Once upon a time -- back when I worked in newsrooms and edited wire copy for a living -- the Associated Press was more or less the standard for button-down, straight-down-the-middle news reportage and analysis. If anything, it erred on the bland
September 6, 2012

Once upon a time -- back when I worked in newsrooms and edited wire copy for a living -- the Associated Press was more or less the standard for button-down, straight-down-the-middle news reportage and analysis. If anything, it erred on the bland and centrist "he-said/she said," side. But it never displayed anything remotely like a bias.

That's all changed in recent years, of course -- as we recently saw in AP's egregiously unethical reportage on Dr. Tiller, which is really only an extension of a trend toward replicating the propagandaesque nature of Fox News we've seen increasingly at AP in recent years.

But I think they were all topped, as Aviva Shen at ThinkProgress reports, by their analysis of Bill Clinton's speech that dismisses Clinton's point about the truthfulness of the Romney campaign (or lack thereof) by bringing up Monica Lewinsky -- just like any good talking head at Fox might.

As Shen observes, most media critics who delved Clinton's facts found that he was entirely accurate:

Though he frequently departed from the script, the former president correctly cited the statistics on Obama’s job growth, decreasing health costs since 2010, and the stimulus tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans.

But the anonymous analyst for the AP found a hatful of dubious "facts" to contest anyway -- and then proceeded to pull out a regurgitated series of grotesquely distorted right-wing talking points that could have been penned by Karl Rove himself.

For instance, the AP analyst disputed Clinton's contention that President Obama has tried to work across political aisles to get legislation passed:

THE FACTS: From Clinton's speech, voters would have no idea that the inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock. Right from the beginning Obama brought in as his first chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a man known for his getting his way, not for getting along.

One of the more high-profile examples of a deal that fell apart was the outline of a proposed "grand bargain" budget agreement between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.

The deal would have required compromise from both sides. It slashed domestic spending more than most Democrats wanted and would have raised some taxes, which most Republicans oppose.

Boehner couldn't sell the plan to tea party factions in the House or to other conservative activists. And Obama found himself accused of going too far by some Democratic leaders. The deal died before it ever even came up for a vote.

Here's the fact that perhaps the AP reporter conveniently forgot: It was Boehner who killed that deal, and Boehner alone. (This is has been backed up recently by the leaks from Bob Woodward's new book.) And that has been the story, time after time after time, of Obama's dealings with Republicans, both in the House and in the Senate: He reaches out his hand to them, and it comes back a bloody stump. They have been so bent on his destruction that normal legislating has been impossible. Or is the reporter utterly unaware of the obscene rate at which the GOP deployed the filibuster in the Senate during Obama's tenure?

It only goes downhill from there. The analyst similarly dismisses Clinton's perfectly accurate statistics about the growth in health-care costs with a wave of the airy brush:

That's wishful thinking at best. The nation's total health care tab has been growing at historically low rates, but most experts attribute that to continued uncertainty over the economy, not to Obama's health care law.

But neither can the analyst prove that it's an inaccurate prediction of future behavior, either -- unless, of course, he's a Foxian propagandist instead of a factual analyst.

Why else would you dismiss Clinton by then blaming him for the economic downturn of 2008 -- without any mention of the far more dominant role played by the Republican policies of George W. Bush in creating that disaster?

Clinton is counting on voters to recall the 1990s wistfully and to cast a vote for Obama in hopes of replicating those days in a second term. But Clinton leaves out the abrupt downward turn the economy took near the end of his own second term and the role his policies played in the setting the stage for the historic financial meltdown of 2008.

Then the analyst makes his descent into Foxhood complete by again dismissing Clinton's point about the Romney campaign's flagrant use of falsehoods by pointing to his own scandal -- a classic ad hominem, complete with a side of nasty:

THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."

As Aviva Shen observes:

During its fact-check of this claim, the AP article had to ignore the Romney campaign’s dishonest attack on Obama’s welfare work requirements, which even Republican governors have questioned. It also fails to consider the campaign’s habit of deliberately editing Obama out of context, as they did in Romney’s first ad, which attributed the line, “If we talk about the economy, we’re going to lose,” to Obama when he was actually mimicking the McCain campaign in 2008. Also missing is the fact that the Republican National Convention last week was based on a distortion of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” quote. ThinkProgress has compiled a comprehensive catalog of Romney’s lies on virtually every issue he’s had to discuss.

Rather than attempt to debunk Clinton’s attack on the campaign’s dishonesty, the AP could only imply that Clinton cannot criticize any false claims because of his past scandal.

And then media folks wonder why no one take print media seriously anymore. Time to call for another blogger ethics panel!

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