Pants On Fire: A Lesson in Journalism Malpractice

pants on fire

pants on fireOn his trip to  in Beijing, President Obama was asked the following:

Right before you left for this trip in Asia, you announced that you were going to convene a jobs summit. This smacks of one of those classic Washington answers to a tough problem: convene a commission, convene a summit. How is this going to create a job?

The President answered that the simple convening of a summit was not the goal, that it was all about small and medium sized business job growth:

Well, that’s not the goal. We’re doing all kinds of things to make sure that employment is accelerated. Our first job was to make sure that economic growth was happening — and we’re starting to see that now. As I said even when we first passed the stimulus package, job growth tends to lag, it tends to happen after. So what we’re seeing now is businesses are starting to invest again, they’re starting to be profitable again, but they haven’t started hiring again.

Here’s how the Associated Press reported this exchange:

Obama: Job Creation Not Goal of Dec. 3 Jobs Forum

President Barack Obama says creating jobs isn’t the goal of a coming White House forum on jobs and economic growth.

There is really no explanation for this twisting of the facts. It is the journalistic equivalent of a lie, done intentionally to hurt Obama, to leave the impression that Obama doesn’t want to create American jobs, precisely the opposite of what Obama said.

This is the Associated Press, and I know many of their reporters to be among the hardest working and most professional in the business. I don’t know who the reporter and/or desk person was on this outrage, but I don’t want the entire AP besmirched. The AP owes their own honest, hardworking journalists and the public  more than a correction. They owe an apology.

I really don’t like the cavalier way some in journalism are trashing the credibility of the profession. A free press is far too critical to democracy to be treated this way. Too many committed journalists have worked too long at too little pay to have their profession harmed from within. Partisans too often hurl undeserved charges of bias at the press. This is the kind of malpractice that leads to partisan beliefs that the press is out to get them.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

8 thoughts on “Pants On Fire: A Lesson in Journalism Malpractice”

  1. WOW!!! Thanks for exposing this, Glenn. We need more examples of this erroneous reporting. No wonder we’ve become a nation of cynics.

    1. Thanks, Patty. I’m sad there’s such an example that needs explaining. Most working journalists are honest. They want to get it right. They do their best to set aside their personal preferences. But the news industry is in trouble, and people like Roger Aisles (founder of FoxNews) and Dean Singleton (chairman of AP) are destroying the credibility of the profession from within. I’m sad to say the Right doesn’t care about this, because an honestly informed electorate is really not part of their plan.

    1. Sidoti is a hatchet-woman employed by Singleton & company to keep their right-wing news customers happy. The ranks of AP, which is filled with reporters of integrity and honesty. This kind of wretched reporting smears them all. I wish it didn’t, but it does.

  2. Sorry to say that I haven’t trusted journalists since the early days of George Bush. I have always been a news junkie but can’t stand to watch now. To tell the truth, I haven’t even turned my tv on since the inauguration – honest. Smarmy faces telling lies, or perhaps truthiness. I trust the reliable blogs much more.

    1. A sane reaction. And it’s because the few bad apples have spoiled the barrel. Makes my heart ache to think of the heady days of the 70s when journalists exposed the lies of Vietnam and the crimes of the Nixon Administration. The commitment was to the truth, the dogged pursuit of which had nothing to do with partisanship. There are still many reporters with that commitment. I know a good number of them personally.

  3. Obviously, journalism has deteriorated badly since Ailes created Fox News, & we had the spectacle of people treating it as if it were a news organization rather than the US version of Pravda and Tass. The collapse of the Fairness Doctrine and the rise of Hate Radio has also been disturbing, as was the craven toadying of most mainstream media to the Bush/Cheney/Rove agenda. But the roots of this journalistic decline go back a long way. I remember the treatment of President Carter, arguably as informed and thoughtful a man as has occupied the White House in my life time, in the press. Every time he would attempt to explain the nuances of some situation to the American people, I would open my newspaper (the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time) to read headlines that always seemed to contain the phrase “the President flip-flops on . . . ” I abandoned the national TV network news channels after the election of 1980, gave up my last news weekly over totally inappropriate coverage of President Clinton in the 1990s, and finally came back to TV reporting in the last few years with the emergence of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on cable, the latest version of Bill Moyers’ reporting on PBS and, perhaps the best and most fearless journalism being done on TV today, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert on their “fake news” programs.

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