Guilty: Coulter's latest book filled with falsehoods
Research ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN, MATT GERTZ, GREG LEWIS & HANNAH DREIER
Media Matters has examined a copy of Ann Coulter's new book, Guilty, and presents a sampling of the book's numerous falsehoods. These falsehoods include her defense of claims made against Sen. John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; her assertion that "Fox News has never been caught promoting a fraud"; and her claim that President-elect Barack Obama was referring to Gov. Sarah Palin when he said "you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig."
Media Matters for America has examined a copy of author and syndicated columnist Ann Coulter's new book, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America, which Media Matters obtained in advance of the book's release, and presents a sampling of the book's numerous falsehoods, including misrepresentations of the sources she cites. These falsehoods come on a wide-ranging list of subjects including her defense of the claims made against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign; her assertion that "Fox News has never been caught promoting a fraud"; her claim that President-elect Barack Obama was referring to Gov. Sarah Palin when he said "you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig"; and attacks she makes against New York Times columnist Frank Rich. Coulter has announced that she is scheduled to appear on the January 6 broadcast of NBC's Today to promote Guilty.
Media Matters has also documented that Coulter made numerous inflammatory and offensive comments in Guilty.
Below are examples of the numerous falsehoods in Guilty.
Coulter claims that two black students who engaged in a hoax by hanging a black doll from a noose were "immediately praised" by "liberals," but the sources she cites do not support this claim. Coulter writes:
In 1997, at Duke University, a black doll was found hanging by a noose from a tree at the precise spot where the Black Student Alliance planned to hold a rally against racism. Two black students later admitted they were the culprits and were immediately praised for bringing attention to the problem of racism on campus. Which is why I'm thinking about knocking over a liquor store to focus attention on the problem of big-city crime.
Rather than "institutional racism," what we are witnessing is "institutional racial hoaxism" committed by liberals. [Page 10]
Coulter cites two articles to back up her assertion that the students were "immediately praised," neither of which support such a claim. One of the sources Coulter cites is a January 8, 1999, Chronicle of Higher Education article, which does not report that the students were "praised" but rather that "[s]ome classmates defended the two students." The sole student quoted in the article discussing the incident criticized both the students and the university:
Some classmates defended the two students, whose names were not released. In a letter to The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, Worokya Diomande called the act "tasteless," but said "the idea behind the act ... is being overlooked."
"The idea is that the university has not changed," wrote Ms. Diomande, who graduated last spring. "Blacks are allowed to be enrolled here, but the idea is the equivalent of the transition from field slave to house slave."
Coulter's other source for her claim that the students were "immediately praised" is a January 31, 2000, article in The Weekly Standard (accessed from Nexis), which cites the Chronicle article in writing that "some at Duke defended the act, claiming it high-lighted the problem of race relations on campus."
Fox News Channel
On Page 15, Coulter writes, "Fox News has never been caught promoting a fraud -- unlike CBS (Bush National Guard story), ABC (tobacco industry report), NBC (exploding GM trucks), CNN (Tailwind), and MSNBC (Keith Olbermann)." In fact, as Media Matters has documented, on several occasions since 2004, Fox News has issued a retraction and apology for airing a news report that repeated false information, one of which led Fox News' Vice President for News John Moody to reportedly warn staff in January 2007 that "seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC."
On the April 24, 2007, edition of Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade repeated as fact an online parody news report of a school prank that included fabricated quotes attributed to the superintendent. Doocy issued an on-air retraction and apology during the May 16, 2007, edition of Fox & Friends First, but the superintendent brought suit against the Fox News Channel, Doocy, and Kilmeade. In a June 3, 2008, decision dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby wrote:
The facts in this case -- a morning cable news show derisively reporting events and statements obtained unwittingly from an online parody -- should provide grist for journalism classes teaching research and professionalism standards in the Internet age. But First Amendment principles developed long before the Internet still provide protection to the gullible news program hosts against this public official's claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Poetic justice would subject the defendants to the same ridicule that they accorded the plaintiff. But in real life, the aggrieved school superintendent must be satisfied with their later retraction and a professional reputation sullied less than theirs.
The lawsuit was filed by Leon Levesque, a school superintendent in Lewiston, Maine. According to The Associated Press, "[t]he case was an outgrowth of an April 2007 prank in which a middle school student tossed a slab of leftover Easter ham onto a table surrounded by Somali Muslim youngsters, knowing the Muslims would be offended." Freelance writer Nicholas Plagman later published a fabricated news report about the incident at Associated Content in which he attributed numerous made-up quotes to Levesque, including one in which Levesque was alleged to have said: "These children have got to learn that ham is not a toy." On the April 24, 2007, edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy and Kilmeade reported on Plagman's story as though it were fact and repeated several of the made-up quotes attributed to Levesque. In discussing the parody report, Doocy repeatedly asserted: "We are not making this up." Indeed, when Kilmeade asserted: "You know, I hope we're not being duped," Doocy replied, "We're not being duped. I've looked it up on a couple of different websites up there."
Doocy has also retracted his false assertion on the January 19, 2007, Fox & Friends, that Barack Obama "spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father -- as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa." According to the washingtonpost.com blog The Sleuth, Moody subsequently "issued this missive to staff in his daily editorial note on Jan. 23 : 'For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC.' " Moody also criticized the hosts of Fox & Friends in a January 29, 2007, New York Times article, saying, "The hosts violated one of our general rules, which is know what you are talking about. ... They reported information from a publication whose accuracy we didn't know."
Further, on October 1, 2004, Fox News issued a retraction and an apology for a news story written by chief political correspondent Carl Cameron that falsely attributed quotes to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in an attempt to ridicule him over a purported manicure.
John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
Coulter advances several falsehoods about Kerry in defending the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization which spread numerous falsehoods and smears regarding Kerry's military record in the six months leading up to the 2004 presidential election.
Membership of Swift Boat Veterans
Coulter writes that "nearly three hundred veterans who served with Kerry said he was lying about his war record [Page 109]" and also states: "Only 14 Swift Boat Veterans sided with Kerry, while 294 sided with O'Neill. Let's see, would it be more difficult to get 14 people to tell the same lie or to get 294 people to tell the same lie? [Page 99]" But contrary to Coulter's assertion, among the roughly 300 she referred to, who signed a letter critical of Kerry, were people who subsequently admitted they had no firsthand knowledge of the claims they made; who contradicted their statements opposing Kerry both before and after they made them; and who reportedly said they joined with the Swift Boat Veterans not because they believed Kerry had "l[ied] about his war record" but because they disapproved of Kerry's subsequent statements opposing the Vietnam War.
Coulter falsely claims that "the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth weren't forced to retract any part of their story. [Page 100]" In fact, the organization altered its website's account of the December 2, 1968, mission for which the U.S. Navy awarded Kerry his first Purple Heart three days after Media Matters noted that the account was inconsistent with that of the group's star witness -- retired Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr., who claims he was the commander on that mission.
According to Schachte, Kerry did not deserve the award because the "skimmer" he supposedly commanded that night did not receive enemy fire, and Kerry's wound was the result of Kerry's own improper use of an M-79 grenade launcher. But in an April 2003 interview with The Boston Globe, "Schachte described the action as a 'firefight' and said of Kerry: 'He got hit,' " the Globe reported on August 28, 2004. According to the Globe, Schachte "did not challenge Kerry's Purple Heart" during that interview.
The original version of the account on the Swift Boat Vets website begins:
The action that led to John Kerry's first Purple Heart occurred on December 2, 1968, during the month that he was undergoing training with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay. While waiting to receive his own Swift boat command, Kerry volunteered for a nighttime patrol mission commanding a small, foam-filled "skimmer" craft with two enlisted men [emphasis added].
As Media Matters documented, this description matches Kerry's own account, as well as the account of Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis, two enlisted men who have stated that: (1) Schachte was not on the skimmer; (2) Kerry was in command; and (3) Runyon and Zaladonis were the only other people besides Kerry on the small craft.
The updated version of the Swift Boat Vets account -- now consistent with Schachte's version of events -- reads:
The action that led to John Kerry's first Purple Heart occurred on December 2, 1968, during the month that he was undergoing training with Coastal Division 14 at Cam Ranh Bay. While waiting to receive his own Swift boat command, Kerry volunteered for a nighttime patrol mission on a small, foam-filled "skimmer" craft under the command of Lt. William Schachte. The two officers were accompanied by an enlisted man who operated the outboard motor [emphasis added].
Several other Swift Boat Veterans made statements during the 2004 presidential campaign that were inconsistent with their previous accounts, or subsequently reportedly retracted comments they made during that campaign, including:
- John O'Neill. Unfit for Command (Regnery, 2004), co-authored by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth co-founder John O'Neill, asserted that "Kerry was never in Cambodia during Christmas 1968, or at all during the Vietnam War" because "[a]reas closer than 55 miles from the Cambodian border in the area of the Mekong River were patrolled by PBRs, a small river patrol craft, and not by Swift Boats." However, as Media Matters noted, according to White House recordings, in 1971 O'Neill told President Richard Nixon that he himself had been in Cambodia and answered in the affirmative when Nixon asked if it had been on a swift boat.
- Alfred French. In the first Swift Boat ad, then-Clackamas County (Oregon) senior deputy district attorney Alfred J. French announced: "I served with John Kerry. ... He is lying about his record." In preparation for the ad, French signed a sworn affidavit for the Swift Boat Veterans asserting that Kerry had received his Purple Heart "from negligently self-inflicted wounds in the absence of hostile fire." The affidavit French signed declared, "I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief" (emphasis added).
But in an interview with The Oregonian, French admitted he was "not a witness" to the events surrounding Kerry's medals and that his information came secondhand from "friends."
- George Elliott. In an April 12, 2004, article, USA Today reported that Lt. Cmdr. George Elliott, Kerry's division commander, said of the actions for which Kerry received a Silver Star: "This was an exemplary action. There's no question about it." Elliott subsequently appeared in a Swift Boat ad in which he asserted that "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam," and, according to an August 6, 2004, Boston Globe article, "sign[ed] an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star" which the Swift Boat Veterans gave to the Globe "to justify assertions in their ad and book."
But in an interview with the Globe for that August 6, 2004, article, Elliott said that his involvement in the Kerry attack was "a terrible mistake" and said, "I'm the one in trouble here. ... I knew it was wrong. ... In a hurry I signed [an affidavit] and faxed it back. That was a mistake." The Globe further reported that "Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star."
Finally, in an August 7, 2004, article, the Globe reported:
Elliott released another affidavit yesterday backing away from his comments this week to the Globe, saying the reporter, Michael Kranish, misquoted him.
Globe Editor Martin Baron released a statement saying "the Globe stands by the article. The quotes attributed to Mr. Elliott were on the record and absolutely accurate."
In 1996, when Kerry was running for Senate reelection and faced questions about the circumstances in which he shot the Viet Cong fighter, Elliott came to Boston and defended Kerry, saying he deserved the Silver Star.
In yesterday's new affidavit, Elliott said, "had I known the facts I would not have recommended Kerry for the Silver Star simply for pursuing and dispatching a single wounded Viet Cong." He added, "I do not claim to have any personal knowledge as to how Kerry shot the wounded, fleeing Viet Cong."
Media coverage of Swift Boat Veterans
Coulter also suggests that the media ignored the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans, writing, "The only way they could have gotten less attention would have been to be interviewed on Air America Radio. [Page 101]" In fact, as Media Matters senior fellow Eric Boehlert wrote in Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, May 2006):
By the time the Swift Boat story had played out, CNN, chasing after ratings leader Fox News, found time to mention the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth --hereafter, Swifties -- in nearly 300 separate news segments, while more than 100 New York Times articles and columns made mention of the Swifties. And during one overheated 12-day span in late August, the Washington Post mentioned the Swifties in page 1 stories on Aug. 19, 20, 21 (two separate articles), 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31. [Page 177]
Boehlert further wrote:
[I]n the month of August, 2004, NBC network news alone covered the Swift Boat story on August 8, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, and 29. CBS covered the story on August 8, 22, 23, 24, 25 26 and 30, while ABC devoted airtime to it on August 6, 8, 9, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 26. Some of the networks, using different morning and evening news programs, returned to the topic several times in one day. For instance on August 23, CBS reported on the Swifty controversy four different times, which of course, represented four more times than the CBS News division reported on question surrounding Bush's Guard service during the entire 2000 campaign. [Page 189]
Kerry's Bronze Star
Coulter also falsely suggests that no witnesses supported Kerry's account that his convoy came under enemy fire during the March 13, 1969, actions for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Coulter wrote:
Larry Thurlow was the Swiftee who, according to the Times's account, "earned a medal for bravery in a gun battle he accused Mr. Kerry of concocting." But Thurlow didn't think he had won his medal for coming under enemy fire for the simple reason that there had been no enemy fire. What happened was the first boat in the five-boat convoy, PCF-3, hit a mine that blew up the boat and tossed the sailors into the water. The Swiftees fired on the shore as a precautionary measure, but stopped when they realized there was no return fire. That is according to eleven crew members and three commanders on that mission -- or all living commanders, except Kerry. [Page 105]
Coulter provided no citation for her claim that "eleven crew members and three commanders on that mission" agreed with her description of "[w]hat happened." In fact, several crew members on the convoy boats have stated that the convoy did come under enemy fire:
- The crew of Patrol Craft Fast 94 (PCF-94). In a 2008 letter to Swift Boat Veterans funder T. Boone Pickens debunking the group's "lies," Del Sandusky, Fred Short, David Alston, Michael Medeiros, and Eugene K. Thorson -- Kerry's crewmates on PCF-94 during the Vietnam War -- wrote that "[t]he innuendo that Kerry 'put himself in' for his Bronze Star Medal on a mission where there was no hostile fire, is completely disproved ... by all of the other crew members who were actually on the boat in this ambush."
- Jim Rassmann. In an August 10, 2004, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Rassmann wrote:
I came to know Lt. John Kerry during the spring of 1969. He and his swift boat crew assisted in inserting our Special Forces team and our Chinese Nung soldiers into operational sites in the Cau Mau Peninsula of South Vietnam. I worked with him on many operations and saw firsthand his leadership, courage and decision-making ability under fire.
On March 13, 1969, John Kerry's courage and leadership saved my life.
While returning from a SEA LORDS operation along the Bay Hap River, a mine detonated under another swift boat. Machine-gun fire erupted from both banks of the river [emphasis added], and a second explosion followed moments later. The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river. Fearing that the other boats would run me over, I swam to the bottom of the river and stayed there as long as I could hold my breath.
When I surfaced, all the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks. To avoid the incoming fire [emphasis added], I repeatedly swam under water as long as I could hold my breath, attempting to make it to the north bank of the river. I thought I would die right there. The odds were against me avoiding the incoming fire and, even if I made it out of the river, I thought I'd be captured and executed. Kerry must have seen me in the water and directed his driver, Del Sandusky, to turn the boat around. Kerry's boat ran up to me in the water, bow on, and I was able to climb up a cargo net to the lip of the deck.
But, because I was nearly upside down, I couldn't make it over the edge of the deck. This left me hanging out in the open, a perfect target. John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard.
- Robert E. Lambert. An August 26, 2004, Mail Tribune (Oregon) article reported that Lambert, "a crew member on swift boat PCF-51" during the March 13, 1969, action, said of Thurlow, his commanding officer, "He and another officer now say we weren't under fire at that time. Well, I sure was under the impression we were." The Mail Tribune also reported that Lambert "doesn't plan to vote for John Kerry" and quoted him referring to Kerry's "opposition to the Vietnam War once he returned to the states" as "absolutely reprehensible."
- Wayne D. Langhofer. In an August 22, 2004, article, The Washington Post reported:
Until now, eyewitness evidence supporting Kerry's version had come only from his own crewmen. But yesterday, The Post independently contacted a participant who has not spoken out so far in favor of either camp who remembers coming under enemy fire. "There was a lot of firing going on, and it came from both sides of the river," said Wayne D. Langhofer, who manned a machine gun aboard PCF-43, the boat that was directly behind Kerry's.
Langhofer said he distinctly remembered the "clack, clack, clack" of enemy AK-47s, as well as muzzle flashes from the riverbanks. Langhofer, who now works at a Kansas gunpowder plant, said he was approached several months ago by leaders of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but declined their requests to speak out against Kerry.
- Jim Russell. In an August 23, 2004, article, the Post reported:
In Colorado, Jim Russell, who participated in Swift boat operations when Kerry did, wrote a letter to the editor of the Telluride Daily Planet to angrily dispute the claim that Kerry was not under enemy fire when he rescued Jim Rassman from the water, a feat that brought Kerry a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"I was on No. 43 boat, skippered by Don Droz, who was later that year killed by enemy fire," Russell wrote in the letter. "Forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago [is] John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water. All the time we were taking small arms fire from the beach; although because of our fusillade into the jungle, I don't think it was very accurate, thank God. Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river."
Coulter also writes that during the actions for which he was awarded the Bronze Star, "Kerry had nothing to do with saving the boat that had been hit because -- again according to the accounts of all three living commanding officers, except Kerry -- Kerry fled on his boat the moment the first boat hit a mine [Page 105]." But Coulter's suggestion that Kerry's boat fled while the other boats remained is inconsistent with Rassmann's firsthand account and with the account of Kerry's actions in his Bronze Star citation. Rassmann stated: "[A]ll the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks," before Kerry returned to rescue him from the water.
Coulter writes that Kerry "carrie[d] a home-movie camera to war in order to reenact combat scenes and tape fake interviews with himself" during his tour in Vietnam [Page 100]. Coulter was repeating a discredited charge previously made by Internet gossip Matt Drudge and subsequently echoed by The New York Times and numerous cable and radio outlets during the 2004 presidential election. Drudge's report cited a 1996 Boston Globe article, Unfit for Command, and Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson's book, "Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undermine Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security (Regnery Publishing, 2004). But in his September 7, 2002, column, the Times' current executive editor and then-columnist Bill Keller took up the issue of Kerry's wartime films and debunked the reenactment charge, which he wrote that he believed at first: "[R]elying on a report in the usually dependable Boston Globe, I mocked him for pulling out a movie camera after a shootout in the Mekong Delta and re-enacting the exploit, as if preening for campaign commercials to come."
Contrary to Coulter's assertion that Kerry "carrie[d] a home-movie camera to war in order to reenact combat scenes and tape fake interviews with himself," after spending 40 minutes watching the movies Kerry shot in Vietnam, Keller wrote:
The first thing to be said is that the senator's movies are not self-aggrandizing. Mr. Kerry is hardly in the film, and never strikes so much as a heroic pose. These are the souvenirs of a 25-year-old guy sent to an exotic place on an otherworldly mission, who bought an 8-millimeter camera in the PX and shot a few hours of travelogue, most of it pretty boring if you didn't live through it.
Keller also wrote that, according to the Swift Boat Sailors Association, "a group of veterans who manned" the kind of riverboat that Kerry commanded, "lots of enlisted men did the same." Keller further wrote: "Senator Max Cleland has hours of film from his service in the First Air Cavalry, which he has had edited into a three-minute meet-the-senator video."
As Media Matters documented, a July 30, 2004, New York Times article reporting on the Drudge charge noted that "people who have viewed his [Kerry's] film from the war have said they have seen no re-enactments," but the paper did not report that Keller had been among those "people."
Kerry and LexisNexis
After detailing retractions Kerry purportedly made in response to the Swift Vets' claims, Coulter writes: "By contrast, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth weren't forced to retract any part of their story. There's a reason it was Kerry -- and not the Swift Boat Veterans -- who told the Washington Post, 'I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis' [Page 100]." But contrary to Coulter's suggestion, Kerry did not make that comment to the Post in response to the Swift Boat Veterans' claims. The Washington Post article which Coulter cites for the quote was a profile of Kerry published on June 1, 2003, and Kerry was not referring to LexisNexis' documenting falsehoods, but to its documenting his having "be[en] a little brash when I first got into politics":
Kerry stepped into the crowd, planting his big hands on workingmen's shoulders, quizzing students about their majors, telling a woman about the time his daughter's pet frog jumped on his nose. He waved, hugged, guffawed and sat knee to knee with a grandmother. Boland said: "This guy's not personable? What a phony issue."
Yet it has been an issue, especially with journalists, all the way back to yellowing newspaper clips of 1971, which describe Kerry in such terms as "slick," "too pretty," "ambitious," "opportunistic."
John Norris, Kerry's state director in Iowa, said he isn't worried: "The East Coast press uses the word 'aloof.' It's been an asset, because Iowans come with low expectations."
Kerry appreciates the irony. "I'll say thank you to every journalist who wrote [expletive] articles about me," he joked. Then he added, "I plead guilty to being a little brash when I first got into politics. I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker's Palin criticism
Coulter took conservative columnist Kathleen Parker out of context to suggest that Parker made only stylistic criticisms against Gov. Sarah Palin when Parker called for Palin to withdraw as the vice-presidential nominee. In fact, Parker criticized Palin for what Parker said was a lack of substance. Coulter wrote:
Meteoric rises are available to any Republican who claims to be disgusted with the Republican Party for one or another reason. The heretofore unknown Kathleen Parker was the media's favorite Republican in 2008, after she called on Sarah Palin to withdraw from the campaign on the grounds that: She "filibusters. She repeats words, filling up space with deadwood." This might not have been manifestly insane if Palin's Democratic counterpart had been anyone other than Joe Biden -- who filibusters, repeats words, and achieves a personal coup every time he merely fills space with "deadwood," rather than one of his usual deranged pronouncements. [Page 114]
Coulter's suggestion that Parker's' criticism of Palin was limited to style rather than substance is false. In fact, in the syndicated column Coulter cited, Parker wrote, "Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there's not much content there [emphasis added]." Parker further wrote:
If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.
If Palin were a man, we'd all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she's a woman -- and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket -- we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.
Lipstick on a Pig
Coulter devotes four pages of Guilty [173-176] to discussing her false assertion that "Obama himself compared Palin to a pig and then denied doing so." In fact, Obama's September 9, 2008, statement, "you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig," did not refer to Palin, but rather to how a "list" of Sen. John McCain's policies were, according to Obama, no different from President Bush's. Obama did not mention Palin in at least the 65 words preceding his "lipstick on a pig" comment, as Media Matters noted. Moreover, the expression "lipstick on a pig" is common political rhetoric -- Obama had reportedly used the expression in the past, and McCain used it in 2007 in reference to Sen. Hillary Clinton's health-care proposal.
Former acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift -- a national member of the McCain campaign's "Palin Truth Squad" -- falsely accused Obama of making "disgraceful comments comparing our vice presidential nominee, Gov. Palin, to a pig," but later backtracked on her assertion, saying that she "can't know" if Obama's comment "was aimed at Governor Palin."
Frank Rich's column on "Jeff Gannon"
Coulter misrepresents a quote by New York Times columnist Frank Rich about former Talon News "Washington Bureau Chief" Jeff Gannon -- whose real name, James Guckert, was uncovered by bloggers in February 2005 -- to assert: "The entire scandal that Frank Rich complained was not getting enough attention was that Gannon was a gay Republican [Page 200]."
Coulter writes: "Another story that the mainstream media denounced the mainstream media for ignoring was the Jeff Gannon mystery scandal. It was a mystery scandal because it was a mystery why it was a scandal. In 2005, Frank Rich bitterly complained that the ' 'Jeff Gannon' story was getting less attention than another media frenzy -- that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan.' " She continues:
Rich, who became qualified to comment on U.S. foreign policy, national security, and presidential politics after spending a childhood dancing his favorite numbers from Oklahoma! in his mother's panties and then spending twelve years reviewing theater for the New York Times, attacked Gannon for not being a "real newsman." Not only that, but, Rich breathlessly reported, there were "embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking [Gannon] to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour 'escort.' " In Rich's estimation, $200 an hour was way too much to pay a male escort who wasn't Latino. Now, if there's anybody in this world who knows what a real man is, it's Frank Rich. But as for knowing what a real newsman is, that's another story. [Page 198]
But Rich did not say that the scandal consisted of Gannon's "embarrassing blogosphere revelations" or his status as a "gay Republican." Rather, Rich focused on the fact that Gannon was a "fake" journalist. In the February 20, 2005, column to which Coulter refers Rich wrote:
[F]or nearly two years the White House press office had credentialed Mr. Guckert, even though, as Dana Milbank of The Washington Post explained on Mr. Olbermann's show, he "was representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership."
How this happened is a mystery that has yet to be solved. "Jeff" has now quit Talon News not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour ''escort [emphasis added]."
Rich added: "If Mr. Guckert, the author of Talon News exclusives like 'Kerry Could Become First Gay President,' is yet another link in the boundless network of homophobic Republican closet cases, that's not without interest. But it shouldn't distract from the real question -- that is, the real news -- of how this fake newsman might be connected to a White House propaganda machine that grows curiouser by the day."
Rich continued: " 'Jeff Gannon' is now at least the sixth 'journalist' (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news." Rich went on to discuss Armstrong Williams, Karen Ryan, and Alberto Garcia and wrote: "Such 'reports,' some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal 'covert propaganda' by the Government Accountability Office.
Media Matters has documented several instances in which Gannon lifted text directly from Republican materials and sources.
From Frank Rich's February 20, 2005, New York Times column:
''Jeff Gannon's'' real name is James D. Guckert. His employer was a Web site called Talon News, staffed mostly by volunteer Republican activists. Media Matters for America, the liberal press monitor that has done the most exhaustive research into the case, discovered that Talon's ''news'' often consists of recycled Republican National Committee and White House press releases, and its content frequently overlaps with another partisan site, GOPUSA, with which it shares its owner, a Texas delegate to the 2000 Republican convention. Nonetheless, for nearly two years the White House press office had credentialed Mr. Guckert, even though, as Dana Milbank of The Washington Post explained on Mr. Olbermann's show, he ''was representing a phony media company that doesn't really have any such thing as circulation or readership.''
How this happened is a mystery that has yet to be solved. ''Jeff'' has now quit Talon News not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour ''escort.'' If Mr. Guckert, the author of Talon News exclusives like ''Kerry Could Become First Gay President,'' is yet another link in the boundless network of homophobic Republican closet cases, that's not without interest. But it shouldn't distract from the real question -- that is, the real news -- of how this fake newsman might be connected to a White House propaganda machine that grows curiouser by the day. Though Mr. McClellan told Editor & Publisher magazine that he didn't know until recently that Mr. Guckert was using an alias, Bruce Bartlett, a White House veteran of the Reagan-Bush I era, wrote on the nonpartisan journalism Web site Romenesko, that ''if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.'' (Otherwise, it would be a rather amazing post-9/11 security breach.)
By my count, ''Jeff Gannon'' is now at least the sixth ''journalist'' (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's ''marriage'' initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV. Before Mr. Guckert and Armstrong Williams, the talking head paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, there were Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia. Let us not forget these pioneers -- the Woodward and Bernstein of fake news. They starred in bogus reports (''In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting,'' went the script) pretending to ''sort through the details'' of the administration's Medicare prescription-drug plan in 2004. Such ''reports,'' some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal ''covert propaganda'' by the Government Accountability Office.
- Ann Coulter