In its Sunday magazine, the Times offered up a very cushy, flattering profile of conservative activist and former GOP House majority leader, Dick Armey. Readers learn that Armey, now the point person for FreedomWorks, which helped whip up the health care mini-mobs this summer, is a deep thinker and an all-round good guy.
But I couldn't help notice two instances early on the in the piece when the Times played quite dumb while tiptoeing around embarrassing facts about Armey and his FreedomWorks organization. Here's the first one [emphasis added]:
Now, in his role with FreedomWorks, which helped stage a big march on Washington in mid-September, he is again at the center of the opposition...The stated purpose of the march was to “defend” liberty and reduce the size of the federal government. (According to an unofficial estimate by a city official, the march drew between 60,000 and 75,000 people; organizers claimed a much higher number.)
“A much higher number”? I suppose that's one way of putting it, if you're trying to go out of your way to be nice to Armey and FreedomWorks. Because trust me, the facts are no nearly so benign.
The truth is that yes, the official estimate of the Sept. 12. rally was between 60,000 and 75.000. But in terms of what FreedomWorks organizers claimed, it wasn't “much higher.” It was more than 20 times higher. Approximately 70,000 showed up in D.C. to protest Obama, yet that day a FreedomWorks leader went on stage and claimed there were 1.5 million people protesting in the streets. That wildly inflated number was then bumped up to 2 million. Both numbers were completely manufactured; just made-up nonsense.
In other words, Armey's FreedomWorks helped organize an anti-Obama rally. Then on the day of the protest FreedomWorks spread wild lies about the size of the crowd, but the Times didn't think that fact was worth mentioning in its profile of FreedomWorks leader Armey. And of course, the Times didn't think it was worth asking Armey about why his org lied about the rally.
Here's the other rather egregious example from the Times profile:
Armey himself has been traveling the country in support of favored political candidates, not all of them running on the Republican line. In a special election in upstate New York, he backed a third-party candidate for Congress over a Republican whom he did not consider sufficiently conservative on economic matters.
Here's what Times readers were never told about the Upstate New York race: Armey's candidate lost.
The Armey piece ran on Sunday. The Upstate N.Y. election was five days earlier on Tuesday. But in its profile of Armey and FreedomWorks, which went all in on the N.Y., race, the Times never tells reader that Armey's guy lost; that Armey's candidate actually helped flip an historically Republican district to the Democrats.
How would the Times' Armey puff piece have changed if the newspaper had been upfront about the Sept. 12 rally and the botched Congressional race? I suspect if readers knew that Armey's FreedomWorks brazenly lied about the protest crowd, many of them would say to themselves, 'Gee, this guy's a little nuts.'
And if readers knew FreedomWorks had been embarrassed in the Upstate New York race, they'd probably say to themselves, 'Gee, this guy isn't very effective.' Which, I suppose, is probably why both facts were left out of the Times article.