Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 26, 2010

ONE INCIDENT IS REAL, ONE IS NOT.... Arguably this week's most dangerous instance of Tea Party extremism involves Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.). Right-wing activists posted what they thought was the congressman's home address, but it turned out to be the address of his brother's house. That detail didn't stop someone from going to the home and, according to the FBI, deliberately severing a gas line.

Today, however, the Washington Post editorial page drew a parallel between the Perriello incident and "the bullet fired through a window of Mr. Cantor's campaign office."

And this is why the Washington Post editorial board makes me sad.

To be sure, I can understand why the Post might be confused. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House Minority Whip, told reporters in a nationally televised news conference yesterday:

"I've received threats since I assumed elected office -- not only because of my position, but also because I'm Jewish. I've never blamed anyone in this body for that.

"Just recently I have been directly threatened: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week."

The remarks generated some strikingly irresponsible "journalism." Fox News told viewers about the incident in which a "gunman shoots up" the office of the Republican House leader.

At this point, here's what we know about Cantor's tall tale (details that were available yesterday, and which the WaPo editorial board should have considered before publishing):

1. Cantor was never threatened. In fact, local police believe the bullet had been fired in the air, and ended up hitting a window at random.

2. It wasn't Cantor's campaign office.

3. The office was not "shot up." According to a statement from the Richmond Police Department, "The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room."

Taken together, what Cantor told reporters -- and the entire country -- was clearly false. When he said he was "directly threatened," Cantor was either shamelessly, blatantly lying, or he was popping off about a harmless incident without getting his facts straight.

It's a credibility-killing moment for the Minority Whip, or at least it would be if major media outlets were willing to consider the veracity of his claim. At this point, Cantor has a responsibility to apologize and/or retract his bogus claim.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Time for a blogger ethics panel!

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on March 26, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I still want to know just who sent Cantor threats "since he's been in office" (i.e., not recently) because he's Jewish. My money's still on Stormfront or other anti-Semitic elements of the right. You better believe if it were a liberal criticizing him on Israeli policy he wouldn't be declining to share the contents of the threats.

Posted by: shortstop on March 26, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

CNN got suckered with the Cantor story, as did local channel 9 here in DC. Which means everyone watching, got suckered.

This obsession with trying to establish equivalency where there is none is partly responsible for the violence (and threats of same) that we've seen recently.

Posted by: beep52 on March 26, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Poor Fred Hiatt: he still wishes Nixon was President for Eternity.

There's a reason why this collection of litterbox liner is known as "the Washington Pest."

Posted by: TCinLA on March 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

My question is this: why has Fox 'News' not be charged with SEDITION at this point ? If you read those laws they have in fact broken them. So why have they not been charged ? As well as Limballs ? the deranged lunatic Beck ? Savage ? Why not ?

Posted by: stormskies on March 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Did somebody threaten Cantor for being weasel’s douche bag yet? See? I didn't think it was true..

Posted by: Trollop on demand on March 26, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it obvious that the Richmond police are a gang of Obama moles?

Posted by: E L on March 26, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Lest it be forgotten: Eric Cantor is the ONLY Jewish Republican member of Congress. No Senators, just one Congressman. Of course the GOP is lily-white on the Hill. They have absolutely NO Black Republicans in Congress. They are all ostensibly straight too. NO openly LGBT Republicans in Congress!

Not a very diverse party, are they now?

Posted by: wilson46201 on March 26, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, who are you going to believe. That nice Eric Cantor or the Richmond VA police investigators? Pretty clearly the Richmond police department has been influenced by the administration of that foreign usurper in the White House. I am sure Representative Cantor's office was shot full of holes by some deranged Obamacare supporter. That they only found the bullet that lacked sufficient energy to penetrate the blinds shows how in the tank the Richmond police department is for the African Fascist who is forcing all of us to have better health care.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 26, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

The LEAD STORY on NPR's hourly news update last night was Newt Gingrich making a speech somewhere in which he said that Democrats were to blame for the terrorist attacks against Democrats, because they had "bought votes and bullied people".

Again, Gingrich's opinion was the LEAD STORY ON NPR NEWS.

The NPR new announcer simply read Gingrich's assertion on the air, treating Gingrich's opinion as though it were "news", and moved on to the next story.

And that's how the "liberal" National Public Radio is "reporting" on the Ditto-Head attacks on Democrats -- by acting as a bullhorn for blatant, content-free Republican propaganda.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 26, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, Cantor has a responsibility to apologize and/or retract his bogus claim.

Right. That's gonna happen.

Billmon's post over at KOS is normative, here:


My question: how in hell do you fight this kind of disinformation tactic when our "responsible" mass-media is apparently so stupid, or so lazy, or so mendacious, they actually SUPPORT said disinformation? How do you fight it?

Posted by: LL on March 26, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Animist, that is pretty bad, but pretty typical. Did you complain to NPR.

This is pledge week in my town. I refuse to send them any money, suggesting instead that they ask their Republican friends for donations.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 26, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Why does the Washington Post, of all papers, struggle with the facts? It's so bizarre, and it's a shame to see what used to be one of this country's great political sources fall so dramatically and shamelessly.

I appreciate that Steve's reads their stuff so we don't have to. He provided the link, but I refuse to click on it for fear that our clicks might encourage them. The WaPo is quickly becoming infamous for their inability to distinguish facts from lies, and they don't deserve our clicks.

Posted by: Chris on March 26, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

At some point shouldn't it start to count as a hit on the *Washington post's* credibility?

Posted by: mcc on March 26, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

At some point shouldn't it start to count as a hit on the *Washington post's* credibility?

What credibility?

Hiatt sold the Post's integrity, along with his soul and that of all his children, years ago.

Judging by the Post's declining circulation, he didn't get much in the trade, either.

Looks like the paper is settling comfortably into the role of old folks' home for discredited conservative op-ed writers.

Posted by: Jon on March 26, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Richmond, Va. has a long history of random gunfire. To my knowledge, Lynchburg, Va. does not have a history of random gas line cuttings.

Meanwhile, I've tried The Google and failed. I just can't find a left-wing blog anywhere that mistakenly identifies that conference room at tew Reagan Building in Richmond as Eric Cantor's office or suggests that we all go "give him a piece of our minds." Can anyone point me to it?


Posted by: chrenson on March 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

I love it when GOP spin on the news is reported on more than ... well, the actual news.

I think NPR was seriously compromised by the politicization during the Bush years. I've noticed the same trend in their reporting and choice of stories ... which doesn't just try to be evenhanded, but has aggressively sought out the GOP line (which is not challenged - just presented) or repeated partisan tropes from the GOP during interviews.

Frustrating. If I want Fox News, I will listen to Fox News. NPR isn't being "balanced" by picking this stuff up off the sidewalk as newsworthy and ... well, shoving it in our face, agnostic to the original political intent.

Posted by: Bokonon on March 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

A Republican apologize or retract? Are you fuckin high? That sort of stuff is for pussies. Real manly men NEVER apologize for shit. They never back down. They double down. Steve, I'm gathering that you've never spent any actual time around rank and file wingnuts, have you? You really need to have a few beers with me at the watering hole back home. You would freak the hell out at how these people talk and behave.

Posted by: bikelib on March 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

The media in their obsession with "balance" has done a grave disservice to the American people. It's not FOX which is the problem, the cat is out of the bag with them, but it's news organizations like CNN and Washington Post that still have the vaneer of objectivity yet constantly use Repbublican talking points.

Posted by: Archon on March 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

CNN got suckered with the Cantor story, as did local channel 9 here in DC. Which means everyone watching, got suckered.

If this was true they would be reporting every ten minutes that he lied, but since they are not it implies that they approve of the narrative that it is equal on both sides.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on March 26, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Same shit repeated on NBC nooze last night and this morning. Even after the real store was reported on MSNBC I don't know why I continue to be surprised at the lack of journalistic integrity. Oh wait , this is the same network that shares President McCain's valued opinion every other Sunday

Posted by: johnr on March 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

to be fair, if this can be considered an equivalency, the washpost virginia politics blog is reporting that the police believe the cantor bullet to be randomly shot.

Posted by: skippy on March 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

You're joking of course?

It's a lie only if you're a Democrat. It's an affair only if you're a Democrat...

You realy think that the Post editorial page was confused? " To be sure, I can understand why the Post might be confused."

Really they print Cohen, Will, Krauthammer, random Bush speech writers - and they're confused?

But of course will the Democrats start publicly laughing at Cantor. Attack? Oh well, guess I'm the one joking now...

Posted by: Samuel Knight on March 26, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

I don't really know what "popping off to about" is, but i still feel pretty sure the former alternative ("shamelessly, blatantly lying") is the right answer. In his defense, Karl told him to.

Posted by: ulrich on March 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Cantor lying is not news. Lets all move along. Now if Al Gore had said it.....

Posted by: exlitigator on March 26, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, Cantor has a responsibility to apologize and/or retract his bogus claim.

That would require someone to explain the meanings of responsibility and bogus to him.

Posted by: John Henry on March 26, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

@ beep52: "This obsession with trying to establish equivalency where there is none..." I'm starting to realize that all these GOP moments of projection: accusing the dems of doing exactly what they have done or are doing, is the lynchpin of the Rovian strategy: not only does it allow fluff media to then describe moderate proposals as "controversial" or he-said-she-said confusion, but it also puts the dems in a difficult position b/c when they denounce ridiculous hyperbole ("fascism-socialism"), it SOUNDS LIKE -- to the low info viewer the dems are doing the same thing when they decry behavior that actually is over the top.

Posted by: ulrich on March 26, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why would major media outlets "consider the veracity of his claims"?

Why start now?

They never bothered to investigate James O'Keefe's claims. I think many of us are familiar with the recent mea culpa by whats-his-name at the Times saying, yeah, we got the facts wrong but we relied on information from Fox News, so it's not our fault.

In this brave new world facts are fungible.

Posted by: karen marie on March 26, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

To be sure, I can understand why the Post might be confused.

I can't. Even a casual and superficial checking up on the facts by amateurs shows the problems with Cantor's story. An actual professional news-gathering organization should be able to do better than this.

Posted by: qwerty on March 26, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Bokonon - I think they set out to stack the board of directors (or equivalent) for NPR during the Bush years. It is too bad, because they win either way: They can either damage the reputation of the "left" radio network by running conservative news & reporting (thus hurting their listener number and fundraising base), or they can feed conservative memes to unsuspecting listeners. Heck, they can do both at the same time!

Posted by: Jamobey on March 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

I emailed the WaPo ombudsman, but I'm sure he'll just reply to me by telling me I don't understand journalism.

Posted by: howie on March 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mission Accomplished.

Posted by: terraformer on March 26, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

NPR's "Morning Edition" has become a blatant and appalling stream of nonstop Republican propaganda.

Not only do they present Rupert Murdoch's bought-and-paid-for partisan Republican shills Mara Liasson and Juan Williams (who called the First Lady "Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress") as "news analysts" (while NEVER, EVER identifying them as paid employees of Fox News), but without exception every single story that has any political, legislative or electoral implications is ALWAYS, UNFAILINGLY, AND ONLY about "what the Republicans think".

The very day after the health insurance reform bill was passed, the lead story on "Morning Edition" was about how the Republicans were going to use it to campaign against Democrats in November.

Fox News exists to spoon-feed Republican propaganda to an audience consisting mostly of already committed "conservative" Ditto-Heads.

NPR exists to spoon-feed Republican propaganda to "liberal" middle-class white suburbanites. With a spoonful of Garrison Keillor to help the medicine go down.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 26, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Steve, how adorable you are. You of course know that IOKIYAR. No one will ever make Cantor feel like he should apologize.

Posted by: Trinity on March 26, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Not to head off topic, but I really am incensed about the direction NPR has gone. This past fall, I made my normal pledge but accompanied it with specific complaints about the news coverage. When I hear NPR's "journalists" simply parroting Republican talking points that are contradicted by, well, you know, FACTS, I send an email to my local member station, where the program director indicates I'm not alone and that she sends all such complaints on to NPR (though of course I do worry the emails are housed in the circular file). Last week I withheld my pledge altogether, and continue to forward examples of what I see as the lack of integrity in the NPR news department. I really, really hope others will contact NPR as well -- perhaps, together, we can get the message through and get back to good, unbiased coverage that challenges everyone to present the facts.

Posted by: RR on March 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

OH, what silly rabbits you all are.

Domestic terrorism only happens by someone who is left leaning with its recipient being a rightie.

If anything happens by someone on the right (like killing a doctor in church or flying a plane into an IRS facility, it is done by lone wolf types who are simply angry.

If anything happens to a dem, it was the dem who started it, caused it, encouraged it, undercover arranged it.

The right NEVER does anything wrong. I mean, come on, they are RIGHT.

IOKIYAR will only go so far once an elected official is injured, killed or maimed. Then what? How are the Republican's going to rein in their violent minions? Answer: They're not.

Welcome to Civil War 2.0.

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks SecularAnimist. That also drives me crazy about NPR and especially Morning Edition. Everytime I have it on, they play some Republican making talking points, and never balance it with a Democrat. I point this out to friends and nobody even notices it! Did you hear Scott Simon's paean to his dear friend John McCain during the election? I can't even listen to Scott Simon's voice anymore - it nauseates me.

Posted by: Nothing But the Ruth on March 26, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

False equivalency seems to be the only way Republicans can deflect what they should be decent enough to own! Too bad our political players on the Right are peering through the lenses of denial!

They are the ones who thought they were using FOXNEWS as a propaganda arm, only to realize as of late, it was FOXNEWS using the Republican party to stoke the flames of intolerance and protect the perch of privilege! They are the ones who encouraged extreme rhetoric during the course of our national policy debate on health care! They are the ones who don't care, and now aren't willing to humble themselves so we can begin to heal our bodypolitik.

Until I hear Rove say he's sorry for lying to us about Iraq and Valerie Plame, until I hear McConnell dial back his hysterical rhetoric, and until I hear Boehner admit his rhetoric is one of the main causal agents threatening our democracy, The Republican Party Is Dead To Me! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 26, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Instead of supporting NPR, you might consider Democracynow.org/pacifica for your contriubtion. They are 100% listener supported; no corporate "underwriting", as they call it.

Posted by: st john on March 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Check out this old Kos diary on how to really get to NPR:


Posted by: Steve on March 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK
to be fair, if this can be considered an equivalency, the washpost virginia politics blog is reporting that the police believe the cantor bullet to be randomly shot.

Probably only because readers like me emailed the ombudsman to complain. And I wasn't writing about the editorial. To be fair to Hiatt, they probably put the editorial to bed before all the facts came out. However, there is NO excuse for the followup story on the health care debate, which included a couple of paragraphs about Cantor's accusation. The Richmond police put out a press release at 5 p.m. Plenty of time before the front page deadline, unless the Post is in bigger trouble than we realized.

I agree with Billmon. This was deliberate propaganda. Cantor knew lazy reporters would just regurgitate his words without checking the facts.

Posted by: lou on March 26, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

They never bothered to investigate James O'Keefe's claims.

If I recall correctly, a few days ago PBS News Hour reported - in their brief "other news" segment - on ACORN's demise as a national body.

They linked the event to visits to ACORN offices by two activists posing as "a pimp and a prostitute".

No qualifier about how it was later established that the videos were doctored, or misleading.

And that's how it's done.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on March 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Cantor should put up or shut up, and Alan Grayson had the idea that he should resign for his mendacious little stunt. Let's see his trove of evidence of having been threatened! He is lying scum and he should be laughed out of DC.

Posted by: Styve on March 26, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Omigod can you imagine if Al Gore said something like that?

In fact, its hard to believe that the media didn't make up a quote and pretend Al Gore said that. Wait, is it possible that the Washington Post mixed Cantor up with Gore and put the words in his mouth?

Posted by: The Fool on March 26, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, that makes perfect sense to me dude.


Posted by: JO Davis on March 26, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

The gunman did shoot up. He just did it extremely high, and randomly, and didn't penetrate the blinds.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 26, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

You'll be happy to know that Free Republic doesn't believe the police report because it doesn't fit with their version of reality. The police report is simply an effort to discredit the victimized Republican.

Everything feeds the conservative victimization complex.

Posted by: dk on March 26, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Cantor will now get behind efforts to prevent assholes from firing wildly into the air. Or maybe not.

Posted by: tamiasmin on March 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why on earth would anyone be surprised that Cantor has lied; I knew it the moment he said it. If he knew how people can see right through his phony, groveling act, he'd stop. It's not becoming. He is so obviously the kind that will do and say anything to get attention and money. Americans can't be dumb enough to reelect him. He's not to be trusted.

Posted by: fotophrek on March 26, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

But the media will not correct themselves now, that is what makes me SO mad!! Because people have heard it and now believe it. I already had to correct 2 people who told me about this when I displayed my disgust for the attacks against Democrats.

Posted by: Gunni on March 27, 2010 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK



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