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Highly Original Sources

A conservative posts bad data that makes Bush look good, and the Internet being what it is, the fuzzy math just won't seem to go away.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/14/2001

You know something is very, very wrong when professional urban-legend debunkers have to get involved.

But this is what happened in the case of Mary Mostert, a writer and political activist who, in recent years, has done work for talk-show host Michael Reagan. Mostert also operates a site called Original Sources, which straightforwardly claims in its mission statement to be "dedicated to providing accurate, complete information from original sources."

In a Dec. 19 article, Mostert posted "a report sent to me by Don Boyd, a reader" containing statistics that show George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the popular vote by 1.9 million votes. "While I have not checked all 50 states with the Secretary of State official returns, I have checked all the big states and a number of the smaller states," she added.

One slight problem, though -- one number was very, very wrong. Mr. Boyd put the total number of votes cast in Michigan (what most people would call a "big state"), approximately 4.2 million, as the number of votes cast for Bush, about 1.9 million. Plug in the right number, and you get the 300,000-plus-vote margin of victory Gore had at the time the article appeared. (it has since been officially certified at more than 500,000.)

Needless to say, conservatives were excited about this. NewsMax even had a version of this article up for a time, hailing Mostert as a "respected media analyst." But they presumably pulled it once they figured out the bad numbers. Unless one saw the article during the brief time it was up, one wouldn't know it ever existed in the first place. So much for Christopher Ruddy's pledge that "if I believed we had stated something false, misleading or inaccurate, I would immediately retract the story and make any corrections."

But even her readers figured out something was amiss, and they let Mostert know. "Posting the article was a mistake," she admitted in an article the next day. She also says "I removed the article" from the web site, which would be, at this writing, a lie. (1/25/01 Update: Following the appearance of this article, the link to Mostert's article has been removed from Original Sources.)

Not one to let a mistake get in her way, Mostert then she joins the chorus of conservatives who, now that their boy is in the White House, ignore the fact that more Americans actually voted for someone else. Gore's popular-vote victory, she writes, "is just irrelevant(; A)t this point George W. Bush won the Electoral College vote in spite of reports of widespread voter fraud, illegal aliens voting, the dead voting, Democrats paying 'walking around' money to voters in black precincts to get more votes for Al Gore." There are also reports of voter intimidation, unauthorized removal of legal voters from official rolls and faulty voting equipment in precincts that were likely to lean toward Gore, all of which could be interpreted as efforts to get more votes for Bush. Ain't selective outrage wonderful?

And, of course, no conservative commentary on the election is complete without the obligatory media-bashing: "Every person I have talked to who was a California election worker on election day tells me the same story. Because Al Gore was declared the winner at 4:50 PM California time, hundreds of thousands of registered voters who "intended" to vote for George W. Bush, didn't go to the poll while many more Democrat voters DID go to the polls after Gore was declared the winner." Mostert is referring to Florida here; perhaps she's figured out how stupid it was for conservatives like herself to argue that thousands of Florida voters decided not to vote because the TV networks called the state 10 minutes before some polls closed there, so she cleverly moved the voter suppression argument to California, where Republicans apparently are as easily bamboozled as conservatives have accused Florida Democrats of being.

To make sure the point was not ignored, on Jan. 9 Mostert added the following to the Dec. 20 article: "According to this latest count, Gore won the popular vote by 533,001 out of 105,365,816 total votes. That is one half of one percent, .005, of the total vote. It is a statistically meaningless number especially when compared with the 1876 popular vote in which the winner of the electoral college vote, Rutherord Hayes, and consequently the new president, trailed the popular vote winner, Samuel J. Tilden, 250,817 votes with a national total vote of 8,319,707. Tilden beat Hayes by 3% of the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College vote by 1 vote. ... In a total vote of 105,365,816 votes, in which there was massive voter fraud and reporting the "win" by Al Gore at 4:50 P.M. in California, which caused a lot of disheartened Republicans to stay away from the polls, the real 'will of the people' cannot possibly be ascertained by a statistically meaningless popular vote margin."

Mostert messes up another number; .5 is one-half of one, not .005. And funny, no conservative was calling Bush's 537-vote margin of victory in Florida (as sanctioned by state election officials and the U.S. Supreme Court) out of 6 million votes cast -- which Mostert reports as a much smaller (and accurate) .00895% -- "statistically meaningless."

Meanwhile, the bad stats Mostert posted are apparently still floating around the 'Net, which caught the attention of the folks at Inboxer Rebellion, who dedicate themselves to debunking the various and sundry "urban legends" that spread so easily on the Internet. Their article, which was based on the now-defunct NewsMax version of the Mostert piece, appeared Jan. 6.

Poor Mary Mostert. Her sources proved to be a little too original.

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