Open Letter to Dan Abrams
I’m nobody of great importance, just an avid reader of your site, and a new FDL blogger. I have a fascination with media, but I don’t have time to watch much TV; on a daily basis, Mediaite has for a long time helpfully provided the most interesting clips of the day. I read it more consistently than any other site on the Internet. It’s an important source of what’s going on in the media and politics world for a lot of folks.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid something has happened to Mediaite, something terrible. That something is Mediaite’s most prolific new contributor, Noah Rothman.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Since Noah’s a conservative, I must be a liberal, and that’s why I’m complaining. Well, you’re right about me being on the Left, and it’s true that it’s easier to notice the flaws in the writings of those with different ideological moorings than ourselves. But while I’ve commented on your blog taking issue with the opinions of Andrew Kirell and Frances Martel in the past, I’ve never written an open letter to you about them, and actually like that your website allows respectful conversation and different points-of-view. I’m writing to you about Noah because he has a perpetual problem with facts. The other night, you tweeted out, “Congrats to @mediaite for terrific coverage of tonight’s #debates,” but Dan, Noah’s coverage was dead wrong. According to Noah, after the debate, Candy Crowley said Mr. Romney was “‘Right’ That Obama Didn’t Call Libya Terror” the day after the attack. This morning he followed up by sneering that Crowley’s debate moderation “Exemplifies Why Americans Do Not Trust Their Media.” He claimed that the President’s reference to terror in the Rose Garden speech on September 12 was “after two paragraphs of recounting how Americans responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001.” He alleged that after the debate, Crowley “half-heartedly admitted that Romney was correct.”
That’s an imaginary narrative. President Obama referred to acts of terror twice on September 12. In the Rose Garden speech, he had mentioned 9/11/01 two paragraphs earlier, but then shifted to Benghazi; by the time he got to “acts of terror,” he clearly was talking about the Benghazi attack (“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.”). In another speech that evening, the president said, “As for the ones we lost last night: I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. (Applause.) And we want to send a message all around the world — anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”
During the debate, Obama and Romney got into a heated argument about what the President said. Here’s the part of the exchange where Crowley breaks in:
MR. ROMNEY: I — I — I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.
MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
MR. ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration — (applause) — indicated that this was a — a reaction to a — to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
MS. CROWLEY: They did.
So Crowley clarified during the exchange that Romney was wrong in saying Obama did not call it an act of terror (he actually used that literal phrase), but right that we were told wrong information about what actually happened in Benghazi. She was right. Contra Noah’s claim, she did not back down in the videos he posted, but defended what she said originally; she’s since clarified this morning for folks like Noah who apparently didn’t pay attention. Noah has not retracted.
Now, I could understand if Noah was usually a good journalist who had just gotten caught up in his emotions following Obama’s fine debate performance. But Noah makes up his own facts to suit his partisan agenda all the time. When Noah cried that the President’s U.N. speech did not provide a “clear and definitive defense of the principles enshrined in the First Amendment of the American Constitution,” instead suggesting “that the future will be one where religious critiques must be curtailed, lest one fear for their personal safety,” never mind that the President said exactly the opposite ( “Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened.”). Noah thinks the Daily Telegraph has a liberal media bias; yes, that Daily Telegraph. He alleged that O’Donnell ridiculously considered Romney’s statement that he would appoint justices who would hopefully reverse Roe v. Wade “inconsistent with another recent statement from Romney in which he said ‘there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda;'” as Noah noted, Romney was clearly not proposing any anti-Roe-v.-Wade legislation in his former statement describing his ideal justices (Just for the record, Romney has proposed anti-choice legislation). Noah had a clip where O’Donnell denoted the contrast between the two statements, but Noah failed to include O’Donnell going on to say, “…[Romney] said there that there’s no legislation that he’s contemplating. Well, you don’t have to contemplate legislation when you put in those Supreme Court justices who are going to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Of course you don’t need federal legislation after that!” So actually, O’Donnell does realize the difference between legislation and appointing Justices.
I could go on, but you get the gist. Look, I’m searching for a job myself right now, it’s a rough economy, I wouldn’t wish anybody to be fired, and I’m not asking you to fire Noah. But I do think the senior editors over at Mediaite should exert increased editorial authority. It would be a real shame for Mediaite’s front page to be filled with partisan hackery on a daily basis. I get why the Right has FOX News, the New York Post, Breitbart, et al. I think many readers would agree that Mediaite should remain a site with multiple voices, but we want them to be honest and compelling.