Right Wing Nuts Run With it.
By Brad Friedman on 10/9/2004, 1:04pm PT  

No doubt you've heard or read the story by now. Drudge ran it, and so Fox (and all of the Rightwing sycophants that suck off their teets) dutifully repeated Drudge's twisted and wholly misleading interpretation.

Just prior to last night's debate, Drudge ran this screamer headline which is still at the top of his site: "ABCNEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR MEMO SPARKS CONTROVERSY: BOTH SIDES NOT 'EQUALLY ACCOUNTABLE' ..."

The desperate and gullible on the Right all dutifully repeated it out in the blogosphere and on Fox News. But of course, if anybody actually reads the memo in question (linked above), they'd see not just the absurd claim Drudge is making, but also the validity of the memo they are choosing to disparage as some form of "proof" that ABC News is biased.

The passage in the memo that Drudge characterizes as "BOTH SIDES NOT 'EQUALLY ACCOUNTABLE'":

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

...So in other words, the words "we have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable" means "BOTH SIDES NOT 'EQUALLY ACCOUNTABLE'" in Wingnut World 2004.

Drudge's purposeful mischaracterization aside, what ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin seems to be writing about, if this memo is real, is something I've been pondering and hoped to touch on for some time here.

The fact is, the Right has got the supposedly "Liberal" Media so frightened and in their pocket, that they've lost all understanding of what "fair and balance" actually means!

An example; Let's say one candidate in a debate (Bush or Cheney for example) gives incorrect information 15 times in one of the debates. And in that same debate, the other candidate (Kerry or Edwards for example) give incorrect information 2 times.

What does the lamestream media report in their post-debate "Fact Check" segments? "Both candidates distorted some facts in last night's debate". And then they go about showing two examples of Bush/Cheney doing it and two examples of Kerry/Edwards doing it. Never mind that Bush/Cheney was wrong some 15 times versus Kerry/Edwards' 2 times. The wingnuts would cry "Media Bias!!!" if the media didn't equalize the rather unequal situation by showing 2 errors each.

That's precisely what's been happening since the debates began if not well before. After the first Presidential debate, for instance, Fox reported on some of Bush's questionable claims (alright, lies) about the situation in Iraq. He repeated demonstrably fallacious information on many many occassions. Fox reported one or two of those, and then reported the one or two times that Kerry misspoke (when he identified the KGB headquarters in "Treblinka Square" instead Lubyanka Square, or referred to the $200 Billion appropriated for the War by Congress as inaccurate because only $120 Billion of that has so far been spent.)

Those "errors" were reported as if they were equal, with both candidates being incorrect at some points in the debate. That sort of reporting paints an egregiously inaccurate assessment of the event.

Halperin's memo was right on the money as far as I'm concerned. Two inequal candidates do not deserve to be covered "equally". But the media has become so frightened of it's own shadow, that they are serving as equalizers for Bush/Cheney when Bush/Cheney deserves nothing of the kind from any sober and unbiased assessment of the facts and the way these campaigns are being run.

Sadly however, the media has boxed themselves in by running scared for years now. To the point where they won't likely even be able to rebuff Drudge's gross misinterpretation of Halperin's memo ("BOTH SIDES NOT 'EQUALLY ACCOUNTABLE'"??) effectively. I suppose that's where those of us with any sense of fairness and honesty and reason have to step in. Unfortunately, there's not all that many of us left with a voice that can be heard over the brilliantly orchestrated din of lies from the Right.

UPDATE: To give you an idea of the breathless coverage the wingnuts are giving to this non-story (apparently they only bothered to read the headline, not the actual memo). Look no further than this from the rightwing blog Power Line...

ABC Bombshell: Media Bias Unleashed
Drudge has the most astonishing media bombshell ever...

Sigh...If Drudge prints it...they will come.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall's take on this nonsense.