Topic category: Government/Politics
Andrew Breitbart, Take Solace, Woodward & Bernstein Made a Mistake Too
In Watergate, there was a memorable journalistic faux paux by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
Excerpt from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/woo1int-2:
"Were there any mistakes?
"Ben Bradlee [editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal]: One. We made one mistake in a story in which we said that -- Woodward and Bernstein said -- that there was a slush fund of $300,000 set up in the Committee to Re-elect the President, and it was controlled by Haldeman, and that one of the witnesses had testified to that slush fund to the grand jury investigating Watergate. I have forgotten which one it was. But the following morning, Dan Schorr of CBS -- we saw on CBS Morning News-- shoved a microphone in front of this guy and said, 'The Post says you did this. Did you?' and he said, 'No.' And the whole town shook, as far as I'm concerned, because that was the first time we had been accused of getting anything wrong. What it turned out was that the question hinged on whether or not he had told that to the grand jury, and since he hadn't, he was able to say 'No.' He wasn't asked was there a slush fund, which, of course, there was. It turned out that he hadn't been asked, and that interested us a great deal, because if the prosecution wasn't asking him those interesting question, that suggested that there was a reason they weren't, and the reason might be that they were trying to cover it up. Anyway, it took two days, and we got confirmation that there was, and in fact there was a slush fund of $750,000. So that gave hope to the Republicans, and of course, all of the Republican spokesmen had a field day beating us upside the face over that, but it didn't last very long. Thank God."
In the still unfolding ACORNgate scandal, Andrew Breitbart, publisher of the news portals Breitbart.com and Breitbart.tv, just owned up, sort of, to an unfortunate (and readily understandable) mistake of his own in the first post at BigJournalism.com. Hopefully, it too won't last very long, but it did detract from Breitbart's bold declaration of media war in his debut post: "Big Journalism is staking the claim that media is now at war with one another: Big Media versus Small Media; Old Media versus New Media; Left Media Vs Right Media. You get the picture. The practice of journalism will never be the same, and not the New York Times’s Pinch Sulzberger nor all the sniping children at Gawker and Media Matters can un-ring this bell – which, after all, tolls for them."
In sharp contrast to the BigJournalism.com debut, Breitbart's BigGovernment.com notably debuted with the sensational "Pimp and Pro" ACORN story (on September 10, 2009).
What went wrong?
On December 30, 2009, the Editorial Panel of BigGovernment.com posted an article titled "White House Visitors Log: ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis In Obama Residence Week Before Sting Videos Launched" (http://biggovernment.com/2009/12/30/white-house-visitors-log-acorn-ceo-bertha-lewis-in-obama-residence-week-before-sting-videos-launched/).
At least the text of the article was less certain that the title. It concluded: "Of course, it is possible that this isn’t ACORN’s Bertha Lewis. After a previous dump of visitor records listed the name, Jeremiah Wright, the White House said, ‘oh, that was a different Jeremiah Wright.’ The media, of course, said, ‘okay,’ and never followed up. So, maybe the Bertha Lewis listed here isn’t the CEO of ACORN. Just another Bertha Lewis who gets special weekend access to the White House Residence, complete with an extra-special staff tour. Sure, possible, but we’d love to see a bookie’s odds on that."
Apparently, the bookie would have had to make a big pay out.
Update posted at BigGovernment.com on January 4, 2010:
"According to Politico’s Ben Smith, the Bertha Lewis who went to the White House is not ACORN’s CEO but another woman named 'Bertha Lewis.' I contacted Smith to tell him that Big Government would offer a correction if the 'administration official' who offered the information went on record and told us who the 'other' Bertha Lewis is and got the unnamed administration source to come out from behind the veil of anonymity and use his/her name. So far, according to unnamed White House sources, 'different' people with the familiar names of Malik Shabazz, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers were discovered on White House visitors logs. As I skeptically asked on my Twitter account, 'What are the odds?'
"First thing Monday morning, Smith contacted the White House and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki came from behind her anonymous veil and confirmed for Smith, 'it was a different Bertha Lewis, though she declined to share details about that visitor, citing privacy reasons.'
"The Big Government piece did offer the caveat that it could be another Bertha Lewis....
"The headline, however, was not as vague. Since we have no information on how to hunt down the 'other' Bertha Lewis — Ms. Psaki wouldn’t reveal who she is, citing 'privacy concerns' — Big Government will err on the side of prudence and grant the White House its side of the story. I did ask Smith to find out biographical details on the other Wright, Ayers and Shabazz, but apparently privacy concerns apply to them, as well.
"I end with this question: What is the point of the White House issuing visitor logs if those named can’t be identified and verified? 'Transparency' would seem to call for nothing less, especially when those innocent people could easily be confused with the head of an organization recently defunded by Congress, a controversial preacher who shouted 'God Damn America,' and an unrepentant domestic terrorist."
Breitbart has a valid point there, but he apparently jumped to the wrong conclusion and Ms. Lewis told him so.
In "You Are a Bad, Bad, Bad Journalist" (January 6, 2009) (http://bigjournalism.com/abreitbart/2010/01/06/you-are-a-bad-bad-bad-journalist/#comments), the opening post at BigJournalism.com, Breitbart wrote of a telephone conversation he had with Ms. Lewis, and alternately said that he believed and disbelieved her.
Astonishingly, Breitbart's article actually makes Ms. Lewis seem to be a sympathetic victim, which must vex him and amuse her.
"I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation. It felt like a scene from a movie that conveniently ties plot points together when two critical characters in the storyline share a moment of implausible significance – where the intrepid reporter finally runs his target to ground.
"So at first I had trouble getting my words out. 'I’m Andrew Breitbart,' I exhaled. Instead of hanging up, Bertha Lewis laughed like someone I would probably like in a different setting – but certainly not in this lifetime now that we are permanently and publicly tied to one another as media-based adversaries.
"I knew the awkwardness of the moment would turn into trouble when I started asking her pointed questions and, sure enough, we soon we found ourselves in trouble.
“'Did you go to the White House last year?' I asked.
"Bertha Laughed heartily. 'No,' she said.
“'Really?' I pushed.
“'No. One hundred per cent not. Not this year. Not last year. Not ever,' she stated firmly, all the while maintaining an awkward and ironic joviality that was likely born of the weirdness of our impromptu exchange.
“'Are you aware that the White House is claiming that the proof you are not the Bertha Lewis who was given a personal tour of the White House residence in early September is that you are Bertha M. Lewis? I asked. 'And the one on the visitors log is Bertha E. Lewis. In an online database I see you once had "Evans" in your name.'
“'That was a former husband, who is now dead,' she said.
“'I’m sorry about that,' I responded sincerely, as we defied the odds that the awkwardness couldn’t get any greater.
"I respected her for staying on the phone when she had no reason not to hang up. I even believed her when she claimed she wasn’t Obama’s personal guest in their White House residence even though in the last four months Bertha Lewis rarely uttered a statement in public that wasn’t a provable lie."
Later in the article Breitbart said he didn't believe her:
"Back to the weird phone conversation: 'I issued a correction on my site clarifying that I couldn’t prove whether you were at the White House or not.'
“'That’s good,' she said.
"But I don’t really believe it wasn’t her. And that’s why I called. I’m skeptical and biased – and I think it’s what makes me good at what I do. No journalism symposium can convince me otherwise."
Skeptism is a good quality for a journalist, but bias is not. IDEOLOGICAL BIAS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THE LIBERAL MEDIA ESTABLISHMENT!
Breitbart wrote in his BigJournalism post: "What I can’t live with is a dying 'mainstream media' (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, Time Magazine, Newsweek, et al.), not just taking such rigid ideological positions but also waging war against those new media outlets that choose to report the stories they won’t cover."
Waging war against bias is good, but liberal bias should be combatted with the truth, not a different bias.
Michael J. Gaynor
Biography - Michael J. Gaynor
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.
Gaynor's email address is email@example.com.