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Prolonging the Lie

In the face of logic and common sense, won't apologize for falsely claiming that Paul Begala said that Republicans want to kill him.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/29/2005

Would it kill to admit it made a mistake? Apparently so.

Not only has it refused to admit the obvious -- that it falsely claimed that Democratic strategist Paul Begala said that Republicans are trying to kill him and his family -- its editor in chief berated Begala for using inflammatory language, as if misquoting someone wasn't inflammatory.

This little saga began with a July 15 CNS article by correspondent Jered Ede on speakers at the Campus Progress National Student Conference. Here's what Begala said:

They want to kill us, particularly in this city, and New York, and some other places. I was driving past the Pentagon when that plane hit. I had friends on that plane; this is deadly serious to me. They want to kill me and my children if they can. But if they just kill me and not my children, they want my children to be comforted -- that while they didn't protect me because they cut my taxes, my children won't have to pay any money on the money they inherit.

Here's what Ede claimed Begala said:

Republicans, he said, "want to kill us.

"I was driving past the Pentagon when that plane hit" on Sept. 11, 2001. "I had friends on that plane; this is deadly serious to me," Begala said.

"They want to kill me and my children if they can. But if they just kill me and not my children, they want my children to be comforted -- that while they didn't protect me because they cut my taxes, my children won't have to pay any money on the money they inherit," Begala said.

While Begala uses the word "they" to mean both terrorists and Republicans in various places in his statement, logic and common sense dictate that since Begala was talking about 9/11 and how terrorism is "deadly serious" to him, the 'they" in the immediately following sentence "They want to kill me and my children if they can," as well as the "They want to kill us" immediately before, is clearly referring to Republicans.

This picture illustrated an article on the website on the Carrollton Record, a conservative magazine at Johns Hopkins University.

Ede didn't see it that way. Why? Perhaps his background plays a role. Ede is a former editor and current business manager of the Carrollton Record, the conservative magazine at Johns Hopkins University, where he was also president of the College Republicans. One sign of what to expect from the Carrollton Record: A recent article is illustrated by a dog taking a dump on a picture of Bill Clinton.

(Guilt by association? Sure -- but that's the same game Ede plays. His Begala article also tried to rebut author Thomas Frank's claim that "Republicans didn't see Hitler as a threat to America until Pearl Harbor" by retorting that "Frank did not mention one of the most vocal opponents of U.S. intervention in World War II: Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy" and claimed that Kennedy approved of eldest son Joseph P. Jr.'s observation that Adolf Hitler's "dislike of the Jews ... was well-founded" and that "Hitler is building a spirit in his men that could be envied in this country." Ede, as one might expect given his conservative background, takes a highly selective view of history; he failed to mention that the grandfather of our current president had the assets of his company seized in 1942 by the federal government under the Trading With the Enemy Act -- the enemy, of course, being the Nazis.)

Ede's CNS job came through a program run by the Collegiate Network, which "provides financial and technical assistance to student editors and writers at scores of independent (read: conservative) publications at leading colleges and universities around the country." It is run by the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which counts among its trustees such prominent conservatives as Alfred Regnery, Ed Meese and the Heritage Foundation's Ed Feulner.

Needless to say, conservatives jumped on Ede's claims, regardless of its accuracy. NewsMax reprinted Ede's article in its entirety; NewsMax columnist Geoff Metcalf recycled it in his July 18 column; bloggers like Michelle Malkin ate it up; and the Washington Times repeated it. Meanwhile, despite the protestations of the folks at Campus Progress and liberal bloggers, CNS continued to treat the article as if it were fact, serving up predictably irate letters on July 19, followed by a commentary by Christopher Adamo on July 21.

(Ironically, while this was going on, CNS offered no original coverage of Republican Rep. Peter King's comments -- unambiguously, we might add -- that journalists like Tim Russert who dare to criticize the Bush administration ought to be shot.)

It's not until Begala himself goes on record as denying Ede's claim that CNS responds in a July 22 article. After printing Begala's denial, CNS editor in chief David Thibault declares Begala a liar:

David Thibault, editor-in-chief of Cybercast News Service, said readers "should not be fooled" by Begala's attempt to clarify his remarks.

"This is all about Begala trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube," Thibault said. "There was nothing unclear about what Begala said, and he, as a pundit, should know that words matter. We quoted him accurately. We even ran the quote in its entirety as a video clip on our website.

"And not surprisingly, the only ones defending Begala are his friends on the far left who think the same way he does," Thibault added.

"It's really not my place here to judge whether Republicans, as Begala claimed at the Campus Progress Student Conference are 'brain dead.' But let's put it this way: If Republicans, who have won the last three national elections, are brain dead, what does that say about Begala and the Democrats?"

How, exactly, did Thibault and Ede determine that "there was nothing unclear about what Begala said" and that "we quoted him accurately"? Thibault doesn't say. But then Thibault, like Ede, has a background in Republican activism: As his bio points out, he was a senior producer for a televised weekly news magazine broadcast by the Republican National Committee and a press secretary for a Republican congressman, Judd Gregg (now a senator).

In other words, Thibault and Ede were predisposed to make the most inflammatory and detrimental interpretation of an ambiguous statement made by a Democrat, an interpretation they would have never made if a Republican had said the same thing about Democrats.

Thibault followed up with a July 25 commentary in which he appears to back off his insistence that Ede quoted Begala "accurately" (perhaps the amount of letters criticizing Thibault's and Ede's interpretation helped him reach that conclusion), then attacked Begala for uncivil behavior, insisting that he "go back to school and learn about political civility and personal responsibility":

Begala's unmistakable and outrageous coupling of terrorists and Republicans in his remarks to the impressionable college liberals on July 13 is the latest in a long line of Democratic invective aimed at the GOP and by extension, those Americans who vote Republican.

This coming from a man who is an employee of one of the most uncivil of all conservatives, Brent Bozell. And as you would imagine of anything operated by Bozell, CNS is hardly the paragon of political civility Thibault would have you think; a July 13 article, for example, exclusively the comments of all-too-willing Republican shill Jesse Lee Peterson, who -- in the middle of denouncing RNC chairman Ken Mehlman's appearance before the NAACP to apologize for the Republicans' race-based "Southern strategy" -- called Democrats "elite, white, racist." Apparently, only Democrats must be civil in Thibault's world.

As for "personal responsibility," the fact that Thibault and Ede refuse to retract or even apologize for their error demonstrates that they have no intention of applying that concept to themselves.

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