Adventures in misquotation by the conservative blogosphere

I’m one of those commentators and policy wonks being savaged in the right-wing blogosphere after the Daily Caller‘s Jonathan Strong leaked Journolist emails. The Caller had my raw emails. Amazingly, it still managed to misquote me through a web programming error. Strong fixed the error when I complained about it—but not until the right-wing blogosphere twisted my misattributed words beyond recognition.

This, for example, is how J.R. Dunn of American Thinker characterized me in a piece called “JournoList and the Leftist Mentality” :

Harold Pollack (Aug 30, 2008, 11:43am) piously recommends turning to the Talmud for guidance — in a lengthy posting trying to justify the “Trig is really Bristol’s kid” story. Hillel and Maimonides would no doubt have approved.

Below is what I actually said in its entirety. To summarize for busy readers: the first two points provide a few reasons not to believe rumors about the Palin pregnancies. The third point is what the Daily Caller and then American Thinker misconstrue. I’m not sure what conservatives make of my final point—that this was “obviously way out of bounds.” To acknowledge that liberals would say such things wouldn’t advance Dunn’s crude liberals-are-evil thesis.*

Harold Pollack
Aug 30, 2008, 11:43am
Ezra said what I think better than I can. A few final amplifications.

1. Most infants with [Down Syndrome] are born to women <35, but that’s because the traditional amnio testing threshold is 35. That is now changing rapidly. I’ve actually been working on decision analyses of less invasive technologies for younger women. My tables are unavailable this moment, but Wikipedia gives the basic incidence figures: At maternal age 20 to 24, the probability is 1/1562; at age 35 to 39 the probability is 1/214. Above age 45, the probability is 1/19. (Unfortunately they left out the 40-44 group, but the number is greater than 1%.)

2. As for the implausibility of an unintended pregnancy, we’re not talking about Abraham and Sarah here. Ladies with 5 kids are known to have a 6th.

3. Lindsay, Palin would not be a liar or hypocrite even if this were true. Talmud instructs lies are sometimes permissable in difficult family circumstances. I would tell a public lie to keep an important family secret for my kid that is nobody else’s business.

4. Tough campaigns mess with our minds. This is obviously way out of bounds. If Republicans were spreading some similar meme about Jill Biden or a Democratic woman, we would all be freaking out about it. We can attack McCain for his horrible judgment in selecting someone so unprepared without going into this other stuff.

(The passage was corrected by the Daily Caller after I complained and before Dunn’s article appeared).

After I alerted American Thinker to the complete mismatch between Dunn’s article and what I actually said, this is how the site corrected their entry in response to my emails today (**See the Post-Post-Postscript below from August 5):

Harold Pollack (Aug 30, 2008, 11:43am) piously recommends turning to the Talmud for guidance — in a lengthy posting trying to justify the “Trig is really Bristol’s kid” story. Hillel and Maimonides would no doubt have approved. [Editor's note: Mr. Pollack has written to AT denying that he wrote this, noting, "I have been misquoted by the Daily Caller.... I never said these things. Indeed I said the opposite publicly and privately many times. I am a caregiver for a mentally disabled man, and this episode is very hurtful to me." AT has asked Mr. Pollack to forward the actual JournoList pages in question, as well as his objections to the dicussion of Trig, if any. Today, on the HuffPo, Pollack posted this "nod" to Sarah Palin on the issue of disabilities.]

Contrary to that sloppy editorial note in brackets, my “nod” to Sarah Palin wasn’t posted today. It appeared August 29, 2008–the day before that Journolist thread. That piece closed with the following:

A tough election should not blind us to our common humanity. Anyone who walks the walk in the service of her personal beliefs deserves my friendship. So congratulations, Governor. You don’t come close to earning my vote, but you are welcome in my home, any time.

Three days later, I wrote the following at Huffington Post:

The Palin pregnancies are not campaign issues — they just aren’t.

We should wish the Palins well personally, and then move on to the real issues: health care, Iraq, tax relief to working families. Every moment we spend on personal issues distracts attention from Palin’s odd or nonexistent views on key policy issues, from Senator McCain’s poor judgment in selecting a running mate so obviously unprepared to be President, and most important, from Senator McCain’s misguided approach to America’s future at home and abroad…..

Factually, politically, and morally, it never made much sense to chase rumors that Governor Palin was covering for her teen daughter’s pregnancy.

Almost every liberal activist and Obama supporter agreed with me. Few of us cared to traffic in rumors about Sarah Palin. We had better things to do.

Anyone who spent five minutes learning about me or my work would realize that the Daily Caller, and then even more sloppily, American Thinker‘s J.R. Dunn completely mischaracterized my views. Had he made any effort to contact me or had just googled “Harold Pollack” and “Sarah Palin,” everyone could both have been spared this embarrassment.

Dunn asserts: “Media leftists, and their co-conspirators in the academy and the think-tanks, manipulate and distort the news reaching the American public.…” Hey pal, look in the mirror.

Postscript:
As this was about to go live, I received the following email from Thomas Lifson of American Thinker: “Based on the information you sent, I have deleted the mention of you.”

Sure enough, they have removed the offending paragraph. That’s good, but it’s coming late. Dunn’s story has now proliferated across the conservative blogosphere. A public apology is in order.

Post-Postscript:
JR Dunn’s response to this very post is here. It, also, speaks for itself.

*In his response to this post, Dunn claims that I mischaracterize him, because his thesis is that “liberals are dumb,” not that liberals are evil. I stand corrected.

**Post-Post-Postscript.
After much prodding, American Thinker has done the right thing. The passage now reads:

Harold Pollack (Aug 30, 2008, 11:43am) piously recommends turning to the Talmud for guidance – in a lengthy posting trying to justify the “Trig is really Bristol’s kid” story. Hillel and Maimonides would no doubt have approved. [Editor's note: Mr. Pollack has written to AT denying that he wrote this, noting, "I have been misquoted by the Daily Caller.... I never said these things. Indeed I said the opposite publicly and privately many times. I am a caregiver for a mentally disabled man, and this episode is very hurtful to me." AT has asked Mr. Pollack to forward the actual JournoList pages in question, as well as his objections to the discussion of Trig, if any. On the HuffPo, Pollack posted this "nod" to Sarah Palin on the issue of disabilities. This appeared on August 29, 2008, not today, as erroneously posted here earlier. The Daily Caller has since corrected the transcript which was used in preparation of this article, so we believe the quotation was in error, and regret that we picked up an erroneous quotation.]

Comments

  1. K says

    I've been a little impatient of Journolist members' preoccupation w/ these slanders. (These people who're careless of what you said want to visit worse on others who're less able to make themselves heard; that's why they set after you, to get to the others.) But this makes me think I was wrong. It's a misfortune people steal your time this way, but you really do have to ask it be made right.

  2. says

    It's not "liberals are evil", ace. If you'd read past the part featuring your name, you'd see that the conclusion was "liberals are dumb". As in, e.g., calling a paraphrase a "quote".

  3. Mark Kleiman says

    So J.R. Dunn the self-characterized "American Thinker," having been caught retailing a lie, shoves the offending paragraph down the memory hole and offers an insult in lieu of an apology. Feh.

  4. Dennis says

    Counter-factual accusation on page 1, above the fold. If a 'correction' appears at all, it's buried on page 4 of the sports section, below the ads for the titty bars.

    In other words, Situation Normal. Don't hold your breath waiting for the public apology.

  5. says

    Before you patronize me on the "right thing," reflect on your role as a member of a group which manipulated the media, incited the slander of random conservatives ("who cares" – did you do the right thing and object?), shared violent fantasies (did you do the right thing and object?) and your continued treatment of a 400+ person forum that included political figures as "private", refusing to let the public see the full extent of your participation, while piously playing the moral arbiter.

    I acted as information became available, including an hasty note of your objection when I first read it. You still maintain secrecy on the complete transcripts, so suspicion at every step is warranted.

  6. Marko says

    What is a progressive statistic? A lie. (10% pop is gay, women paid 77% of men, journalists are interested in facts ……)

    What is a progressive journalist? A purveyor of said lies.

    Progressive journalists have ruined many lives over the years, not by printing the truth, but burying it. Read M. Stanton Evans on Joe McCarthy and you'll see the media bias was what killed a good, honest, and patriotic man whle the US sent a commie to help setup the (progressive – funny that) UN. Walter Durante, Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite and Harold Pollack. Hacks all.

    Face it journoliars, your bigotry and biases have been known for a long time, its just that the regular people you used to bamboozle now see all the facts. When we do we realize just how much progressives will lie to push their never ending agenda.

    Anyone who would lie to put a commie in power is either an fool or evil. I doubt you're a fool.

  7. Mark Kleiman says

    Note the technique: "Now that we've lied about what you said, we demand that you violate your pledge of confidentiality in order to prove we're wrong." Can you say "pond scum"? I was sure you could.

  8. Marko says

    Ah, the good progressive Mark Kleinman responds. Hey bud, the journolista cabal has been caught actively promoting lies and bigotry and yet you setup a strawman to defend the indefensible.

    Journolistas: Hey man, sure we're all lying and though we've pledged to lie about opponents in order to push our agenda by deceving our consumers, we also pledge to keep that fact confidential.

    Pond Scum, ha. ha. Thats a huge step up the evolutionary ladder from progressive.

    It is simple journofraudsters, quit lying about people and maybe you'll get a little more respect. Until then, get ready, 'cause the light of truth is just starting to shine and it won't be pretty for you when the facts settle.

    You have decades of deceit to pay for, and payback is going to be a bitch.

  9. doretta says

    Yeah, yeah, Marko "I know you're one but what am I?"

    Harold gave a real example of real harm caused by a real lie about a real person.

    No amount of you spewing bile or JR Dunn pretending that the important thing about what he wrote was that "calling a paraphrase a quote" is a *really*, *really* important issue, is going to distract from the truth of the matter.