Why is Ingraham's book on the NY Times' nonfiction list?

Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham's book The Obama Diaries recently appeared on the New York Times' list of bestselling hardcover nonfiction, even though the Times describes it as a “satirical fictional journal with commentary” (emphasis added). Moreover, the “commentary” parts of Ingraham's book are filled with fictitious attacks on President Obama, his administration, and his family.

NY Times classifies Ingraham's book as “nonfiction” while describing it as “a satirical fictional journal”

NY Times contradicts its own classification of The Obama Diaries as “nonfiction.” On July 23, Laura Ingraham's The Obama Diaries debuted as number one on The New York Times' list of bestselling hardcover nonfiction; this week, it fell to second behind Justin Halpern's


My Dad Says. Despite classifying the book as “nonfiction,” the Times describes it as a “satirical fictional journal with commentary, by the conservative political commentator.”

Ingraham acknowledges her book is partly a “fictional account” of Obama's presidency. ;In the final section of the book, Ingraham admits that it is at least partly a work of fiction. From The Obama Diaries:

This book was designed to open your eyes to the true agenda and motives of Team Obama. For those of you who haven't gotten the joke yet, these diaries were my way of pulling back the curtain on Barack Obama's Theater of the Politically Absurd. My musings - raw and uncensored - are informed by actual events and, on many occasions, by the main characters' own words.

[...]

What you do with the insights in this true and fictional account of the historic presidency of Barack Obama is up to you. [p. 350]

Ingraham's supposedly “nonfiction” commentary is filled with fictitious claims

Ingraham ignores economic realities to attack Obama on “the welfare state.” On page 60, Ingraham claims “Obama's policies are disempowering the family...and leaving future generations holding the bag.” Ingraham also claims that “As the economy contracted, President Obama did manage to grow one thing: the welfare state.” Ingraham writes that “welfare programs like housing and food stamps will have increased a staggering 30 percent” during Obama's first two years in office. However, Ingraham fails to mention that the economy's “contract[ion]” predated Obama's presidency, and that the economy has actually improved under his administration.

Ingraham misleads on DC voucher policy. On page 61, Ingraham claims "[t]he D.C. voucher program was a raging success, with 1,700 children participating each year." Ingraham accuses Obama of sitting “back while Congress defunded this program in 2009,” and suggests that "[h]e would rather condemn poor children to failing schools than offend the teachers unions." But, according to the Department of Education's June report, there is “no conclusive evidence” that the program “affected student achievement overall,” and “students themselves rated school satisfaction and safety the same whether they received a voucher or not.”

Ingraham ignores context of Obama 2008 remarks on sexual health to attack his stance on abortion. On page 44, Ingraham repeats often-distorted quotes from then-Senator Obama's 2008 speech at a rally in Pennsylvania, attacking Obama for saying, “I've got two daughters -- nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby.” Ingraham falsely suggests that Obama was discussing abortion, and comments: “Of all the deeply troubling remarks made by this president, there is none that I find more offensive or tragic than this one. It reveals President Obama's true feelings about human life and gives us a unique perspective into his notions of family.”

Ingraham ignored the fact that Obama was reportedly responding to a question about “the issue of HIV and AIDS and also sexually transmitted diseases with young girls,” and that he went on to say: “I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so, it doesn't make sense to not give them information. You still want to teach them the morals and the values to make good decisions.

Ingraham repeats tired falsehood that health care reform legislation funds abortion. In her book, Ingraham writes that ” Representative Stupak's House career was effectively ended by his decisions to break with his pro-life supporters - and his own pro-life rhetoric - by voting for a health-care bill that will use government funds to pay for abortions." [p. 344] As Media Matters has repeatedly documented, the claim that the health care reform bill funds elective abortions is false. The final bill forbade use of federal subsidies for abortion services except in cases allowed by the Hyde amendment.

Ingraham baselessly claims nuclear posture review “weakened our national security.” Ingraham writes:

“In a staggering announcement on April 6, 2010, President Obama revamped U.S. nuclear policy and weakened our national security. CBS News reported that, for the first time, the United States had ” limited the circumstances under which the U.S. would resort to nuclear weapons." This meant if a nonnuclear state were to attack America with a biological or chemical weapon, the United States would no longer consider a nuclear response." [p.297]

Media Matters previously noted that this policy applies only to “non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and in compliance,” and that “there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack,” and that the United States reserves the right to adjust the policy. Additionally, nuclear experts and military brass rejected the notion that the review weakens America's national security.

Ingraham repeats old, discredited claim that DHS right-wing extremism report targeted “the Tea Party activists.” In her book, Ingraham writes:

“To understand this particular Obama tactic against the Tea Party activists, we have to go back to April 9, 2009. That's when Obama's Department of Homeland Security issued a report titled ” Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." It was distributed to law enforcement officials all over the country. The report suggested that the Obama presidency had spurred a rise in activity among racist groups, hate groups, and antigovernment groups.

[...]

For those who might have missed it, the Obama administration had officially classified pro-lifers, anyone hostile to high taxes, veterans, and any citizen opposed to illegal immigration as 'right-wing extremists.' " [p. 306-307]

As Media Matters repeatedly documented, while the DHS report addressed potential issues that could spur right-wing extremism, it did not allege that someone is an extremist simply because he or she holds conservative views. Also, before it issued the memo on right-wing extremism, DHS released a memo on left-wing extremism, warning of the threat of increased cyber attacks. Nonetheless, many conservative media figures freaked out over the DHS report soon after it was issued.

Ingraham revives tired “death panel” falsehood. Purporting to represent Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag, Ingraham revives the long debunked falsehood that the health care reform bill contains “death panels.” Ingraham purports to quote Orszag, writing: “We got the death panel through the door ...This is a killer panel! And I mean killer! Every financial model indicates that the only way to restore fiscal sanity to this country is for people to die.” [p. 120]

Ingraham also recycles tired right-wing smears

Ingraham rehashes old attacks on Michelle Obama's patriotism. Ingraham rehashed old attacks on Michelle Obama, suggesting repeatedly that she is unpatriotic. On page 6, Ingraham writes: “Michelle and Barack Obama have a truly lamentable track record when it comes to celebrating America as the greatest country on the face of the earth.” Ingraham baselessly speculated that it's "[p]robably because they don't believe it's true." Ingraham quotes Michelle Obama's February 2008 statement that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,” and asked “Can you imagine reaching the age or forty-four and never having been proud of your country?” Later, in Michelle Obama's “diary,” Ingraham wrote “After I unpack Sasha's room, I've got to get dressed and go to some damn military thing. Just what I need today. All that flag-waving, hillbilly music, hand-on-the-heart crap.” [p. 8]

Ingraham continues right-wing's attempt to psychologically “diagnose” Obama. In chapter eight, entitled “The Audacity of Narcissism,” Ingraham continued the right-wing media's attempt to “diagnose” Obama:

There are certain traits of narcissistic personality that help physicians identify the condition. To be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the patient must show signs of at least five of the eight criteria. Some mental health experts have suggested that Barack Obama may suffer from NPD. [p. 255]

Ingraham invokes “apology tour.” Revving another tired conservative claim, Ingraham labels Obama's foreign policy an "apology tour," consisting of “so many 'sorry' statements” that “many of us began to wonder whether Michael Moore had joined his speech-writing staff” [p. 221]. Ingraham also attributes the following quote to Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin: “I berated him about the many injustices my great country has suffered. And he lapped it up. I had him eating out of my hand ... if we could have had this president back in the 1980s, the Warsaw Pact would still be going strong.” [p. 242].

Ingraham ridiculously suggests Obama sees Jeremiah Wright as “Jesus.” Repeating a favorite attack from Sean Hannity's playbook, Ingraham writes: “Peter and Paul had Jesus to teach them 'in the flesh'; Obama had Jeremiah Wright.” [p. 179]. Ingraham later wrote that when Obama delivers a stump speech, "[t]he measured staccato Obama of the exclusive interview vanishes, and out pops Obama the pastor," She concluded: “What you are hearing is the ghost of Jeremiah Wright.” [p. 209].

Ingraham attacks Obama's family

Ingraham smears Obama's father as a “polygamist” who “has spread more seed than the Park Service on the South Lawn.” After railing against the president for his “polygamist” father [p. 55] and “twisted” family tree [p. 56], Ingraham inserts a diary entry where Obama reflects, “I should write a multivolume book titled ” Children from My Father." That man has spread more seed than the Park Service on the South Lawn." [p. 95]

Ingraham invokes crack cocaine with Marian Robinson. When caught by her daughter smuggling cookies into Sasha's room, Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson laments in a fictitious journal entry, “You'd swear she had busted me with a crack pipe.” [p. 51]

Ingraham aims a slew of attacks at Michelle Obama. Ingraham depicts the first lady as an angry woman who derides patriotism as “flag-waving, hillbilly music, hand-on-the-heart crap,” [p. 8], and rants during her gardening project, “I'll be damned if all this fabulosity is going to waste reading Dr. Seuss to snot-nosed kids all day ... if we can scare up some poor kids to pick at the dirt, we could land the front cover of the New York Times. I'll be kind of a fashionable, toned, and tall Mother Teresa with a rake.” [p. 86-7]

Matteo Gomez is an intern at Media Matters for America.