.

Seeing as how politeness has gotten me nowhere, especially with the MRC, I decide to be a little less than polite in my responding e-mail to the MRC. After detailing the truth about "Love Story" and the Internet for the third time in as many weeks, my non-politeness kicks in:

You then add: "The real point here isn't the complete lack of distinction between "inventing" and "creating" the Internet. It's that Gore said this on March 9, 1999, to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and Blitzer didn't even blink. He didn't follow up. ... The statement went completely unreported on television for ten days."

So, do you blame the "liberal media" for not reporting the fact that George W. Bush did not report for required National Guard duty for a year? Or that it took an Iowa farmer named Marty Heldt to obtain Bush's military record through the Freedom of Information Act to find this out?

I'd ask for a correction, but the MRC seems loath to do that when caught spreading inaccuracies about Gore. (I then recount the aforementioned CyberAlert article about Gore and the words "Willie Horton.")

This results in a response from Tim Graham, MRC director of media analysis, who feels the need to title his e-mail "As for spelunking in Gore's colon...":

Thanks for bringing the Daily Howler view of reality to our Web guys, but the reality is that listing Gore's debate performance goofs could take several pages to exhaust. And I just don't have that kind of time for you.

A short statement but revealing. It's clear the MRC intends to push the Gore-is-a-liar theme as far as it can, facts be damned. Also, note the dig at the Daily Howler, who first corrected the record on the "Love Story" issue. It's hard to say why the MRC is irritated with the Howler -- because Bob Somerby demonstrates that the "liberal bias" of the major media that is MRC's raison d'etre doesn't exist nearly to the extent the MRC insists that it does, or that he dare defends Gore in the first place, a man who Bozell and his cohorts consider unworthy of defense. Either way, Somerby's veracity has not been seriously questioned.

I responded in kind:

You're missing the point. Obviously, you have the right to harp all you want on Gore's exaggerations for your political gain. I am merely asking that you adhere to basic standards of accuracy. If you can demonstrate that Gore actually boasted he was the inspiration for "Love Story" or played no role whatsoever in the creation of the Internet or used the words "Willie Horton" in 1988, please provide evidence.

Otherwise, there is sufficient evidence to the contrary, and a correction on the part of the MRC is in order.

This brought no immediate response, so the next day I sent another quick note to Graham:

No correction yet, I see.

If you can't tell the truth, why should anyone believe you when you accuse others of not telling the truth?

No response to me, and I had intended to let my correspondence with the MRC on the issue go at that. But the MRC's attitude was made clear once more in Bozell's Oct. 12 column. In an attempt to prove that Bush's misstatements are not as serious as Gore's misstatements, "Tipper and I inspired 'Love Story'" shows up yet again as an example of a Gore misstatement.

So, at the risk of becoming the pest I hadn't intended to be, I fire off another MRC e-mail:

Wow. I am truly amazed at your ability to perpetrate a lie in the face of reality. ...

Can you explain on what basis you believe the "Love Story" fable is true when everyone from the New York Times to the Daily Howler has proven not only that any actual boast to this effect by Al Gore is non-existent but the actual inspiration to be essentially true?

In an attempt to defend your Gore-bashing, you write: "There is a smidgen of truth in all these statements, yes. But there is also a disregard, a lack of interest, in accuracy. That clearly becomes a character issue. And when the quantity of exaggerations reaches epidemic proportions ... it ought to be regarded by political observers in the press as serious stuff indeed."

You may as well be talking about yourself, Mr. Bozell. Telling lies to prove the point that someone else is a liar is highly ironic, don't you think? And it certainly throws doubt on the character of you and the MRC as a provider of facts.

But apparently, the MRC has had their fill of people pointing out their lies. I got a "thank you for writing" auto-response in return -- my first from MRC, despite sending assorted e-mails (mostly ConWebWatch links) over the past several months. And as we have learned, an auto-response usually means the e-mail is headed straight for the circular file.

So, to return to the original question -- why won't the ConWeb own up to its lies? One reason, I think, is that it's not in their financial interest. There is a money-making industry that feeds off hatred of the Clintons and associates like Gore, and it takes relatively little effort to fan the flames of this solid base of hate and shake loose some cash. MRC in particular, does this regularly because, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, donations to it and its sister organizations are tax-deductible, a nice incentive to keep the money rolling in.

But ultimately, it comes down to the truth. Insisting that Al Gore said "Tipper and I inspired 'Love Story'" is a lie. Saying that Gore used the words "Willie Horton" in 1988 is a lie. Refusal to correct the record or even to stop spreading the lies says much more about the ConWeb than the context of the statements the errors reside in.

Since mid-August, Bozell and the MRC has all but demanded that the TV networks -- and CBS' Dan Rather, Bozell's nemesis, in particular -- apologize to independent counsel Robert Ray for jumping to conclusions over the source of reports released during the Democratic National Convention that Ray had impaneled a new grand jury to investigate President Clinton.

Why should the MRC and the ConWeb expect an apology when they can't be bothered to correct their own more deliberate errors?

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