Saturday, October 15, 2005

DUELLING HEADLINES DEPARTMENT:

This morning we are afforded excellent opportunities to add to the "It's the spin, stupid" file and bestow the coveted "NewsTwister Extraordinairre" and "Abuse of the First Amendment" awards...

Drudge, that stalwart standard bearer for the Rabid Right, and his new opposition from the Looney Left, The Huffington Post - HuffPo to it's regulars - lead with the same two news items.

The first item concerns that perennial cash-cow for all media, Karl Rove, and his fourth appearance before the Grand Jury investigating the Plame case.

First, Drudge.

Drudge links to a story from Breitbart.com entitled "Top Bush adviser Rove testifies again on CIA leak." http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/10/14/051014222030.g16i1gjw.html

The story leads with "President George W. Bush's top aide Karl Rove testified for a fourth time before a grand jury about the leaked identity of a CIA agent, which opponents call politically motivated." Breitbart makes no claims about the content of the testimony. The story goes on, quoting Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin. Speaking pure Lawyerese, Mr Luskin states:

"The special counsel has not advised Mr. Rove that he is a target of the investigation and affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges."

No, yes, no... Now, that's a quality dodge... Lushkin must have done well in Dissembling 101.

So Drudge leads with: "LAWYER: ROVE NO TARGET."

Matt, Matt, Matt... Have you no shame? While it is true Grand Juries can and do inform witnesses if they are under investigation, failure to include is not exclusion.

Then over at HuffPo, we have the same event - I think it's the same event - re-spun:

We are linked to the Washington Post under the headline "Rove Pressed on Conflicting Testimony," a fair reiteration of The Post's "Rove Pressed On Conflicts, Source Says"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/10/14/AR2005101402076_pf.html

The story leads off with the tagline "Questions Said to Focus On Differing Accounts" and the first two paragraphs focus on information provided by "a source familiar with Rove's account "that suggests an interest by the Grand Jury and the Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, in allegedly conflicting testimony. Later, the Post includes the same statement from Robert Lushkin without comment.

HMMM... Isn't Grand Jury testimony supposed to be closed? A source? Isn't that like a leak?

ISN'T THAT WHAT THE GRAND JURY IS INVESTIGATING? A LEAK??? Or is this leak OK? If so, who makes the "okayness" call? On what basis was this call made? Is it just that this is anonymous, or is it "OK" because everybody does it? Everybody, like maybe whoever outed Plame?

Sometimes distinctions, even accepted, legal ones, can become so fine as to lose meaning. And justice is lost in the process.

I have to award Drudge the NewsTwister Extraordinairre award for his clip-quote headline, which is clearly designed to fundamentally color the content.

But The Post and HuffPo clearly earn the Abuse of the First Amendment award, for once again using their protection of political speech to blur the line between politics and law, and they earn bonus points for potentially compromising the court in the process.


DUELLING HEADLINES, PART II:

Our second study is all the more interesting, because it concerns the EXACT same story, written by John Solomon, Associated Press Writer. The story is entitled "DeLay Uses Website to Attack Prosecutor," a loaded headline if there ever was one, but one that fits the story well.

Drudge links the story through My Way at http://apnews.myway.com/article/20051015/D8D8D9280.html

HuffPo catches the story from Yahoo at
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051015/ap_on_go_co/delay_indictment_campaign;_ylt=At.QG0owre_gLI.wJsAlLv6s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--

The story details an internet campaign based at http://www.tomdelay.com/ being conducted on Mr. DeLay's behalf with the dual purpose of raising re-election funds and discrediting his current nemesis, Texas Prosecutor Ronnie Earle, along with Earle's indictment of DeLay for conspiracy. After a description of the campaign, the obligatory legal "experts" are trotted out, and the rebuttals follow.

"Legal experts said DeLay's use of congressional campaign donations to attack Earle likely was permitted under campaign law, though it could lead to legal questions about whether he is trying to influence potential jurors for his trial.... "He clearly is aiming at the jury pool and aiming at voters, hoping to generate as much sympathy as he can," said Larry Noble, the government's former chief election enforcement lawyer."...

"Don McGahn, a lawyer for DeLay's campaign, said the use of the campaign for the anti-Earle effort is "perfectly legal" and has nothing to do with trying to sway jurors. The indictment is "big news in Texas so it is obviously something the campaign should address for the voters whom it affects," McGahn said. "The intent is just for people to understand the truth. There is no other purpose here.""

Unable to resist the temptation to editorialize, Mr. Solomon adds "The truth, however, is decidedly DeLay's version on the Web site."

Spin me right, spin me left, spin me into nausea...

WOW! DeLay is putting DeLay's version on DeLay's website? Thank you, Mr. Solomon! I was totally confused! I would have thought he'd be filling it with grovelling admissions and entreaties for pardon. That would be so much more in keeping with "The Hammer's" long, rigidly scrupulous record... Thanks for setting me straight! I was getting so tired of having to think!

But the fascinating part is how our primary subjects deal with the item.

Headline from Drudge: "DeLay Uses Website to Probe Prosecutor."

Headline from HuffPo: "Delay Trying To Influence Potential Jurors…"

A probe, Matt? I guess the Battle of the Bulge was a probe, too...

But HuffPo clearly out-does Drudge here, taking the opinion of a former election official and through a magical combination of inflation and conflation turning it into a statement of Mr. DeLay's intent, and at the same time using that opinion to hide an accusation of felony conduct on the part of the DeLay team.

This NewsTwister Extraordinairre award is given, hands down, to HuffPo with honorable mention to the original author for saving all of us the trouble of determining the truth for ourselves.

With pre-molded opinions like these, who needs facts?

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