One thing is clear from those who are cackling over news that Sen. Mel Martinez’s legal counsel, Brian Darling, is the author of the so-called GOP/Schiavo Talking Points Memo: Your reading comprehension level is lower than my 17-month-old son’s. And he’s just started reading picture books.
Giddy e-mailers are demanding that conservative bloggers, including myself, “retract” and “correct” “right-wing lies” about the Schiavo memo. This one’s typical:
Eat it Malkin!!!! You Repugs have been exposed again. Ha! Ha!
And so’s this one, which was sent to me 18 times (so far):
F**K YOU! THE MEMO WAS REAL!
And, of course, there’s the requisite whore mail:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…
You are a STUPID F****G WHORE!
Ooooo-kay, for those who are not in need of remedial reading or anger management classes, let’s proceed.
After John Hinderaker at Power Line first started asking necessary questions about the reporting on the memo, many on the Right jumped to conclusions that the memo was “fake” or a “dirty trick.” I concur that those who made such claims should issue clear retractions and corrections. And I urge those bloggers and pundits to do so.
But contrary to what the left-wing gloaters who have not bothered to follow the story until last night are writing, I have never made such claims, a point I stressed yesterday afternoon in an e-mail exchange with Post reporter Mike Allen.
Allen sent me the following e-mail at 1:37 pm eastern time yesterday (the first he sent after ignoring numerous e-mails from me last week about this story):
From: “Mike Allen”
To: “Michelle Malkin”
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 1:37 PM
Subject: WP request
Howdy–I’m doing an article for tomorrow about what senators are saying about the Schiavo memo–I’d love to include your comments–I’d be interested in how you took an interest in this, where you think the memo originated, why you think it came from Democrats, etc.–We remain anxious to pin down the author and if you have clues, I’d love to pursue them–Appreciatively, Mike
Here was my response:
From: “Michelle Malkin”
To: “Mike Allen”
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: WP request
I was interested in the story because I was covering the Schiavo case extensively on my blog.
If you’ve read my blog posts on this subject, you’ll know that I have never claimed that it came from Democrats. Other bloggers have suggested that. I have not. You should also know from reading my blog commentary that I was the one who publicly chastised blogger Josh Claybourn of In the Agora for
irresponsibly reporting that anonymous Republican sources had accused a Democrat staffer in Harry Reid’s office of being the source. See http://michellemalkin.com/archives/001912.htm
I have no clue who wrote the memo and neither, apparently, do you. That is
why this remains a story of interest, if not to mainstream media, then at
least to the pajama-clad bloggers who watch the watchdogs.
Thanks for getting back to me.
Allen did not cover the Claybourn story. Too bad. Claybourn’s encounters with anonymous GOP tipsters trying to pin the blame for the memo on a Democrat staffer were–and are–news. But more on that coming in a separate post.
[Malkin's] take on the anonymous staffers is causing me to wonder whether the talking points memo didn’t in fact originate somewhere on the GOP side.
Power Line’s John Hinderaker disagreed with Johnson, underscoring the fact that there was not unanimity among conservative bloggers about who might have written the memo. (A diarist at Daily Kos paid attention and acknowledged this at the time, but you won’t hear them bringing it up now.)
For me, the salient questions always centered on what exactly ABC News and the Washington Post knew or didn’t know before they hyped the GOP politicization angle in the midst of the wrenching Schiavo debate.
A related issue was ABC News’ and the Post’s mischaracterizations of their own reporting. ABC News insisted it never said the memo was distributed by Senate Republicans even though Kate Snow said just that. Allen repeatedly denied that he reported the memo was distributed by GOP “party leaders” even though a widely-published article carrying his byline said just that. After this blog and others pointed out the discrepancy, Allen himself requested that his initial claim be retracted. Post editors, however, concluded that a retraction was not warranted.
Well, now we know the truth. Thanks to the Associated Press, with the Washington Post bringing up the rear. And, gee, it only took 18 days to nail down a story that differs in key respects from what Snow and Allen reported on March 19 without adequate substantiation.
I should note that we would know nothing more about this if not for the blogs. As we find in today’s WaPo story, the Senate investigation had turned up nothing. The media was stonewalling. Little came of individual calls to Senate offices and emails to reporters.
If not for a handful of blogs, a few rightwing pundits and some media watchdogs, the Washington Times probably would not have published their article, in turn putting the pressure back on the Senators and the reporters who first reported on this.
If not for the blogs, we would still be under the impression that GOP party leaders drafted that ridiculous memo and that all the Republican Senators received, read and approved of it.
Also, Brian Darling would still have a job.
The search for answers can be messy. Bloggers were at both their best and worst in this episode. But it was the MSM that failed to play it straight in the first place. As usual, Mickey Kaus gets the last word:
a) The memo was apparently not “distributed to Republican Senators by party leaders,” as Allen’s initial story, sent out through the Post news service to other papers, reported. It was–at least judging from today’s account–handed to one Democratic senator, Tom Harkin, by one freshman Republican senator (who isn’t in the party leadership); b) Allen doesn’t explain why he told Howie Kurtz he “did not call them talking points or a Republican memo” when he had in fact done just that in the news service draft; c) Even the later, more “carefully worded” account Allen published in the Post itself was apparently wrong. Allen wrote:
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as “a great political issue” …
This is almost the reverse of what Allen now reports. We know the memo was distributed to at least one Democratic senator. We don’t know whether it was distributed to any Republican senator other then the senator whose staffer wrote it (although it’s hard to believe it wasn’t given to at least some other GOP lawmakers). Allen’s story left the now-unsupported impression that Republican senators were conspiratorially reading the memo amongst themselves; d) The whole “memo” fuss, as played up by WaPo and ABC’s Linda Douglass, was wildly overdone even if the memo was a GOP leadership document–as if senators never consider what is a good political issue, as if that’s a no-no in a democracy. (Phoning Martin Luther King Jr. in jail was a “good political issue” for Sen. John Kennedy–and if you were trying to convince him to make the call that’s something you’d have pointed out!)
But certainly whatever legitimate valence Allen’s ‘memo’ story had depended almost entirely on the impression that the memo revealed and represented the strategy of the GOP leaders who pushed the Schiavo bill. If all that was involved was a staff memo Martinez gave to Harkin, Allen’s story was way out of whack.
Related: The Schiavo memo: GOP cover-ups?
- Washington Post digs in
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch slaps the Washington Post upside the head
- Ask Kurtz again
- Will the Washington Post please respond?
- What exactly did the Post say about that memo?
- Kurtz revisits the fishy Schiavo memo
- Kurtz dodges again
- Ask Kurtz
- MSM continues to ignore questions about the Schiavo memo
- Howie Kurtz tries to cover up
- Kurtz keeps quiet
- Did the MSM learn nothing from Rathergate?
- MSM ignores Schiavo memo story
- Another fishy memo
Update: Proving my point about the Left’s lousy reading comprehension skills, Daily Kos tells his readers I should apologize for writing, “I suspect that no one at the Post or ABC News still believes the amateurish, unsigned, misspelled memo was circulated by Republican Party leaders.” My point was not that the memo couldn’t have been created by a Republican. My point was that GOP leaders such as Karl Rove would not have drafted or authorized such a sloppy, self-defeating document.
This is clear if you read the very next sentence, in which I explicitly acknowledge the possibility that a Republican staffer may have been responsible. Here is the full paragraph:
I suspect that no one at the Post or ABC News still believes the amateurish, unsigned, misspelled memo was circulated by Republican Party leaders. We may never know whether the memo was the handywork of a Republican staffer or a Democrat dirty trickster or an outside interloper, but clearly there is absolutely no evidence that this was a Karl Rove plot.
I have included extensive links to my posts on this subject, and links to what others have written from the beginning. It would behoove the Johnny-come-lately knee-jerkers to actually read them before braying about fairness, accuracy, and partisan zeal.
Update II: Mickey Kaus comments on Mike Allen’s e-mail:
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Michelle Malkin reprints the email Allen sent her on Wednesday. It sure looks as if he’s faking ignorance to try to sucker her into making some outlandish claim about how the memo was a Democratic plant. J-School profs, take note of this technique!
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