But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I've learned my lesson. If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."
Ann Coulter, Good Morning America
This past week, the Los Angeles Times and the world at large condemned conservative pundit Ann Coulter for her poisonous hate speech, but at the same time bought into her tortured thinking. Even the writer of an anti-Coulter letter to The Times was duped by Coulter. But while Real Time host Bill Maher may have said "I" and "wish Cheney," "had been killed," and "in a terrorist attack," it is impossible to find all these phrases in the same sentence. The media act as if he said pretty much what Coulter claims he said. An innocent Bill Maher (and believe me, other than this incident, the HBO Friday-night king is far from innocent) has been blasphemed.
Here's part of went down...
On June 28, The Times printed an Associated Press story ("Coulter's remarks help Edwards' cause") that said:
In answering criticism of her March speech, Coulter referred to comedian Bill Maher's suggestion, also in March, that "people wouldn't be dying needlessly" if Vice President Dick Cheney had been killed when terrorists launched an attack as he visited Afghanistan. She contends that Maherwhose comment about Cheney drew little attentionwas not joking.
Monday, Times Letter writer Barry Simon said:
Like a child in a sandbox, Coulter points to Bill Maher, crying, "He did it first." However, as any parent would tell her, just because someone else did it doesn't give her permission to do it too.
The Times is not the only media outlet taken in. On July 1, Howard Kurtz's CNN show Reliable Sources featured a segment on Ann Coulter's hate spew and highlighted the fact that many networks played only the portion of Coulter's comment on Good Morning America in which she advanced the idea that John Edwards be shot in a terrorist assassination plot. Kurtz discussed whether networks should have played the entire context of her quote, including the reference to Maher's comments on his March 3 Real Time show on HBO. The implication was that, in fact, networks were trying to make Coulter's comment seem even worse.
There's just one problem. It wasn't true... Maher's comments were not on a par with Coulter's. Not even close. Here's the transcript from what he actually said.. See if you can find what Coulter claims he said anywhere in there. Believe it or not, Coulter stretched the truth, bringing together different comments from different parts of the showsome of which were references to someone else's comment, not Maher's own...whew. And the Mainstream Media took her fiction and allowed it to become a part of the debate. The Associated Press bought into Coulter's story and mangled the context in an attempt to give her claim some sort of credibility. Kurtz of the oh-so-liberal Washington Post made the lack of context by the major networks a major part of his lead segment. Reliable Sources? Bill O'Reilly might as well call his show the No-Spin Factor. Why in the world should the networks run the first half of Coulter's quote when her reference to Maher was not in fact what most people would consider anything resembling the truth?
Amazing, huh? The show meant to watchdog over the reliability in the media didn't. The far-left, über-liberal, George Soros-loving L.A. Times fed us the same distortion of events that the right's broadcast Lords of Loud dwell on, the same kind of "other half of the truth" credibility that produces statements such as Al Gore said he invented the Internet or John Kerry was a coward. That Maher had already dealt with Coulter's allegation when it was first bandied about by the right's Noise Machine in March should have been enough not to let it fly again. But repeating a lie never seems to hurt the right. It's part of the right's strategy, and the so-called liberal media allow it free reign. Simon, the anti-Coulter letter-writer, fell into Coulter's trap even as he was trying to chastise her.
Works every time. And we all helped.
Steve Young, an award-winning TV writer and author of Great Failures of the Extremely Successful, writes on talk radio and TV.