Red Faces at RedState
By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
The publication Politico still won’t admit it, but evidence shows that it fabricated a story about Ben Carson and the West Point scholarship he was offered. Politico says it “stands by its reporting” when it changed the headline and content of the story. This is one of the most dishonest cases of media bias we have ever seen.
The Politico headline went from “Ben Carson Admits Fabricating West Point Scholarship,” which was false, to “Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied,” which is true but not news. Carson never claimed he applied. For Politico, the incident will go down in media history as a classic case of a false report being redone in such a way as to attempt to conceal the falsity of the original piece.
A post at Free Republic called the reporter, Kyle Cheney of Politico, a “graduate cum laude of the Dan Rather school of journalism.” But perhaps some of Politico’s editors were in on the deception. Only an apology followed by a full investigation will determine this.
At the same time, it’s important to go back and see how conservatives at such outlets as RedState were duped. “Certainly we all got burned by Politico on Friday,” said RedState writer Leon H. Wolf, a reference to the false Politico story about Carson “fabricating” the offer of a scholarship.
But only those people who accept Politico as Gospel got burned. One of them was RedState’s “Dear Leader” Erick Erickson, who thinks he is a mover and shaker in the Republican Party and is planning to create a multimedia empire with himself at its core.
RedState is the conservative media group which hosts the RedState Gathering, a forum that is supposed to determine who is and who is not a legitimate conservative candidate. Next year’s event is in Denver, Colorado.
Erickson, a Fox News contributor, disinvited Donald Trump to this year’s affair because he had said some nasty things about his colleague, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News. He didn’t invite Ben Carson at all.
For Erickson, the Politico story about the scholarship must have seemed like a perfect opportunity to destroy Carson. Lifting directly from the erroneous Politico headline and story, Erickson wrote that the Carson campaign was “admitting” a fabrication. Erickson predicted it was the beginning of the end of the Carson for president campaign.
Linking to the Politico story, he claimed “the media just drew serious blood.”
In the end, Erickson’s blood was all over the floor of RedState. It was a self-inflicted wound.
In much the same way that Politico rewrote the story and changed its headline, Erickson subsequently rewrote his story, putting lines through inaccurate statements he had made in his previous comments.
RedState managing editor Leon H. Wolf admitted as much in a story under the RedState headline, “Politico Outright Lies about Ben Carson.” But RedState had accepted and publicized the lies.
In his clarification, Erickson conceded, “The Politico’s representation of that [the scholarship] is demonstrably false and is not something Carson claimed.” It’s too bad Erickson didn’t read the Politico story before accepting its headline as true. As we noted, the allegation that Carson “fabricated” the offer of a scholarship was not backed up by facts in the story itself.
So why did Erickson swallow the phony story in the first place? Either he didn’t read the story and didn’t understand the facts were not what Politico claimed, or he jumped to conclusions based on what he thought he had read or wanted to be true. The latter means that he was looking for a way to force Carson from the Republican field for president. Either way, Erickson comes out of this looking like a total buffoon. So does his sidekick, Leon H. Wolf.
In fairness, Erickson took the bait like many others. But Erickson is supposed to be more sophisticated than that.
Politico on October 5 had referred to Erickson as the “influential conservative radio host and RedState editor” who was announcing that he was leaving the RedState website by the end of the year to focus on his radio career.
Erickson apparently thinks he’s so great that he’s going to become another Rush Limbaugh. Indeed, he sometimes substitutes for Rush Limbaugh. He has announced that he has a “vision” of “blending radio, the internet, and conservative activism.”
The flattering press clippings must have gotten to him, such as the magazine cover story about “The uncompromising conservatism of Erick Erickson.” It would be nice for his brand of conservatism to include a commitment to reporting the facts.
Erickson seems to think of himself as a major power broker in the Republican Party. But his ambitions are in the gutter as he attempts to recover from his smears of Ben Carson, garnered from a fraudulent story in Politico.
Politico owes Carson an apology, and so does Erickson.