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AIM's River of Denial

Accuracy in Media has no intention of apologizing for its false statements about the source of the Schiavo memo.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/18/2005

Ahhhh ... life must be grand when you feel no responsibility to apologize for making false accusations.

That's how Accuracy in Media feels. It spent a lot of effort trying to portray the talking-points memo calling the Terri Schiavo case "a great political issue" for Republicans as a dirty-trick plant by Democrats. With the revelation that it was indeed written by a Republican staffer, AIM has no intention of apologizing.

A March 24 press release quotes James Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, from whose web site part of the memo was cribbed, as saying that he "believes that a liberal political operative took parts of the Martinez release, added the political references, and then pawned it off to the media as an official GOP Senate document." (Interestingly, it also states that "Lafferty said that he had access to all the memos on the Schiavo case coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill"; is this evidence of collusion between politicians and advocacy groups, which was a bad thing when Democrats were accused of doing it?)

A March 27 column by Cliff Kincaid compared the Schiavo memo to the questionably sourced CBS News memos regarding President Bush's National Guard service. "[T]here is great reluctance to admit that journalists from ABC News, the Washington Post, CBS News and other news organizations were taken in again, and that the Democrats played a dirty trick on the Republicans in a matter of life and death," Kincaid wrote.

A March 30 press release, however, contains a highly exaggerated statement claiming that "The New York Times reported the memo had been 'passed out' by Democrats to make Republicans look bad." The release is trying to suggest that the Times reported that Democrats wrote the memo, but that's not what the actual Times story says at all; the full passage states: "Democratic aides passed out an unsigned one-page memorandum that they said had been distributed to Senate Republicans."

Then came the revelation that the memo was indeed written by a Republican -- Brian Darling, a staffer for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.); the senator inadvertently gave it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Martinez has a history of political faux pas that he blames on his staff, and Darling did take the fall for this and quit. But Kincaid was in no mood for try and correct the factually inaccurate statements he made, surprising considering he works for a organization with "Accuracy" in its name.

An April 7 column by Kincaid notes the revelation, then adds: "But this fact is almost beside the point." Even though the media were correct in saying that, contrary to AIM's previous claims, the memo originated from Republicans, the media are still to be faulted for even running the story in the first place:

The stories about the memo carried by ABC News, the Washington Post, CBS News and other media are still questionable, even after the author has been identified as a Republican. And the use of this memo in a spate of anti-Republican stories on the Schiavo case still looks like a Democratic Party dirty trick. Indeed, the evidence on this score is stronger than ever. The only difference between two weeks ago and now is that the hand of the Democratic Party has been completely exposed.

Kincaid added: "It was only through the work of those questioning the memo that the truth has now belatedly been disclosed." That truth, of course, was that "those questioning the memo" were wrong. He also downplays the content of the memo itself, calling it "real but of no consequence" and adding: "Darling's 'crime,' in the final analysis, was that he wrote a memo that included a few political observations about a case before Congress."

And in an April 14 AIM Report, the blame-the-messenger mentality continues: "The evidence is now clear that it was Harkin and/or his aides who distributed the memo on a massive scale to other Democrats and the press, in order to make Republicans look bad."

AIM does have a problem with choosing inaccurate Republican talking points over actual facts, as ConWebWatch has noted.

So, no apology from AIM, even though its claims have been "completely exposed." What's that saying about denial not just being a river in Egypt?

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