Item: Last week Republicans in the North Carolina House used the occasion of 9/11 to call a surprise vote, passing a budget bill with a supermajority to override the Democratic governor’s veto. They were able to do this only because most Democrats were absent, some of them attending commemorative events; the Democratic leader had advised members that they didn’t need to be present because, he says, he was assured there would be no votes that morning.
Elizabeth Warren (via tweet), the Washington Post and other news outlets repeated the same story. It wasn’t true. NPR’s North Carolina affiliate checked the facts with local reporter Paul Specht of the Raleigh News & Observer. He explained how the rumor—for that’s what it was, despite Warren, Krugman, the Washington Post et al. reporting it as fact—got started.
“It’s hard to tell where it started,” Specht told NPR. “You know, in some cases the news and reporters and other observers were victims of circumstance.’
Baloney, by the way. The “circumstance” here was that reporters didn’t verify the story. Specht is covering for his habitually unethical colleagues.
“The vote happened the morning of September 11. And that morning, as we all know, there’s a national moment of silence…And you, know, I think people just took all that information — they heard keywords, they heard, you know, “Republicans vote,” “Democrats absent,” “9/11,” morning of. And then people jumped to assumptions about where the Democrats were. There were a few outlets both locally here in Raleigh, WTVD, and then national outlets, too, they got it wrong. Whether it was Now This, which posts viral videos, the Washington Post, also, its headline was inaccurate. It took it a little while to correct so misinformation was all over the place.”
Wow! Is American journalism terrific, or what?
Specht went on to say that that there was only one Democrat in the House of Representatives for North Carolina that was attending a 9-11 event, Garland Pierce from Scotland County. He was the only eligible Democratic voter who was at a memorial event instead of showing up for the vote. Specht said that when minority leader, Democrat Dan Jackson, was asked, “Were there any members of your caucus at 9/11 meetings besides Rep. Pierce, who was in Raeford?” the answer came back “No.”
So Krugman’s “some” was really “one.”
The fall-back claim, which Jackson continued to push, was that Democrats were “tricked.” He says that Republicans told him there would be no vote on the budget that morning. That’s neither confirmed nor confirmable: the Republicans say that the budget vote was on the calendar, regardless of what Jackson claims he was told. The reporter reports, “Democrats were in meetings. A handful of them were preparing to meet to talk about redistricting, and some that I spoke with said they were driving to Raleigh. They were eating breakfast. They were parking their car. They were getting ready to go. So, they’re kind of all over the place.”
Did their leader screw up? Were they ducking the vote? Were they really “tricked”? It’s a donkey says/elephant says, and anyone who states as fact what was really going on is exposing partisan bias and misrepresenting the facts. The statement that Democrats were “tricked” into going to a memorial service is, however, false beyond question, which is what Warren, among others, tweeted. So far, the Democratic Party’s #1 shameless demagogue hasn’t corrected it, relying on Jonathan Swift’s paraphrased observation (mistakenly attributed to Mark Twain, probably by Paul Krugman) that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
It isn’t Republicans who don’t believe in democracy, but Machiavellian pundits and journalists like Krugman. Democracy depends on an informed public, which is why an honest, objective, competent, non-partisan and trustworthy news media is indispensable, and, in this democracy, presently absent. Totalitarianism depends on misinformation and a public manipulated into believing what their rulers want them to believe. That’s what journalists and pundits are supporting when they play the Lying Game.