Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Phony Accusation Against Bush

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:01 am

The L.A. Times is refusing to correct a blatant error — again.

Regular readers will remember that, on January 1, I wrote about an L.A. Times end-of-the-year political quiz that resurrected a viciously false canard: that George W. Bush “[e]rroneously said Nelson Mandela was dead.”

As I demonstrated in my post, Bush did not “erroneously” say this. Instead, he was speaking metaphorically — something that is obvious to any sentient being who reads the transcript of the relevant press conference. Bush was asked a question about the lack of political progress in Iraq, and responded by arguing that Iraq has no equivalent to Nelson Mandela, because Saddam killed all the Mandelas. Agree with him or not, you can’t deny he was making an analogy. Calling his statement erroneous is flatly misleading.

I wrote the Readers’ Representative about this error on January 1, the same day I wrote my post. In my post, I was (to put it mildly) skeptical that the paper would fix the mistake:

I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that they won’t correct it. . . . I’m telling you, they’re not going to do a damned thing about it.

I finally heard from the Readers’ Representative today. As for my prediction, I’ll say only this: damn, I’m good. Here is her e-mail:

I’m sorry, I thought I’d already responded a while ago with this note: Editors in the opinion section did not believe that the point warranted correction. They say (and I agree) that the piece was a parody, and so that reference was within the bounds of that sort of opinion piece.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

You get that? It’s a parody!

This reminds me of what the pet shop owner in the Monty Python sketch said when caught in a blatant lie:

Owner: …It was a pun.
Customer: (pause) A PUN?!?
Owner: No, no…not a pun…What’s that thing that spells the same backwards as forwards?
Customer: (Long pause) A palindrome…?
Owner: Yeah, that’s it!

Let’s examine this claim that it was a “parody.”

Here’s the relevant portion of the quiz:


And here are the answers:


As you can see, the point of the quiz is to point out true facts about these men that the quiz author finds goofy — precisely because he believes the facts to be true. For example, Dennis Kucinich really did say he’d seen a UFO. Michael Mukasey has repeatedly said he doesn’t know if waterboarding is legally torture. Mitt Romney, when asked his favorite novel, actually did respond with Battlefield Earth. And so on.

Any reader would believe that the Bush quote was just a goofy — but true — fact about Bush.

In a postscript to my original post, I acknowledged that the quiz writer might have actually believed that Bush had made the comment in error. As I noted in my post, it was initially reported by Reuters that Bush actually had meant to say Mandela had died. It took conservative blogs to dig up the transcript and point out how blatantly Bush had been maligned. Maybe the quiz writer didn’t know of the debunking.

However, I added:

But if they refuse to correct it or clarify it, by arguing that it’s an opinion column — well, then, it damn sure will be a lie.

And that’s how I feel. They know they got it wrong. They are knowingly refusing to correct it, for reasons that don’t make sense.

That is the definition of dishonesty.

11 Responses to “L.A. Times Refuses to Correct Phony Accusation Against Bush”

  1. The LA Times deserves to go out of business. Maybe the new owner will open his eyes and really clean house…

    sam (a75ffa)

  2. So. Obtuse arrogance it is, then.

    I hate liars.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  3. Where can we contact the new owners? Maybe they ought to be told if they can’t bring themselves to fire the entire editorial staff, that they’d better start looking for a buyer of this molding turkey.

    PCD (c378fd)

  4. Last month, the LAT‘s ugly stepsister reassigned its Public Editor to other duties, correctly if silently acknowledging the worthlessness of the concept.

    I read that Reader’s Rep Jamie Gold’s position is to be made redundant in the same manner.

    Oh–actually, that last sentence was a palindrome. Anything for a laugh!

    Perhaps she has developed a taste for the turkey roll that Tim Blair serves with such gusto.

    AMac (513011)

  5. They believe that what they print is true – true meaning that which most people believe, or should believe. What actually happened in the past is irrelevant, they are not sure if actuality even exists or can be determined.

    There is a philosophical difference here. The reasons they do it don’t make sense to you, but your harping on the actual doesn’t make sense to them. In their world, they determine what is real, not you. That’s what they do, that’s what they have done without question for years – ask the guy on the street about the Tet Offensive and you will see what I mean. It’s not about your idea of honesty because your honesty presupposes an absolute truth. People will honestly believe what they are told.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  6. One of the eternal conundrums:

    To whom do you go for help when you have a problem with an ombudsman?

    aunursa (b38603)

  7. So we free to consider anything in the L.A. Times parody now? Good to know. (2a37f8)

  8. Zell has already opened the bazaar to sell off the Tribune assets. The Times can’t be far behind. I could see an internet company picking them up for access to the archives for a search engine, sort of the way Ted Turner bought MGM’s vaults for his movie channel.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  9. Wow. Sad, annoying story.

    It was designed to be a humor piece, but when Dave Barry said he was not making things up, he was not making things up. This probably started as a good-faith error, and they just want to ignore the fact that it was error. That’s not a good sign.


    JRM (355c21)

  10. Zell should stop cursing and start firing.

    Bradley J Fikes (1c6fc4)

  11. The snide assertion – “…the underling who took the fall for him…” – with the statement attributed to Dick Cheney is bad enough to warrant a complaint, too.

    And, as Karl Rove said of his “rap song”, he was trapped in the position of either appearing a fool or a bad sport.

    cmsmith (843567)

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