EASILY SPUN: How easily are New York Times writers spun? Here is Jim Rutenberg, hopelessly bull-roared in a Sunday “Week in Review” report:
RUTENBERG: It was a sharp video attack, jarring in a political season that has been unusually short on negative advertising. A woman, sitting at a keyboard, seeks information about Senator John Kerry on the Internet. She unearths all sorts of scandalizing tidbits.
“More special interest money than any other senator. How much?” she says.
The answer flashes on the screen: $640,000. “Ooh, for what?” she says, typing out “Paybacks?” and then reading aloud from the screen, she says, “Millions from executives at HMO’s, telecoms, drug companies.” She add, “Ka-Ching!”
She can only come to one damning conclusion: Mr. Kerry, she says, is “Unprincipled.”
The one-minute spot, introduced a week ago, did not appear on television, but on President Bush's campaign Web site. And so a new bare-knuckled political use of the World Wide Web showed its head: the Internet attack ad.
Rutenberg repeats the content of this ad, and brightly notes that it’s an “attack.” But he is too inept to let readers know that this ad’s attack is utterly false. Does Kerry take “more special interest money than any other senator?” No, and the (hapless) Washington Post piece which led to this ad never made such an assertion. According to Peter Beinart, Kerry ranks ninety-second among U.S. senators when it comes to special interest money. Meanwhile, at his Annenberg “FactCheck” site, Brooks Jackson shot down this ad’s bogus claim too. (He shot it down ten days ago!) Is Kerry first among senators in special interest dough, raising $640,000 in the last fifteen years? Please. “So far, for example, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist reported $1,022,063 in PAC donations for his 2004 campaign alone,” Jackson notes. The Bush ad’s claim is utterly bogus. Rutenberg, typing hard, failed to say so.
But then, the New York Times deals in the factesque. The RNC send out a fake claim, so Rutenberg sat right down and typed it! Meanwhile, one last note, from the Annals of Clowning: When Rutenberg went on to discuss last week’s rumor from Drudge, he applauded the press for “not tak[ing] the bait.” But he’d been yanked from the water himself, ten grafs earlier! This year it matters, Gail Collins has said. But at the Times, hopeless habits die hard.
Rutenberg's article is amusingly titled, "In Politics, the Web Is a Parallel World With Its Own Rules." The New York Times has its own rules too - thou shalt not fact check the RNC.
...I spoke to soon. The New York Times and NPR apparently have the same rules.