Political Animal


September 28, 2011 4:30 PM Being conservative means never having to say you’re sorry

By Steve Benen

We talked earlier about the Daily Caller’s massive screw-up yesterday, on an important story about the Environmental Protection Agency. I figured the conservative outlet would grudgingly bury some awkwardly-worded correction and move on. I assumed wrong.

To briefly recap, the Daily Caller reported that the EPA is eyeing new greenhouse gas measures, which would in turn ask American taxpayers “to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.” The piece was quickly embraced by the conservative message machine, with Fox News, National Review, and others trumpeting the story.

The problem, of course, is that the story isn’t true. The EPA, which only has 17,000 employees, is specifically “tailoring” its rule so that it won’t have to hire 230,000 officials. It’s right there in the court filings the Daily Caller relied on to publish its bogus piece.

Instead of backing off its obviously-wrong reporting, though, Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is doubling down.

“The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What’s ‘comically wrong’ is the idea that half of Washington won’t admit it. The EPA’s own court filing speaks volumes,” Martosko said in an email.

“What’s more likely: that the Obama administration’s EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it’s interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer,” he added. “The suggestion that the EPA — this EPA in particular — is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I’ve seen since Nancy Grace’s nipple-slip.”

Look, I realize conservative media outlets like to play fast and loose with the facts. I also realize the right’s version of reality is often, shall we say, malleable.

But this is just ridiculous. Martosko is trying to make an argument based on assumptions and evidence-free predictions, and while I’m sure that’s more fun than journalism and abiding by professional ethics, the question here is plainly empirical. The Daily Caller reported — in black and white, and without qualifiers — that the EPA agency is “asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats.” Either that’s true or it’s not. What’s “well known” or perceived as “likely” is irrelevant. The claim is either accurate or it’s inaccurate.

And in this case, what the Daily Caller reported is plainly wrong.

It happens. Media outlets get things wrong. I’ve been a professional writer for a while and I’ve made plenty of embarrassing mistakes. The responsible thing to do is correct the record and try not to do it again.

The conservative media world, though, just doesn’t seem to care. It explains a great deal about why those who rely on outlets like these seem so woefully uninformed about current events.

Update: Martosko tried again, but he’s still ignoring key facts.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • doyles on September 28, 2011 4:41 PM:

    The problem with these stories is not that they exist in the right wing echo chamber. The real problem is that these stories seep into the mainstream media's narratives without analysis or question.

  • Anonymous on September 28, 2011 4:43 PM:

    Why should they care? There is no penalty for lying. No one calls them on it, and even if they did-like you said- that would just be the liberal media's slant. In journalism, there is no penalty for being wrong-unless it is a Republican. Until this dynamic changes, the lying will get worse.

    The media will not let the Democrats lie. Democrats will get "3 Pinocchio" or "Pants on fire for using "the" instead of "a". Republicans can say anything they want and will, either not get called on it, or if they do get called on it, it will be "both sides". Once this dynamic changes, then the Republicans will be voted out within two cycles.

  • Gregory on September 28, 2011 4:50 PM:

    The problem, of course, is that the story isnít true.

    Be fair, Steve. If conservatives had to apologize every time they said something that wasn't true, they'd have to apologize all the time.

  • kevo on September 28, 2011 4:52 PM:

    Yes, it is a very daunting and formidable effort one has to make to try to have a sentient, cohesive and coherent conversation or debate with people who are more interested in flinging shit into a fan than talking with their adversaries to work out solutions to our collective woes!

    Thanks Daily Caller for staying consistent, anyway! I'd simply think they'd be tired of the stink and fetid mess they make everytime they resort to such flinging! -Kevo

  • AJ42 on September 28, 2011 5:03 PM:

    I think that being conservative doesn't mean never SAYING you're sorry, it means that you're never sorry at all.

  • digitusmedius on September 28, 2011 5:08 PM:

    Shorter Daily Caller: "Yeah, we lied, but we do so for our cause so it's all good."

  • kindness on September 28, 2011 5:09 PM:

    The comments over at Politico scare me. Those people are clamoring to let Corporations kill them so their stocks will rise a penny that quarter.

    And they are serious. How many people can the Koch brothers pay to sit and spam blogs all day?

  • hjmler on September 28, 2011 5:11 PM:

    it's not a bug, it's a feature ...

  • Todd for VT House on September 28, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Very similar to LaPierre's schtick about Obama and guns. Sure they're implementing these policies that mesh with our objectives, but clearly it's all a ruse!

  • Redshift on September 28, 2011 5:57 PM:

    Gotta love how the Supreme Court overturning centuries of precedent and declaring that the Second Amendment guarantees individual ownership of guns is absolutely final and should never be questioned or called bad law, but the Supreme Court affirming that the Clean Air Act governs greenhouse gas emissions is "the EPA expanding its reach."

  • bleh on September 28, 2011 6:14 PM:

    Also, it's WELL known that all these liberal tropes about "facts" and "accuracy" are just another attempt by elite Ivory Tower university know-it-alls to gag their opponents and prevent the presentation of a fair and balanced viewpoint.

    This is how liberalism weakens great countries and replaces freedom with tyranny. Through this and other means of brainwashing such as "science" and "education."

    But true patriots know what's at stake! Nothing less than the lifeblood of liberty, the freedom that the Founding Fathers fought for and that generations of Americans have died for, blah blah and etcetera, this stuff just writes itself after a while.

  • Spiny Norman on September 28, 2011 6:39 PM:

    "I figured the conservative outlet would grudgingly bury some awkwardly-worded correction and move on."

    Well, then you're a dumbshit. We're talking about the American right wing and global warming. On this question, the American right wing has demonstrated, repeatedly and forcefully, a total antipathy to facts.

    The real question is why, given the record, you might have expected them to care about the truth, or to stop lying.

  • SecularAnimist on September 28, 2011 7:05 PM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "... what the Daily Caller reported is plainly wrong. It happens. Media outlets get things wrong. Iíve been a professional writer for a while and Iíve made plenty of embarrassing mistakes."

    Yes, Steve. Unfortunately, you keep making the exact same "embarrassing mistake" over and over and over again.

    Namely: the Daily Caller didn't "get it wrong" for no particular reason other than "it happens" that sometimes "media outlets get things wrong".

    The Daily Caller is DELIBERATELY LYING.

    Only a week or so ago, you posted an article entitled "The incentive to lie", opining that "Republicans would probably be less inclined to lie if they thought there would be consequences for their dishonesty", but they lie because they know they "can lie with impunity".

    Pretending that the Daily Caller's deliberate, calculated, malicious LIES are merely an example of "a media outlet getting it wrong" because, well, "it happens" may be cute and all, but it is, in fact, a perfect example of a journalist enabling the Republicans to "lie with impunity".

    You closed that previous article by saying "Whatís to be done when the discourse is broken? I donít know, but Iím open to suggestion."

    Well, for what it's worth, I respectfully suggest that you FINALLY drop the cutesy ironies about deliberate liars just "getting it wrong" and start fiercely and unrelentingly and unambiguously calling a lie a lie.

  • cathymac on September 28, 2011 7:25 PM:

    @doyles: The mainstream media IS the right wing echo chamber.

  • ohhenery on September 28, 2011 7:40 PM:

    I'm guessing that they are committed to riding this bull (Factoid) as long as mommy keeps putting quarters in the slot.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 28, 2011 7:46 PM:

    Can a government agency sue for libel? The rest of the "media watchdogs" are clearly a joke, but the courts can't get by on, "Experts disagree on shape of earth."

  • arkie on September 28, 2011 9:31 PM:

    "Truth also is not in the Democratic Party's DNA. It has not been since before the American Revolution."

    Uh, the Democratic Party wasn't founded until 1828.

  • Terry Ward on September 29, 2011 7:52 AM:

    Given Martoskoís past antics, howling illucid truthiness wherever he do roam, his latest shenanigans should surprise no one.

    Unless of course you are one who believes the HSUS is a domestic terrorist organization, obesity fears are a liberal alarmist hoax and gobbling up mercury is ok for pregnant women.


  • cmdicely on September 29, 2011 1:02 PM:

    Uh, the Democratic Party wasn't founded until 1828.

    Or 1792, depending on how you look at it, but in any case not before the Revolution.

  • DougR2011 on November 03, 2011 5:22 PM:

    Whose schlong did Martosko suck to get this job, and how is he still working as a reporter after getting a story so egregiously wrong?

    At least he's down in D.C. Maybe he can hang out with his undoubted buddy, Stephen Glass, at the bar in the National Press Club.