Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson baselessly claimed that Media Matters for America engaged in "sp[i]n" by quoting his on-air remark that Republican former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit instant messages to a male former House page "turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages." But Dobson did not explain what the purported spin was.
During the October 11 broadcast of his radio show, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson baselessly claimed that Media Matters for America engaged in "sp[i]n" by quoting his on-air remark five days prior that Republican former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit instant messages to a male former House page "turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages." Dobson also criticized Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, whose infraction appears to be airing, then repeating Dobson's comments.
Dobson accused Media Matters of having "spun" his remarks, without explaining what the purported spin was. He did not accuse Media Matters of having misquoted him or quoting him out of context. Dobson's guest, Focus on the Family vice president of public policy Tom Minnery, baselessly claimed that Dobson's enemies were exploiting his remarks to "keep our people from voting on Election Day."
Dobson's characterization of Media Matters' item as "sp[i]n" is undermined by a transcript of his October 6 remarks posted on the Media Matters website that day. The portion of the Media Matters item containing Dobson's remarks follows:
On Focus on the Family, Dobson was responding to a New York Times column by Paul Krugman, in which Krugman wondered how Dobson would respond to the Foley scandal given Dobson's earlier criticism of former President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. From Krugman's column (subscription required):
It will be interesting, by the way, to see how Dr. Dobson, who declared of Bill Clinton that "no man has ever done more to debase the presidency," responds to the Foley scandal. Does the failure of Republican leaders to do anything about a sexual predator in their midst outrage him as much as a Democratic president's consensual affair?
In response, Dobson again criticized Clinton and then suggested that the sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Foley to underage male pages were the result of "sort of a joke":
DOBSON: We condemn the Foley affair categorically, and we also believe that what Mr. Clinton did was one of the most embarrassing and wicked things ever done by a president in power. Let me remind you, sir, that it was not just James Dobson who found the Lewinsky affair reprehensible. More than 140 newspapers called for Clinton's resignation. But the president didn't do what Mr. Foley has done in leaving. He stayed in office, and he lied to the grand jury to obscure the facts. As it turns out, Mr. Foley has had illicit sex with no one that we know of, and the whole thing turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages.
Media Matters also posted an audio clip of Dobson's comments.
From the October 11 broadcast of Dobson's Focus on the Family radio show:
DOBSON: But let me get to the way this situation is now being spun. There is a blog called Media Matters for America, and it says, "Dobson and [Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel] Henninger claiming Foley scandal is 'sort of a joke' and a 'prank' by pages." That story didn't come from me, but it sounds like I believe it. It sounds like I don't think that this was an immoral act. It sounds like I thought the whole thing is a joke. Now, that's the theme, and it is picked up by different media entities. One of the most widely read is the Huffington Post. These folks can always be counted on to give the most extreme liberal interpretation of everything. Here's their headline: "Radical Right's Dobson Calls Foley's Lurid Messages 'A Joke.' " Now, that's a lie. I mean, you just heard it.
MINNERY: Well, it is. And as I say, the other thing you said does not fit. And just amazing to hear you even criticized as a "radical right." They do that primarily because of our stand on marriage, and the historical definition of marriage is one man, one woman. And that -- in that, we are in agreement with 70 percent of the population of this country. Yet they feel free to say that's the radical right. If that's the case, there is a whole lot of radical right in this country -- 70 percent.
DOBSON: One of the most far-leftist reporters or talk show hosts or news people on cable television is a man named Keith Olbermann. He's another one who can always be counted on to give the leftist slant on everything. Let's hear his actual words on this issue that I just described.
OLBERMANN [audio clip]: James Dobson, founder of the religious group Focus on the Family, suggesting that, quote, the whole thing turned out to be what some people are now saying was "sort of a joke" by the boy and some of the other pages.
DOBSON: Well, there it is again, Tom, and it's all over the Internet, and I just want to set the record straight. What do you think they're trying to do with this?
MINNERY: Well, I know exactly what they're trying to do: they're trying to depress our constituents from going to the polls on Election Day by saying, "Look, it's all corrupt, the Republican leadership is corrupt. There is no use even bothering going to the polls. Even Dr. Dobson is a hypocrite because he's dismissed this as a joke and he's protecting the Republican Party" -- none of which you are doing. We are merely calling them on their game, which is to try to keep our people from voting on Election Day.