Nedra Pickler, writing for the Associated Press, penned an atrocious piece on Barack Obama's patriotism this week. The article has rightly received loads of criticism and scorn throughout the blogosphere, as it was nothing more than a rehash of vile and debunked right-wing smears. But the fact that Pickler scraped the blackened gunk from the bottom of the proverbial barrel to write her article didn't stop CNN and MSNBC and other news outlets from prominently featuring her steaming pile of journamalism.
While it's tempting to let Pickler's piece slide into the archived abyss of silly season as yet another example of (a) Pickler's sub-par reporting skills, and (b) the media's inability to discern jackassery from journalism, Pickler's article so egregiously offends both traditional standards of said journalism and traditional standards of logic that, like an on-looker who can't tear his eyes away from a grotesque accident, I find myself drawn to Pickler's horrific, mangled mess.
Let us begin with the the Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles:
In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.
That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.
It's nice to see the AP set a bar for their reporter's conduct. Now, let's see Pickler bend over backwards in a stunning display of journalistic limbo as she maneuvers well below that bar.
Pickler's article is framed by the lede that "conservatives on Internet and in the media" have been "led to question [Obama's] patriotism." Eight paragraphs in, we finally get two sentences from Obama himself (well, actually, from Obama's speeches), in which he points out that he frequently says the Pledge of Allegiance and that he attends a Christian Church. And Pickler also gives retired Major General Scott Gration, an Obama military adviser, two sentences to rebut the claim and to point out that Michelle and Barack Obama are "extremely patriotic." A few other sentences help to provide "balance."
But there are some forty sentences in Pickler's tripe, many of which are based upon the observations of four crazy, right-wing "sources." Well, five if you count Cindy McCain.
But let us leave Cindy McCain aside for one moment, and turn our attention to "Republican consultant Roger Stone," "conservative Republican consultant Keith Appell," "Steve Doocy, co-host of "Fox and Friends" on the Fox News Channel," and "former radio host Mark Williams."
In the article, Pickler quotes right-wing radio host Mark Williams as saying that Obama "felt it OK to come out of the closet as the domestic insurgent he is."
As if that quote isn't enough to automatically disqualify anyone as a source for any story (unless that story is about the destructive rhetoric from the radical right), the full quote and context reveal that Pickler's choice is far, far worse than the article lets on:
WILLIAMS: It uh, well first of all, Obama's very different than those other names, in that Obama says he took his flag pin off after 9-11, and he felt, apparently, some sort of an affinity or some sort of a connection, because at that point he felt it OK to come out of the closet as the domestic insurgent he is.
CORN: Oh, you know --
WILLIAMS: The Democrat [sic] Party is coming out of the closet as the domestic insurgency and the domestic enemy.
Williams go on in that interview to spew more lies and propaganda, claiming that Obama is "do[ing] his part to undermine this nation" and that there are "domestic enemies" in the "Democrat [sic] Party." So Pickler chose not to quote just any "conservative," but she chose to quote an individual who implied Obama had a "connection" with 9/11 terrorists and who stated that the Democratic Party is essentially a party of traitors.
Not content with quoting just one vile wingnut, Pickler goes on to quote Roger Stone in all of his concern-trolling glory as he offers up that "many Americans" will find Obama's behavior "offensive." Who is Roger Stone? Well, as TPM and AmericaBlog point out, he is a longtime GOP trickster who is behind the group "Citizens United Not Timid: To Educate the American People About What Hillary Really Is."
And yes, folks, the bold font isn't for emphasis. It's in their logo. That's the group's acronym: C.U.N.T.
Steve Doocy, in turn, is well-known for, well, fitting in quite well with the rest of the gang over at Fox "News."
Ah, but wait! It's not enough to have three conservative manipulators in one article. The pièce de résistance of Pickler's piece is Keith Appell, a right-winger who was not only involved with the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies, but who was also a key player in pushing the Dan Rather story to Matt Drudge. With credentials like that, he has to count for, like, four wingnuts, right?
There you have it. "Journalism," Pickler-style. One part rebuttal and 95 parts rubbish. Mix them together, add a dash of sensationalism and a sprinkle of innuendo, spread over news outlets and, voilà! Your noxious "story" is ready to be served to the masses, to that electorate whose news palate has become so desensitized by smears and sensationalism that it readily digests any garbage served to it by the failing fourth estate.
Bon appétit, America. You can deliver your compliments to the chef at firstname.lastname@example.org.