CBS flunks research and journalism
posted at 9:30 am on October 6, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
How difficult is it to click on a link and check a quote? Apparently too difficult for CBS News, which criticizes conservative bloggers, including me, for pointing out a rather large discrepancy in two stories told by the Obamas about their daughter Sasha as a means to push ObamaCare. In a piece they call “Taking Liberties,” CBS “fact checks” our comparison of the two stories:
A conservative blogger concluded: “Today Mrs. Obama says (Sasha) was four months old but fortunately did not have meningitis. Yet just eight days ago her husband said she was three months old and was diagnosed with meningitis.” One blog used the opportunity to reprint the Obama-as-Joker photo, HotAir.com called it “serious incompetence” on the Obamas’ part, it appeared on Breitbart.tv, and the crowd over at FreeRepublic.com dubbed the president a “chronic liar.”
There’s just one problem with this nice little gotcha story. There’s no evidence that either Obama lied.
There’s just one problem with CBS’ reporting. They never address the New York Times report that said this:
In her speech, Mrs. Obama also told the story of how her daughter Sasha would not stop crying when she was 4 months old. A doctor’s visit revealed she might have meningitis; she ultimately did not, but the illness produced a scare.
Now, I didn’t go to J-school or anything, but if Sasha didn’t have meningitis and Barack Obama claimed she did, that would be untrue, wouldn’t it? Mrs. Obama told the story with a little more care, never claiming that Sasha had meningitis, and Jeff Zeleny apparently checked it out a little more carefully than CBS did. Or, if McCullaghhas a problem with Zeleny’s reporting, he should have checked that out rather than attack people for relying on it.
Jammie Wearing Fool lays it out succinctly:
So all we did was point out the obvious: Barack Obama claimed his daughter was diagnosed with meningitis at three months old, while the NY Times report says she was four months old and did not have meningitis. Oh, but we’re supposed to be the ones factually challenged, according to CBS News. That’s CBS News, of all places. You remember them: It’s fake, but accurate.
Maybe if Declan Mccullagh wants to do his homework he ought to call the reporter at the New York Times instead of taking a cheapshot at conservative blogs for something we pointed out three weeks ago. Better yet, maybe Mccullagh and the rest of the “mainstream” media should have noticed the obvious differences in their stories last month when the rest of us pointed this out. But no, they can’t do that. Instead they have to take a swipe at the folks doing the work the media refuses to do.
Normally, McCullagh does better work than this, but this is just embarrassing. We specifically included the New York Times link in our blog posts and quoted Zeleny. McCullagh assumes Zeleny’s wrong without any independent reporting to show it, just to blame bloggers for using his reporting as the basis of our posts. I’d say this effort should win McCullagh the Mary Mapes Award at CBS.
Next time, read the whole post and click the links, Tiffany Network. And if you don’t like the source material, show that it’s wrong.
Update: And let’s remember the context of these posts. Barack Obama has told a string of tall tales himself in public to push health-care reform. What does CBS do in response? Go after Obama’s critics. Yeah, that’s telling truth to power, all right.
Update II: Cleaned up the argument in the final paragraph a bit.
Update III: In my post, I said that McCullagh “never addresses” the New York Times piece, which is sloppy and inaccurate. He did address it, just long enough to note that we relied on it for our posts, and then ignores its implications, which is that we had a good reason to point out the differences in the two stories and to conclude that President Obama exaggerated the tale for effect. I apologize to Declan for not being clearer on that point, but Declan needs to either prove Zeleny wrong or admit that we were right — and that we relied on Zeleny’s reporting in good faith in the first place.