Saturday, August 16, 2008


This Time the Press Does Not Wait to Hit a Swiftboater's Claims

By Greg Mitchell

(August 15, 2008) -- Four years ago this month, with E&P’s Joe Strupp, I explored in a number of articles the belated or conflicted media response to the “swiftboating” of Sen. John Kerry, then the Democratic nominee for president. The mainstream press gave the charges -- carried in ads, in books and articles, and in major TV appearances -- a free ride for a spell, then a respectful airing mixed with critique, before in many cases finally attempting to shoot them down as overwhelmingly exaggerated or false. This delay, along with Kerry’s own reluctance to face the matter squarely, quite possibly cost the Democrat the White House.

Now, this month, a bestselling anti-Obama book -- by a co-author of the most prominent “swiftboat” anti-Kerry book in 2004 -- has predictably been published (by Mary Matalin's imprint) and has gained immediate and wide attention in the mainstream. But this time, in many cases, the media response has been a "swift" kick to its credibility. On Wednesday night, for example, when that author, Jerome Corsi, appeared with Larry King on CNN, he was forced to debate an antagonist, Media Matters’ Paul Waldman -- and, for much of the time, King himself. Waldman was even able to air some of Corsi’s revolting Web comments in the years before he became famous as a swiftboater.

A Washington Post editorial for Friday's paper calls Corsi an "expert of misrepresentation," and adds, "footnoting to a discredited blog item does not constitute careful scholarship, and the bulk of Mr. Corsi's book has nothing to do with issues. He gets facts wrong. ... He makes offensive statements."...A New York Times blog item on Thursday connected Corsi to the "9/11 Truth" fringe, citing his questions about the official explanation of why the twin towers collapsed. Earlier this week, in a front-page article, the Times charged, "Several of the book’s accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate."

Among the other Corsi pieces this week one stands out. It appeared Thursday night via The Associated Press, written by one of its top political reporters, Nedra Pickler -- a journalist the liberal blogosphere has frequently criticized. It covered the Obama campaign’s release of a 40-page book parsing of Corsi’s “The Obama Nation” but, significantly (in the new “AP style”), Pickler added a huge dose of attitude as well....


To contrast this with what happened in the last campaign, here is an excerpt from an E&P article written by Strupp in late August, 2004....

"(Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard) Downie said he believes the Swift Boat Veterans coverage had been fair and properly scrutinizing. 'We have printed the facts and some of those facts have undermined Kerry's opponents,' he said. 'We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts.' He defended a lengthy Post story that ran Sunday which appeared to give equal credibility to both Kerry's version of the events in Vietnam (which is supported by his crewmates and largely backed up by a paper trail) and the Swift Boat Veterans, despite the fact that previous stories in the Post and the New York Times had debunked many of the group's accounts...."


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