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Les Loves Lott

The model for Jeff Gannon, WorldNetDaily's Les Kinsolving, uses his White House briefing questions to push a revisionist history of Trent Lott's controversial remarks.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/27/2005

Les Kinsolving was Jeff Gannon before there was a Jeff Gannon.

Not in the alleged-gay-hooker way (and thank goodness, Kinsolving being post-retirement age and all), but in the conservative-shill-in-the-White-House-press-corps way. A Baltimore radio talk-show host who also writes a twice-weekly column for WorldNetDaily (where his White House questions are also duly recorded), Kinsolving can generally be counted on to ask leading, conservative-friendly questions that the White House press secretary usually enjoys answering, as ConWebWatch has documented.

Recently, Kinsolving has been using his White House questions to play revisionist on Sen. Trent Lott's notorious 2002 remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that if Thurmond had been elected president on the segregationist 1948 Dixiecrat ticket, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over these years" (which, you'll recall, the ConWeb did its best to downplay).

In trying to play up Sen. Richard Durbin's remarks comparing U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with repressive regimes such as Nazis and Pol Pot, Kinsolving has been trying to portray Lott's remarks as innocuous in comparison. In a June 22 White House briefing, Kinsolving asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan:

Since you called Senator Durbin's statement, "reprehensible," and Chicago's Democrat Mayor Daley called it disgraceful, and since Senator Lott resigned as majority leader for a statement far less serious than Durbin's, we can report that the president in all fairness wants Durbin to resign from minority leadership, can't we?

The next day, Kinsolving went into full revisionist mode. The exchange between Kinsolving and McClellan:

KINSOLVING: Scott, yesterday you, as the president's spokesman, warmly commended Senator Durbin for his apologizing for what you called the reprehensible and Mayor Kelly called a disgraceful statement about our U.S. troops. But I can't remember any such White House commendation of Senator Lott for his apology in 2002. And my first question, did you or Ari Fleischer ever publicly commend Senator Lott for his apology, and what did you say if you did?

McCLELLAN: Les, that matter was addressed long ago and I don't think there's anything else to add to it.

KINSOLVING: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, I've got a follow up. Mississippi Republicans who did so much to lead a great Bush re-election victory in their red state are surely aware of the enormous difference between what Senator Lott said was "totally in jest" at Senator Thurmond's 100th birthday party and what was reprehensible and disgraceful. Will you now warmly commend Senate Rules Committee Chairman Lott for his apology in 2002, or won't you?

McCLELLAN: Les, this issue was addressed back in 2002, and --

KINSOLVING: He still is with us.

McCLELLAN: -- and we're focused on how we move forward.

Of course, Kinsolving needn't have asked McClellan that question about the White House's response to Lott; in response to Kinsolving’s own question in December 2002, then-secretary Ari Fleischer did commend Lott for apologizing for his remarks.

But that White House briefing also launched Kinsolving on his career as a equivocator of Lott's comment. Here's his follow-up question:

KINSOLVING: Ari, on that one, the Democrats in the Senate have never denied chairmanships to a one-time Klan member who just recently used the N-word on TV, nor have they denied it to the senator from Chapaquiddick; and they still honor President Clinton, who in October, strongly praised his mentor, Sen. [J. William] Fulbright, one of the Senate's strongest segregationists. And my question, isn't this double standard one of the reasons that the president did not ask Sen. Lott to step down?

A Dec. 17, 2002, WND commentary by Kinsolving plays the same game, claiming that Lott’s remarks were merely "a bad slip of words" and attacking "the Big Media demonization" of Lott. He played the equivocation game here, too, by asking "Did the Big Media and other Democrats ever denounce Bill Clinton for failing to deplore segregationist Fulbright?" without noting that Clinton, unlike Lott, never implied praise for Fulbright's segregationist attitudes.

Kinsolving also joined in the ConWeb distraction game of attacking remarks by Sen. Patty Murray regarding Osama bin Laden, which conservatives deliberately misinterpreted as praise. From a January 2003 briefing:

KINSOLVING: Much of big media, including the New York Times, has refused to report Sen. Patty Murray's tribute to Osama bin Laden, which [talk-show host] Sean Hannity has on tape and broadcast yesterday on hundreds of stations. And my question is, does the president believe that Sen. Lott's 100th birthday tribute to Sen. Thurmond was really worse than Sen. Murray's tribute to Osama bin Laden?

A Jan. 14, 2003, Kinsolving column called Murray's remarks "far-worse-than-Trent-Lott statements."

Other politicians against whose remarks Kinsolving has attempted to use Lott's remark as a comparison:

  • Rep. Jim Moran: A March 2003 question compared Lott’s remarks favorably with a statement by Moran suggesting that Jews were responsible for pushing the war in Iraq: “And my question is, in your careful and widespread watching of the media, have you detected any of that big media avalanche of demands that Trent Lott resign now matched with demands that Moran resign?”
  • Sen. Rick Santorum: Following Santorum remarks in an interviewed (attacked by WND editor Joseph Farah) regarding laws on homosexual sex, Kinsolving asked in an April 2003 briefing: “It wasn't inappropriate, though, to comment on Trent Lott's comments when it had to do with race. And here, besides the legal interpretation, he made the comment that he was comfortable with homosexuality but not homosexual acts. Those he disapproved of. No need for the White House to intervene in this?”

But Lott wasn't the only revisionist case for which Kinsolving used Durbin as a springboard. In his June 25 column (in which he asserts without evidence that Durbin "now widely known as 'Dustbin Durbin'"), Kinsolving complains that Durbin "even attacked one of the greatest of all our war leaders, his own party's four-time elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt," for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"Sen. Durbin really ought to do some research on this subject. He should read the book 'Magic,' the story of how our U.S. intelligence broke the Japanese code -- which helped us win the very decisive Battle of Midway," Kinsolving writes. But as blogger and internment expert David Neiwert points out, the book is "a self-published conspiracy tome by David Lowman that clearly did not pass peer review at any respected [publishing] house."

Kinsolving also claims:

The only Japanese-Americans ever interned were rightfully categorized as enemies because as holders of dual citizenship, they were demanding to be returned to Japan.

The huge majority of Japanese-Americans were merely relocated. Thousands of them left the relocation centers to take jobs in the other 44 states -- including thousands who attended college at government expense.

We suspect that isn't true, either. Both Neiwert and the team of Eric Muller and Greg Robinson have done a fine and thorough debunking of Kinsolving's likely source of internment revisionism, Michelle Malkin's book "In Defense of Internment."

Kinsolving does get a little too into his right-wing obsessions, even to the point of exasperating McClellan. A May 26 question went like this:

KINSOLVING: There are news reports this morning that parents and children who were guests of the president when they visited Congress wore stickers with the wording, "I was an embryo." And my question is, since all of us were once embryos and all of us were once part sperm and egg, is the president also opposed to contraception, which stops this union and kills both sperm and egg?

That prompted a debate to which McClellan finally said that "if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response." Kinsolving gets the last laugh, by headlining his WND article "McClellan lashes out at reporter."

One interesting note about Kinsolving: Even though Jeff Gannon has been referenced as a kindred questioner in three of his question articles -- demonstrating a certain ideological kinship with him -- Kinsolving has yet to use his space at WND to comment about the whole Gannon imbroglio. (Kinsolving was recovering from a heart attack when the Gannon thing exploded.)

Gannon may be gone from the White House press corps, but as long as Kinsolving's around, it's like he never left.

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