Quotes First, Facts Second


The other day, Karl Rove went on television and stated falsely that it was congressional Democrats, rather than the Bush administration, that pushed for the Authorization of the Use of Military Force in Iraq vote to happen before the 2002 midterms. Either the story here is "former Bush advisor says things on television that aren't true" or else there's just no story. Merely restating the misstatements of prominent officials without flagging them as misstatements doesn't inform readers.

Instead, as Robert Waldman notes (via DeLong) Peter Baker of The Washington Post did a story comprised of seven paragraphs about the "controversy" over why was responsible for the war vote, followed eventually by some indication that there's a truth of the matter here:

News accounts and transcripts at the time show Bush arguing against delay. Asked on Sept. 13, 2002, about Democrats who did not want to vote until after the U.N. Security Council acted, Bush said, "If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, 'Vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.' "

And of course one must keep in mind that Baker did a better job here than what we've often seen -- if you read to paragraph eight, Baker lets you know the truth. But of course this is why people go on television and lie. People who read just the headline attached to Baker's article will come away believing there's a controversy. People who scan a few grafs will come away believing there's a controversy. And even people who read all the way through won't read "shrill" words like "liar. So why not lie?