END-OF-YEAR HOUSECLEANING PART 3: Dave vs. NBC – 1 Win, 1 Loss
So here we are with Part 3 of Dave’s year-end housecleaning, featuring the stuff I never got around to releasing during the year. Part 1 was all about me bitching about the Washington Examiner plagiarizing my stories, and Part 2 was about a Muslim apologist at Cracked.com. Part 3 will deal with NBC, the battle I won, and the battle I lost.
Ever since I used to write pieces for the L.A. Times (1998 – 2003, with one late exception in 2005), I’ve maintained a love-hate relationship with the “mainstream” press. And by “love-hate,” I mean I truly love to hate the leftists who don’t have the simple common sense to know that their ideological bias is killing the calcified “old media” that is their bread and butter.
That being said, I still enjoy staying in touch with some members of the MSM, occasionally calling them out if I see flagrant violations of the whole “ethics” thing that they claim to adhere to. In the case of Steve Handelsman, senior national White House and Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News, I noticed, back in August, that in his coverage of the announcement that Paul Ryan would be Romney’s VP, Handelsman was not exactly accurate in the way he portrayed Ryan’s Medicare plan. Here’s our correspondence:
In describing Ryan’s Medicare plan, you completely left out that it would not apply to anyone currently over 55. Indeed, your piece showed photos of seniors, and you claimed that Ryan’s plan could hurt the GOP ticket among seniors in Florida. Isn’t implying that the Ryan plan affects current seniors just an outright lie? I mean, isn’t it objectively a lie? Didn’t Politifact choose the misinformation surrounding the Ryan plan as its 2011 “Lie of the Year?” Specifically, didn’t the non-partisan Politifact criticize politicians and reporters who fail to mention that the plan would not affect anyone currently over 55?
So, I’m curious…why did you fail to mention that fact?
It’s true that the Ryan proposal on Medicare would not kick in until 2022 and, so, would only affect Americans who are now under 55, and true that Ryan proposes a voucher alternative to Original Medicare. It’s also true that Romney knowingly risked a backlash from older voters, who fear any changes to the plan will add to their costs. Analysts disagree about whether that fear is justified. With Medicare suddenly an even stronger issue in the campaign, we will renew our effort to make the Ryan plan clear.
I’m always fascinated by the fine line between reporting events and influencing them (even if unintentionally). If we all agree that the Ryan plan would not affect anyone currently over 55, and if we all agree that current senior voters might be influenced in their vote if they aren’t aware of that fact, can’t we then say that when a journalist with a large audience doesn’t mention the “55 and under” fact, that journalist is, even if inadvertently, influencing events rather than reporting them, by encouraging the fears of those senior voters?
I find it fascinating that Politifact would choose the attacks against the Ryan Medicare plan, specifically the failure to mention the “55 and under” fact, as its “2011 Lie of the Year,” and yet now that Ryan is the GOP VP candidate, that same misinformation persists. It makes me wonder to what extent a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-partisan outfit like Politifact is actually read by professional journalists.
Many years ago, at a convention of investigative reporters, keynote speaker, Geraldo Rivera said, “Let’s just admit it: we study a subject, decide who’s right and take that side.” He was booed so badly he quit his speech and left the room. I booed. Anything we do can affect events, which is why we have to be very very careful. I try to be.
55 and under is the proposal; it ought to be mentioned…just like the slow phase in of Obamacare requires one never to imply Obamacare is in force now.
To his credit, Handelsman was true to his word. He made certain from that point on to stress that the Ryan plan did not apply to anyone currently over 55.
The one and only thing I have in common with Gandhi is an aversion to being fully-clothed. But I always thought the little feller was on to something when he maintained that an effective defense is to confront your opponents with the ethical codes they claim to espouse, while explaining how they’re not living up to them. It worked wonders for Gandhi against British Christians, and it totally failed against Indian Muslims. So, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Handelsman at least realized he was wrong and changed course. And that’s something (a small and, in the end, insignificant something, but something nonetheless).
I watch so little TV that I’ve never taken my cable provider up on its offer of free TiVo. I don’t need it. My comfy chair is in front of my computer, and my TV is very rarely used. But on June 20th, when a House committee found Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over Fast and Furious, I did make it a point to tune in to NBC Nightly Leftist News with Brian “Holy Koran” Williams. It was going to be the first time they’d have to cover Fast and Furious, and damned if I wasn’t going to witness it.
It was a Wednesday night, and I was late for the Culver City pub crawl (third Wednesdays of every month). Yet even the allure of free booze and horrid women did not keep me from sitting at home at 6:30pm to see how Allahu Akbar Williams would handle the story. If I’d had TiVo, I could have taken off to do my drinking, AND preserved a moment that would have made a damn great story. Because, after opening by explaining to his viewers that they probably weren’t following the Fast and Furious story (isn’t that just beautiful? Blaming his viewers for not following it, rather than apologizing for not covering it), Williams threw the story to correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, to (finally) give NBC viewers the details of the deadly Justice Department operation.
And then the screen switched to calming footage of starfish and other lovely sea creatures. And it stayed like that, for about 30 seconds. No Fast and Furious details, no mention of slain border agent Brian Terry. Nothing to trouble the minds of NBC’s mindless Left Coast viewers. Just purdy little sea creatures. And when the “glitch” ended, there were the Democrats, explaining how Holder and Obama did nothing wrong.
Obviously, I needed to make sure that I hadn’t just imagined what I saw. I also needed to make sure that it wasn’t some glitch in my cable service. Within 60 seconds (knowing how much free boozing and horrid womening time this was costing me), I was on the phone to the local NBC News affiliate. They confirmed the “glitch.” I asked, “Was it just L.A., or the entire West Coast feed?”
“Uh, yuh’ll haff ta talk ta New York about that.”
“But you just said the glitch was on your end.”
“Yeah, but I’m not ortherized to say anything more.”
“What’s your name?”
“Uh, hooer you?”
“I’m David Stein, and I’ll leave my phone number.”
“’kay. I’ll have someone get back tyoo.”
TWO WEEKS of calling and emailing both L.A. and New York, and no one would go on the record about the “glitch.” The cogs who answered the phones would always acknowledge it happened, but L.A. would tell me it was New York’s fault, and New York would tell me it was L.A.’s fault. In the end, everyone agreed that Erika Masonhall (email@example.com, https://twitter.com/ErikaMasonhall), NBC News communications director, would be the person to speak with. Twelve (yes, twelve) calls and emails went unreturned. Not even a standard boilerplate response. Nothing.
Every professional news recording service only had copies of the East Coast feed, which did not contain the “glitch.” And I didn’t have a friend or colleague out here who’d TiVo’d the damn show (hell, I don’t think I have a single friend out here who even watches NBC News, let alone TiVo-ing it).
So what could I do? I had no proof. I still don’t. Not for lack of trying.
It woulda been a good story. Had I taken my drinking as seriously as I should have, I would’ve popped a tape in the ol’ VCR (yes, I still have one of those) and headed out to Culver City.
My lack of commitment to dying from liver cirrhosis tripped me up. So this one was a definite loss. I’ll never again allow demon sobriety to get in the way of a good scoop.