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Tracking a lie through the conservative media

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com Cindy Sheehan changed her story on Bush ?
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 15, 2005
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Cindy Sheehan "changed her story on Bush"? Tracking a lie through
      the conservative media

      Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, has drawn
      significant media attention for staging an anti-war protest outside
      President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, where she is demanding to
      meet with the president. On August 8, Internet gossip Matt Drudge
      posted an item on his website, the Drudge Report, in which he
      falsely claimed that Sheehan "dramatically changed her account" of a
      meeting she had with Bush in June 2004; Drudge attempted to back up
      his false assertion by reproducing Sheehan quotes from a 2004
      newspaper article without providing their context. After the story
      appeared on the Drudge Report, it gained momentum among conservative
      weblogs and eventually reached Fox News, where it was presented as
      hard news and in commentaries. Media Matters for America will
      examine how one false story on an Internet gossip site ended up the
      focus of prime-time cable news coverage.

      Drudge's August 8 item claiming that Sheehan had changed her story
      used quotes from a June 24, 2004, article in The Reporter of
      Vacaville, California, where Sheehan lives. The Reporter article
      described a meeting that Sheehan and 16 other families of soldiers
      killed in Iraq had with Bush in Fort Lewis, Washington, earlier that
      month. Sheehan's son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in
      April 2004.

      Drudge quoted Sheehan seemingly speaking glowingly of Bush: "'I now
      know [Bush is] sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy
      said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for
      our loss. And I know he's a man of faith,' " and, "For the first
      time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again. 'That was the gift the
      president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,' Cindy
      said." Drudge contrasted these quotes to Sheehan's statements on the
      August 7 edition of CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, in which
      she said, of the 2004 meeting with Bush: "We wanted to use the time
      for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family
      and humanity."

      Drudge, however, took Sheehan's quotes from The Reporter out of
      context in falsely claiming a shift in her position. The June 24,
      2004, Reporter article also quoted Sheehan expressing her misgivings
      about Bush and the Iraq war:

      "We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy
      said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there
      every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."

      The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the
      family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the
      difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as
      whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

      But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to
      how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition,
      Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a
      political edge for the upcoming election.

      Moreover, Sheehan was not referring to her meeting with Bush as "the
      gift the president gave us." She was actually referring to the trip
      to Seattle, as Reporter staff writer Tom Hall noted in an August 9
      article responding to Drudge: "Sheehan also said the trip to Seattle
      helped connect her family to others that had lost a son or daughter
      in Iraq. Sheehan said sharing their story with those families was
      rewarding, as was the time she got to spend with her own
      family. 'That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of
      happiness, of being together,' she said in the story. Drudge
      included that quote in his Monday morning report, but didn't explain
      that it referred to sharing time with her family, not the president."

      Reporter editor Diane Barney also responded to Drudge in an August 9
      column, in which she said that Sheehan's positions on Bush and the
      war have not changed since June 2004. "We don't think there has been
      a dramatic turnaround. Clearly, Cindy Sheehan's outrage was
      festering even then," Barney wrote. "In ensuing months, she has
      grown more focused, more determined, more aggressive. ... We invite
      readers to revisit the story -- in context -- on our Web site and
      decide for themselves." An August 8 Editor & Publisher article
      quoted Barney further clarifying the paper's position: "It's
      important that readers see the full context of the story, instead of
      just selected portions. We stand by the story as an accurate
      reflection of the Sheehan's take on the meeting at the time it was

      Throughout the day on August 8, Drudge's false story needed little
      time to spread to conservative weblogs:

      Drudge posted the Sheehan item on August 8 at 10:11 am ET.
      Right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin posted the item on her weblog one
      hour later, at 11:22 am ET.
      At 12:40 pm ET, the Drudge story appeared on C-Log, the weblog of
      the conservative news and commentary website Townhall.com.
      At 2:33 pm ET, MooreWatch.com posted the story.
      At 3:23 pm ET, William Quick of DailyPundit.com posted the story.
      Fox News then picked up Drudge's distortion of Sheehan's quote. On
      the "Political Grapevine" segment of the August 8 edition of Special
      Report with Brit Hume, guest anchor and Fox News chief Washington
      correspondent Jim Angle highlighted Sheehan's supposed contradiction:

      ANGLE: Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last
      year, who's now camped outside President Bush's Crawford ranch
      demanding to see him, said yesterday on CNN that a private meeting
      with President Bush last year was offensive, insisting, quote, "He
      acted like it was a party. He came in very jovial, like we should be
      happy with that. Our son died for the president's misguided

      But just after that 2004 meeting, she gave a very different account,
      telling her local paper, the Vacaville Reporter, quote, "I now know
      the president is sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I
      know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a
      man of faith." She added that President Bush, quote, "gave us the
      gift of happiness of being together."

      By August 9, various journalists and progressive bloggers revealed
      Drudge's distortion. On Salon.com, journalist Eric Boehlert noted on
      August 9: "Put in full context, Drudge's claim of a flip-flop is
      easily dismissed." RawStory.com, a progressive news website, noted
      that Drudge "grossly took Sheehan out of context."

      Nevertheless, Drudge's distortion again popped up on Fox News --
      this time on the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Host Bill
      O'Reilly made Sheehan's nonexistent contradictions the focus of
      his "Talking Points Memo" segment:

      O'REILLY: The fascinating saga of Cindy Sheehan. That is the subject
      of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." Mrs. Sheehan is protesting
      in Crawford, Texas, trying to convince Americans the Iraq war is
      wrong and the president should be impeached. She is doing so because
      her son Casey, an Army specialist, was killed last year in Iraq. No
      one has the right to intrude on Mrs. Sheehan's grief. That's number
      one. She's entitled to her opinion on a situation that has deeply
      affected her. And she's angry at the White House.


      Well, here's something very strange. Two months after her son died,
      Cindy and her husband Patrick did meet with President Bush, as she
      said. After that meeting, Cindy was quoted by a California newspaper
      as saying, "I now know [President Bush] is sincere about wanting
      freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for
      our loss." So Mrs. Sheehan has apparently changed her mind about the


      In an editorial today in The New York Times, it says, "Mr. Bush
      obviously failed to comfort Ms. Sheehan when he met with her and her
      family. More important, he has not helped the nation give fallen
      soldiers like Casey Sheehan the honor they deserve." Well, let's go
      back to the California article. Cindy Sheehan was quoted as
      saying, "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of
      happiness, of being together." It sounds like comfort to me. What
      say you, New York Times?

      O'Reilly then introduced his guest to comment on Sheehan -- Michelle
      Malkin, who proclaimed that Sheehan's "story hasn't checked out," to
      which O'Reilly readily agreed:

      MALKIN: I mean, the New York Times editorial board is all too eager
      to prop her up as some sort of martyr and to buy her line when,
      clearly, her story hasn't checked out.

      O'REILLY: Yes, her story hasn't [sic] changed.

      MALKIN: And so I think -- and I think that angle you're emphasizing
      is absolutely right here, which is the mainstream media just lapping
      this up and perpetuating myths and inaccuracies when they know it's
      not the truth.

      O'REILLY: Yup. They don't identify -- in the New York Times
      editorial today, it was obvious they did not say her story has been
      inconsistent. And they did not pinpoint that she is in bed with the
      radical left.

      On the August 10 edition of his syndicated radio program, The Radio
      Factor, O'Reilly continued to assert that Sheehan had contradicted
      herself, stating, "In her first meeting with the president, she was
      happy with him, and we read you the article that the Vacaville
      paper -- where she's from in California -- printed."

      — S.S.M.

      Posted to the web on Wednesday August 10, 2005
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