Watch how Dick Durbin launches a coordinated assault on a Republican with an egregious misquote that takes off after it gets laundered through the left-wing media.
Yesterday afternoon, Sahil Kapur of TalkingPointsMemo wrote a piece quoting remarks from Mitch McConnell:
“Instead of focusing on jobs, [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] launched into another confusing attack on the left’s latest bizarre obsession,” the Republican leader said on the Senate floor. “Just think about that. The percentage of Americans in the workforce is at an almost four-decade low, and Democrats chose to ignore serious job-creation ideas so they could blow a few kisses to their powerful pals on the left.”
My RedState colleagues and I can hardly be accused of being Mitch McConnell’s biggest fans, but here he was, as any remotely fair-minded observer could tell from his remarks, referring to Reid’s now-daily attack on the Koch brothers, which the (current) Senate Majority Leader has for weeks now been pursuing with the single-mindedness of Captain Ahab and the unhinged paranoia of Captain Queeg. If you woke anybody following American politics in the middle of the night and asked, “what is Harry Reid obsessed with attacking?” they would immediately say, “the Koch brothers.”
That’s what Erik Wemple of the Washington Post concludes today, with somewhat grudging assent from Kapur:
In a brief chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Kapur said, “The initial confusion was that Sen. McConnell didn’t specify whether he was referring to pay equity or the Koch brothers and his remarks don’t point to one issue or the other. “His office says it was about the Koch brothers, which I’m not disputing. I want to be transparent, and I really regret the confusion.” Here’s a draft of Reid’s remarks as prepared for delivery. They are heavy on anti-Koch content.
“As is crystal clear to anyone who actually read or heard his remarks, Senator McConnell was referring to an ‘attack’ that Senator Reid had made the previous day on two private citizens who disagree with him,” McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire said in a statement. “Only someone who believes that Senator Reid was ‘attacking’ pay equity could conclude that Senator McConnell was doing so himself.”
As Wemple notes, the New York Times has appended a correction to a story it ran in this morning’s paper, in which the Times is now equally unambiguous: McConnell was clearly misquoted:
Correction: April 9, 2014
An earlier version of this article misidentified the target of criticism by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, as the Senate prepared to vote on legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women. When he referred to “the left’s latest bizarre obsession,” he was criticizing Democrats’ attacks on David H. and Charles G. Koch, conservative billionaires whose political organizations have spent more than $30 million on ads so far to help Republicans win control of the Senate. He was not referring to the pay-equity issue.
But how many people will see the correction? And how did Kapur, whose piece was posted at 1:40 p.m., get this so wrong? Well, at 12:01 p.m., The Hill quoted Reid’s number two, Majority Whip Dick Durbin:
“Tune in tomorrow and find out whether five Republicans will join us to raise this issue of pay fairness for women across America. I am not encouraged by the statement just made on the floor by the Republican Senate Leader,” Durbin said. “He said that we were blowing ‘a few kisses’ to our powerful pals on the left with this legislative agenda.”
The Hill corrected its piece by 2:02 to clarify McConnell’s remarks, and a screenshot isn’t available. But the quote from Durbin, dishonest as it is, doesn’t outright claim that McConnell was talking about the equal-pay push. For that, he needed allies willing to bend the truth further.
Going back over the Twitter timeline, first up, at 1:22 p.m. we have that reliable toady, Joan Walsh of Salon, with a reference to McConnell’s Democratic opponent:
That got 57 Retweets. Walsh’s article at Salon, naturally still uncorrected, asserts without citation or context that “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called equal pay ‘the left’s latest bizarre obsession’ and accused Harry Reid of ‘blowing a few kisses’ to advocates.”
Then, at 1:31, we have DSCC Press Secretary Justin Barasky, citing the Hill article:
At 1:43 we have former DNC flack and now American Bridge and Americans United for Change (ha!) leader Brad Woodhouse, also citing The Hill (you can see in his and Barasky’s tweets a sample of what the original Hill article looked like):
It’s at this point that the coordinated message-carrying power of the left-wing media kicks in. At 1:45 we get Sally Kohn of the Daily Beast:
Meanwhile, Kapur posted his piece at 1:40, and at 1:46 we have Kapur’s editor, Josh Marshall:
No disinformation campaign would be complete without the Daily Kos, so also at 1:46, its eponymous leader kicks off:
At 1:47 we get Kaili Joy Gray of Wonkette, also a former Kos writer:
Hey, how about the White House? At 1:50 we get official White House spokesman Jesse Lee, with the kind of factual rigor – discussing remarks made at the other end of Capitol Hill and easily checked – that we have come to expect from this White House:
By this point, the misinformation is becoming received Beltway conventional wisdom. At 2:12, Politico deputy editor Blake Hounshell moves on to discussing how it will haunt McConnell:
At 2:10 pm, after the Hill has already issued its correction, Jed Lewison posts a Daily Kos front-page item, “McConnell calls equal pay ‘the left’s latest bizarre obsession’,” which remains uncorrected. [UPDATE: After I prodded Lewison on Twitter, he appended a correction to the post] Citing Kapur’s piece, he writes, “Senate Minority Mitch McConnell dismisses Democratic concerns about women getting equal pay for equal work as a ‘bizarre obsession'”. Kos Managing Editor Barbara Morrill circulates the piece at 2:19:
Meanwhile, bearing out Hounshell’s prediction. Woodhouse’s lavishly-funded propagandists have been busy, and at 2:21 he tweets out a video that continues to completely mischaracterize McConnell’s remarks:
At 2:46, Gray is still using the misquote to pester the RNC chairman:
At 3:47, the Daily Beast is still circulating Kapur’s original piece:
The irony, of course, is that the “equal pay” push the Democrats are putting on is, itself, based on a farrago of lies and junk statistics (as even this Slate XX analysis observes and as the White House’s economist in charge of the issue essentially concedes, yet the White House has been pushing the bogus number without shame or caveat). And Reid’s daily Koch brothers attack is itself awash in phony math. But when you’re desperate, it seems, the next step from your own lies is to double down by lying about what the other side is saying, even when it’s easily checkable.
Because there will always be people on the Left eager to repeat those lies.