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Tilting at Windmills

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January 1, 2010

THEY NEVER LEARN.... In late October, the White House released extensive visitors logs, prompting some thorough reviews of who's stepped foot in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Far-right activists thought they'd hit the mother lode when they started going through the list of names. The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb proclaimed, "I tried to warn you, America. Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers!"

What conservatives didn't realize is that, from time to time, different people have the same name. Yes, someone named William Ayers visited the White House this year, but not that William Ayers. Someone named Jeremiah Wright stopped by, but not that Jeremiah Wright. Michael Jordan and Michael Moore stopped by, but not the ones you know. Conservatives got excited for nothing.

And this week, they did it again. A far-right site discovered that Bertha Lewis was in the White House, just days before an ACORN controversy became national news. The site realized the possibility that there could be more than one Bertha Lewis, but nevertheless felt confident that they'd stumbled upon an important White House/ACORN nexis. The item's headline didn't leave room for ambiguity: "White House Visitors Log: ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis In Obama Residence Week Before Sting Videos Launched."

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.

The bet wouldn't have paid off. As Ben Smith reported yesterday, "An administration official tells me that, indeed, this is a different Bertha Lewis, an ordinary visitor who came in through the White House visitor's office." The two women of the same name have different middle initials.

Sure, it's possible right-wing activists will be more cautious the next time White House visitors logs are released, but I'd love to see a bookie's odds on that.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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The skeptic here will say, "what are the chances! The WH is bullshitting. It is the same person!"

But of course, there's a 1000 names that could stir up fabricated controversy. Perhaps the ACORN CEO didnt have her namesake visit. But then you just look for name of the ACORN CFO and COO and ACORN head of recruiting. Or maybe the Rev Wright's secretary's name or anyone within 6 degrees of Louis Farakaan. or anyone named Muhommad. It's so fucking easy.

Posted by: glutz78 on January 1, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it is Jesus Alou , or a cleverly diguised "Jesus HalAloujah" .

Posted by: FRP on January 1, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

What is especially outrageous here is that the blogger in question seems to know he might be wrong -- as his disclaimer about the possibility of a homonym shows. But instead of checking it out, it is full steam ahead.

Posted by: buckets on January 1, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

It's like Fox's standing policy of identifying any Republican caught in a sex scandal as a Democrat. They count on people's remembering the first (mis)information and missing the later correction.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 1, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

And thus another zombie lie is born.

If the bloggers/pundits/networks involved actually paid a price for being dead wrong, they might be more cautious. Since they don't, there's no incentive for them to be scrupulous.

Posted by: jimBOB on January 1, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder when a blogger's deliberate decision not to check for mistaken identities before publication on their site becomes "reckless disregard" for the purpose of a libel suit. It hasn't happened yet, but with the libelous character assassination so common on the internet, such a suit is a certainty.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on January 1, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

It seems that reflexive carelessness/fraud in the pursuit of a partisan cause is a signature feature of the right-wing noise machine. The MSM should write on this, but no wonder the RWNM hates science too.
Russel: yes, I think there should be more legal action about these "mistakes" - let's all brainstorm to actually make something of all this, not just ridicule it.

Posted by: neil b, on January 1, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

If you're bored, or need a laugh, check out the comments section on breibarts biggovernment - these folks are living in an alternate reality - totally devoid of all reason with a total immunity to facts. It's so sad that it's funny.

Posted by: Jilli on January 1, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Pedantic though it may be, I must point out that "Nexis" is actually an online research system. I doubt even the wingnuts involved felt they'd found a "White House/ACORN nexis". (That would, indeed, be a big story...)

They thought they found a nexus. Not the same thing.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on January 1, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I look forward to the scandal that erupts when they discover that the (presumably zombie) Michael Jackson has visited. Though I can't predict whether they will go with the 'link to voodoo cult' angle, or the 'suspicion of zombie pedarasty' angle.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 1, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

horrors ACORN!

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 1, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't as embarrassing as the entire left catching Karl Rove red handed in the a Coptix email scandal complete with Slestaks.

Posted by: SadlySo on January 1, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

You know, of course, that there is a well-known radio talk show host named Michael Jackson who has been around for decades, and I am sure he may have visited the WH on more than one occasion during many administrations.

Posted by: st john on January 1, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

You're missing the point, which is: No one notices the corrections (least of all the audience of those screaming about ACORN)!

It doesn't matter if they're actually correct - they just put the idea out there and stir folks up.

Posted by: krowe on January 1, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

" the blogger in question seems to know he might be wrong -- as his disclaimer about the possibility of a homonym shows. "

His disclaimer is sarcastic. He's using it to express his disdain at the idea that something is so just because the Obama admin says it's so. Sure, the Obama admin says that somehow people bearing the same names as the usual suspects all streamed thru the doors of the White House. The wingnut in question doesn't buy that argument.

The situation is a bit like the Lance Beauchamp business. At the time wingnuts accepted military denial as an absolutely unquestionable rebuttal; liberals didn't. But wingnuts, of course, don't trust the Obama admin, so now they're the skeptics. Whereas people on our side are more likely to go by the Obama admin's word than the mil's.

Posted by: kyle on January 1, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

excuse me, but you're seriously suggesting it's just fine that the white house release logs without some personally identifying information, like employer or city and state of residence?

kudos to conservatives who digest these disclosures. The burden is on the white house to debunk these noteworthy names left ambiguous in the documents.

Posted by: apetra on January 1, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Just wondering. Was anyone on the list named Ted Haggard?

Posted by: John in Nashville on January 1, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

excuse me, but you're seriously suggesting it's just fine that the white house release logs without some personally identifying information, like employer or city and state of residence? -- apetra, @16:37

And birth certificate; don't let's forget that. Bush's White House always posted *all* the information on every visitor and Obama should do the same. Not that we would believe a single word coming out of Obama's admin (vide the ho-hah which is the basis of this article), but, still...

Posted by: exlibra on January 1, 2010 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

"kudos to conservatives who digest these disclosures. The burden is on the white house to debunk these noteworthy names left ambiguous in the documents."

According to the law, the burden of proof is ALWAYS on the accuser. This still stands. If Breitbart and conservatives don't want egg on their faces, it's up to them when making a claim, to PROVE IT, not the WH or American citizens.

Making claims and not verifying them is sloppy journalism, laziness, a form of censorship of information, and propaganda. It also involves making unfounded attacks for purely partisan reasons and is a FAILURE of epic proportions on the part of anyone who describes him/herself as a journalist who wants to be taken seriously.

Posted by: majii on January 1, 2010 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

What, no Elvis?

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 1, 2010 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm I wonder what Obama and Rush Limbaugh were doing in Hawaii at the same time.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on January 2, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK


@exlibra - "Bush's White House always posted *all* the information on every visitor and Obama should do the same."

What parallel or perpendicular universe did this happen in?

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/09/white-house-to-announce-new-policy-disclosing-visitors-to-white-house.html

“For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis,” ...

"The move marks a significant policy change. The Bush administration refused to make public visitor's logs. Reporters and others had sought them during the Jack Abramoff scandal, and in Vice President Cheney's meetings with his energy task force. In 2006, the Secret Service and the Bush White House declared the logs off-limits to the public."

Conservatives - good grief, Not just wrong, but amazingly, over-the-top wrong about pretty much everything.

Posted by: Thought Criminal on January 2, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

@Though Criminal:

Go back and read exlibra's comment. You may notice the sarcasm this time, since it was a response to someone else saying the current administration should do more.

Posted by: DMG on January 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK
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