Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Scoop!: Solving the "Schiavo Memo" Mystery

      World Exclusive Story!  Must credit Fat Steve's Blatherings!  (Gee, I liked writing that).

      On March 18th, ABC's World News Tonite ran a story about a purported memo 'circulated among Republican Senators' concerning the then pending Schiavo bill.  On March 23rd, I mentioned the issue in The Other Current Media Scandal.  The allegedly Republican memo supposedly stated the bill would be good politically for the GOP, and bad for the Democrats.  The memo also featured talking points about why Congress should pass the bill.  Copies of the memo ended up in the hands of ABC News, the Washington Post, and the web site Raw Story.

      Almost immediately, questions were raised concerning the memo's authenticity.  It wasn't signed; it wasn't on letterhead paper; the number of the bill was wrong (S.529 on the memo, S.539 in reality); the copy obtained by ABC had five or six typos (depending if you count "1p.m."); another copy, the one Raw Story posted, had three of the errors corrected; the actual "talking points" portion of the memo appeared to have been copied from the Traditional Values web site; in turn, Traditional Values seem to have derived the talking points from press releases issued by Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Dave Weldon, the Congressional sponsors of S.539.  There was a strong feeling among right-wingers on the 'Net that the whole thing was a hoax concocted by Democrats (see here, and the many posts at Michelle Malkin and Powerline).

      Yesterday, Howard Kurtz did a column on the memo.  It's rather unfocused, but I think it gives us the information we need to clear most points up.  I'll summarize him in question and answer format.

      Question: Who wrote the memo?

      Answer: Kurtz doesn't know.  Further, he doesn't appear to be very interested (if he asked anyone, the column doesn't mention it).  There is a denial:
A Democratic Senate official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the party is not publicly discussing the memo's origin, said: "It's ridiculous to suggest that these are some talking points concocted by a Democratic staffer."[my addition: note the careful use of the words "talking points" -- St. Onge]

      That's it regarding authorship.

      A question for Mr. Kurtz: Did you ask anyone if they knew who wrote the memo?  If so, did you get any answers?

      After the memo was written, by whoever wrote it, it was supposedly distributed to Republican Senators.

      Questions: If the memo was in fact distributed to Republican Senators, who distributed it?  Which Republican Senators was it distributed to?

      Answer: That question doesn't seem to have been raised either.  Kurtz has this:
"ABC News had very reliable, multiple sources who indicated the memo was distributed to Republicans on the floor of the Senate, and that is what we reported," network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said yesterday.

      And also this:
The Post's [Mike] Allen [who originally reported the story for the Post] said . . . "The document was provided by an official who has a long record of trustworthiness, and this official gave a precise account of the document's provenance, satisfying us that it was authentic and that it had been used in an attempt to influence Republican senators." Allen said that under the journalistic ground rules, he could not say whether the source was a Democrat or a Republican.

      Kurtz doesn't mention getting in touch with the Raw Story site at all.

      Question: Aside from the assertions of ABC and the Post, is there any evidence that this memo was ever in the hands of Republican Senators at all?

      Answer: There is a little.  The unnamed "Senate Democratic Official" said:
The fact is, these talking points were given to a Democratic member by a Republican senator. [my addition: again, note that phrase "talking points" ]

      The flip side is unanimous denials by Republicans that they knew about it before it was distributed to the media.  Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard said "I couldn't discover anybody showing any evidence that this memo was distributed to Republican Senators."

      Question: How did ABC News, the Washington Post, and Raw Story get the memo?

      ABC and the Post got it from one or more sources they won't identify.  As noted, Raw Story wasn't asked, but since their copy cleaned up mistakes in ABC's copy, it may have been a different source.

      Kurtz also notes that, according a story in the New York Times, the story was given to the media by unnamed Democratic staffers.

      In short, the MSM's line on the memo is "Trust us!"

      At this point, just for laughs, you might want to go read one of my early posts on Rathgate.  It lists the various defenses CBS made of those forged memos, almost all of which were lies -- and by "lies," I don't mean matters of opinion or dispute, but statements CBS knew were not true when they made them, e.g., that CBS had the memos for six weeks before they ran the story.

      No, MSM, we don't trust you anymore.

      Still, thanks to the good work of John Hindraker at Powerline, and Michelle Malkin at her web site, and the information that Kurtz managed to collect, I think we can reconstruct what happened.  Note well: up to this point, the material is derived from the cited sources.  The analysis which follows is original with me.

      Martinez and Weldon introduced the Schiavo bill.  They held a press conference and issued their press releases.  The Traditional Values site posted talking points gleaned from the releases and press conference.

      Someone then printed out the Traditional Values talking points, and passed it around among Republican Senators.  One or more Republicans gave copies to Democrats.

      At this point, some unknown person(s) *cough* Democratic aide(s) *cough* decided to play a dirty trick.  They retyped the talking points, with inadvertent typos, and added the parts about the bill having to be acted on quickly, exciting the "pro-life base," and being a "great political issue" that would hurt FL's Sen. Nelson and other Democrats.

      The retyped, ALTERED memo was then given to the media, perhaps by the fraudster(s), perhaps using one or several cutouts.  The claim that it had been distributed among Republicans was a half truth and a whole lie -- the Martinez/Weldon talking points had been distributed, the added material had not been.

      Sometime after ABC got the a copy, the trickster(s) realized the phonied up memo had some typos, and the three spotted were corrected.  A corrected copy was leaked to Raw Story.

      ABC News, and the Washington Post fell for the fraud.  They checked,and found that portions of the memo had been circulated among Republicans.  From there, as the con artist(s) intended, they leaped to the conclusion that the whole, fraudulent memo had circulated.  And being opposed to the Schiavo bill anyway (that last is surmise on my part, but most MSM members opposed the bill), ABC and the Post ran with the story.

      During Rathgate, CBS emphasized its claim that it had used normal MSM procedures and standards to 'verify' their set of forged documents.  I have a sickening feeling that claim was true.

      I believe this explains all the facts as we have them.  It doesn't tell us who altered the memo, but the MSM will keep their sources confidential, and the person(s) responsible for the alteration will keep their mouths shut.  It's very unlikely we'll find out which Democrat(s) perpetrated the fraud.

      And it is absolutely certain that the MSM will never come clean on how they were fooled, or admit the memo as they ran it was altered.  They still can't bring themselves to say that the CBS memos were forged, obvious as that is.

      But the bottom line is, someone manipulated the MSM again, and very easily.

      Mystery mostly solved.  Next question, please?

      At 11:02 CST, I updated to correct some typos.

      Update: OOPS!  See here.



  • Counsel to GOP Senator Wrote Memo On Schiavo

    Martinez Aide Who Cited Upside For Party Resigns

    By Mike Allen
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A01

    The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

    By Blogger JP, at 2:01 PM  

  • Gee, (sob), my faith in right wing bloggers is destroyed! Where are their apologies and retractions?

    By Blogger James, at 5:48 AM  

  • What are you talking about, James? I was wrong, and if you follow the OOPS! link, I admit it and discuss my errors at length?

    By Blogger Stephen M. St. Onge, at 2:48 PM  

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