Appearing on the November 7 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, author Alan Skorski promoted his new book, Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears and Deceives (WND Books, October 2005), by leveling false attacks at Air America radio host Al Franken.
On The Situation, Skorksi attacked Franken as “one of the most vicious and dishonest political pundits in the arena today.” When asked by host Tucker Carlson to provide two examples of Franken's “dishonesty,” Skorski referred to a portion of Franken's book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Dutton, 2003), in which Franken exposed Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's false claims that Inside Edition, a tabloid-style news program he once anchored, had won “Peabody awards.” Skorski claimed: “What Franken used to attack O'Reilly was a news column that had nothing to do with what Franken claimed it did.” As his second example, Skorski claimed that Franken “made up” Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data in order to refute nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh's false assertion that the majority of minimum wage earners in the country are teenagers. In fact, the column Skorski -- and Franken -- referred to did address O'Reilly's false claim to have won Peabody awards. Also, the BLS data clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of minimum wage earners are 20 and older -- refuting Skorski's claim that Franken “made up” the data.
On pages 67-71 of Lies (hardcover), Franken detailed O'Reilly's inconsistent positions. Franken offered three instances in which O'Reilly claimed that Inside Edition won Peabody Awards, such on the May 19, 2000, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
ARTHEL NEVILLE (former Fox News anchor): You hosted Inside Edition --
NEVILLE: -- which is considered a tabloid show.
O'REILLY: By whom?
NEVILLE: By many people.
O'REILLY: Oh, does that mean --
NEVILLE: And even you --
O'REILLY: -- we throw the Peabody Awards back?
NEVILLE: Even you -- even you would admit to that. Come on, now.
O'REILLY: No, I wouldn't.
NEVILLE: Come on, now.
O'REILLY: I would not.
NEVILLE: And despite your fight to be a hard-hitting journalist, some people would say you sold out.
O'REILLY: Well, they're crazy.
NEVILLE: You sold it.
O'REILLY: We won Peabody Awards.
NEVILLE: You got a lot of money, and you sold out.
O'REILLY: We won Peabody Awards.
As Franken pointed out in his book, the University of Georgia, which administers the George Foster Peabody awards, lists every winner since 1940; Inside Edition is not among the recipients. Franken wrote that he contacted O'Reilly regarding this inconsistency, and O'Reilly explained that it was a George Polk award -- not a Peabody -- that Inside Edition had won. Franken relayed this information to former Washington Post columnist Lloyd Grove. In his March 1, 2001, “The Reliable Source” column, Grove quoted O'Reilly admitting his mistake: “Al Franken is on a jihad against me. So I got mixed up between a Peabody Award and a Polk Award, which is just as prestigious.” Franken noted on page 70 of Lies: “A couple other papers picked up the Peabody story from the Post. Newsday ran a March 8  column by Robert Reno titled 'Some Factors About O'Reilly Aren't Factual.' ” From Reno's Newsday column:
O'Reilly also has repeatedly boasted of his Peabody Awards, not exactly the attitude of a maverick who shuns the approval of the media grandees who heap these Peabodies and Pulitzers on each other annually in an orgy of mutual congratulation. Actually, he has never won a Peabody.
He explains he got it confused with the Polk Award which, incidentally, he also never received but which had been won by “Inside Edition” a year before he ever joined the show.
Franken noted in his book that on March 13, 2001, O'Reilly denied ever having claimed that Inside Edition had won a Peabody and falsely asserted that Reno had lied about him. From the March 13, 2001, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: I'll give you an example. Guy says about me, couple of weeks ago, “O'Reilly said he won a Peabody Award.” Never said it. You can't find a transcript where I said it. You -- there is no one on earth you could bring in that would say I said it. Robert Reno in Newsday, a columnist, writes it in his column, calls me a liar, all right? And it's totally fabricated. That's attack journalism. It's dishonest, it's disgusting, and it hurts reputations.
But on the November 7 edition of The Situation, Skorski falsely claimed that Reno's column -- which Skorski claimed to have discussed with Franken -- had nothing to do with the Peabody/Polk controversy:
SKORSKI: To make a long story short, because I've got two chapters on this one subject alone, what Franken used to attack O'Reilly was a news column that had nothing to do with what Franken claimed it did. And furthermore, he had never even read that column. Here's what happened. When Franken attacked O'Reilly, I had actually sent an e-mail over to Franken asking, what's the big deal about a misstatement over an award?
SKORSKI: And he told me, “Well, it's more than that. After O'Reilly admitted making the misstatement, he attacked another columnist for writing about his admission.” So I just archived the article, because it didn't make sense that O'Reilly on one week would admit something and the next week deny it. And after I saw the article, I said, this doesn't say anything that Franken claimed it did. And then I even emailed the article to Franken himself. And he wrote back saying, “Well, you know, now I'm reading the article for the first time.”
Skorski expressed skepticism over the suggestion that O'Reilly would say something one week, and “the next week deny it.” But it wouldn't be the first, second, or even third time O'Reilly has falsely denied his own statements.
When asked by Carlson to provide “an example of a hard lie, something he [Franken] said knowing it was not true,” Skorski falsely claimed that Franken “made up” and “distorted” BLS data to refute Limbaugh's erroneous claim that the majority of minimum wage earners in the United States are teenagers.
From the November 7 edition of MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson:
CARLSON: But give me example of a hard lie, something he said knowing it was not true.
SKORSKI: OK. I'll give you a great example. Al Franken's number one favorite lie is an attack he made on Rush Limbaugh, and it's been going on over a year now. And this is Franken's favorite story. It goes back to over a year ago.
CARLSON: You just got a minute, so hit me with it.
SKORSKI: Real quickly, Al Franken -- Rush Limbaugh had said that majority of minimum wage earners in America are teenagers. Franken says that he did the research with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and says that, no, the majority are adults. Long story short, I spoke to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's in my book. And Franken made up all of the data. He cited a credible source, used it to smear Rush Limbaugh. This is his modus operandi. He cites a credible source, distorts the data, and then uses that to attack. Whether it's Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, that's what he does.
Other than claiming that he “spoke to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics,” Skorski offered no evidence to support his claim that Franken “made up” and “distorted” data. Media Matters for America was unable to obtain a copy of Pants on Fire. The most recent BLS data, however, does indeed show that the vast majority of minimum wage earners in America are 20 or older. According to the BLS' "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Earners: 2004," of all wage and salary workers earning $5.15 per hour or less, only 24.8 percent are between the ages of 16 and 19. In a November 8 post on his weblog, Skorski defended his claim, writing: “On the show [The Situation] and in my book I provide the actual data and graph from the Bureau to show that Franken was wrong and his data was not even close.”
Skorski also responded in his November 8 blog post to an online reviewer at Amazon.com, who posted the BLS data cited above to refute Skorski's claim. According to Skorski, “if you read the data closely, you see that the majority of minimum wage earners 'tend to be young,' proving my point.” But Skorski's -- and Limbaugh's -- point was not that minimum wage earners “tend to be young.” They claimed that the majority are teenagers, which, as the data demonstrates, is false.
Skorski is the director of political strategies for Political Media Inc., which boasts on its web page that it is “leading the driving the new political messages [sic].” Skorski's Political Media biography states:
Alan Skorski, a political activist for over 20 years, joined the Political Media team after a very spirited and passionate run for Congress in 2002. During Skorski's campaign run, he established many valuable contacts with leading political strategists, think-tanks, and political activist organizations. “The contacts and experience that Skorski brings to Political Media are invaluable,” says Larry Ward, President of Political Media, Inc. “Alan understands how campaigns operate, their timetables, and when they get into gear. That makes him an effective part of our team.”
In fact, Skorski's “very spirited and passionate” congressional campaign ended even before the Republican primary, with Skorski having raised just $24,000 (and put in more than $60,000 of his own money). Nearly all of the 17 news stories available on the Nexis database that mention Skorski give him only passing mention; those that mentioned his brief congressional candidacy tended to identify him not as a “political activist for over 20 years,” but as a “wholesale candy and snack distributor.” One thing Skorski did learn about “how campaigns operate” is that they must file finance reports with the Federal Election Commission; the Skorski campaign's failure to do so resulted in a $2,700 fine -- equal to more than ten percent of the total amount of money he raised.
Skorski's other brush with fame came via a March 25, 2000, Washington Post article about the controversy surrounding an exhibit at New York's Whitney Museum:
On Thursday afternoon, as hundreds of people waited in line to be among the first to view the Biennial, a lone protester stood in front of the museum, holding up a homemade poster that depicted Rosie O'Donnell, Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin wearing swastika armbands.
Alan Skorski, 37, wore a yarmulke, argued with museum-goers and said he was objecting to the exhibit because “enough is enough.”
WND Books is the publishing imprint of WorldNetDaily.com, a conservative Internet news site.