Boehlert's Bluff

What happens when a Salon solon tries to pull a fast one? He's busted!

Who is Eric Boehlert? Mr Google tells us his work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation,, and AlterNet. (Do we sense a pattern here?) Mr Boehlert’s name comes up because of a hit piece [link fixed] he wrote for Salon (the internet magazine that has resorted to dirty pictures to attract customers). The target of his attack: Fox News, and its coverage of the tsunami.

Mr Boehlert’s incisive critique begins with the usual cliches about GOP spin, citing as evidence:
Fox also routinely referred to the White House's "initial" aid package as being worth $35 million, not the more accurate and paltry sum of $15 million.

We’ve been through this one before, but even if Mr Boehlert doesn’t honor us as a regular reader, surely he must have heard of the New York Times, which also referred to the initial pledge as being worth $35 million. Not to mention the Associated Press and CBS News--all of them tools of the Republican National Committee, no doubt. So this Boehlert bulletin proves less than zero.

Mr B then relates something he didn’t even see, and cites as his only documentation a blog entry--yes, for this “reporter”, an unsupported entry in a blog is all it takes to make something true. And to put the cherry on this sundae, the blog in question was (we couldn’t make this stuff up) the newshounds! Yes, that fountainhead of accuracy whose innumerable mistakes, distortions, and lies have kept us working overtime for the past six months. That’s Mr Boehlert’s Big Source.

Mr Boehlert adopts the hound tactic of picking and choosing opinion commentators to cite, as proof of his preconceived narrative. He rails into O’Reilly, but never mentions anything said by Greta van Susteren. He slams Sean Hannity, but not a word about Alan Colmes. An old trick, and not an especially clever one either.

But it’s when he gets to the main thesis of his screed that Mr Boehlert overplays his rather thin hand. His postulation: Fox was woefully outclassed in the tsunami coverage. First, he cites a Financial Times article that claims:
Fox had to rely on untested freelancers, some of whom appeared to have never stood in front of a television camera before.

Who were these untested freelancers? We don’t know, and the Financial Times doesn’t say. And therefore neither does Mr Boehlert. After all, you don’t expect him to actually do this research himself, do you? Then Mr B moves in for the kill--he unleashes a devastating point, one not credited to an unsigned newspaper story or an internet blog. Obviously he wants the reader to believe this is actually based on his own, personal, firsthand observation:
On Wednesday afternoon during "Studio B," Fox host Shepard Smith kicked off the latest relief updates and touted Fox News' "team coverage" -- which consisted of a single reporter in Phuket, Thailand, and a lone reporter in the network's Washington bureau.

Tivo is a wonderful thing. What’s more, unlike tendentious scriveners, it doesn’t lie:

Tsunami reports on Studio-B, Wednesday January 5 2004:
  • Adam Housley, live report from Thailand
  • Catherine Herridge, live report from DC
  • Trace Gallagher, live report from Thailand
  • Jamie Colby, live report from India
  • William La Jeunesse, live report from Los Angeles

If Mr Boehlert watched Studio-B, why would he make a demonstrably false statement that doesn’t even get the basic facts right? We can think of two possibilities. One: he never saw the program and this was another item lifted (sans attribution) from elsewhere, and without even the most rudimentary effort at fact-checking. Or two: he did see the program, and lied.

Which is it, Mr Boehlert?

posted: Fri - January 7, 2005 at 02:36 AM       j$p  send