How Politico stole the mosque narrative

by Karoli on August 15, 2010 · 8 comments

Just in case you weren’t aware that most news flurries aren’t news, have absolutely no basis in fact, and are intentionally spun to create dissent or criticism (but mostly division) among varying factions, walk through the past 36 hours with me.

  1. Friday evening, 8:30pm EDT: The White House releases text and video of President Obama’s speech at the White House Iftar dinner, where he very specifically reinforces the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, saying this:

    As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

  2. Progressives applaud the President’s courage in clearly articulating the force of our Constitutional right to freedom of religion over the popular (and stoked-up) belief that it is somehow inappropriate to build a community center with a prayer room near Ground Zero.
  3. Saturday morning, Politico publishes a report of some off-the-cuff remarks made by the President to the press entourage accompanying the Obama family to Florida, framing them as a “walk-back” of his original remarks on Friday.
  4. Press goes wild, particularly the lefty press. Huffington Post, Politico, CNN, NBC, and most especially Glenn Greenwald (See update #1), who had just written a glowing post about how courageous the President’s stand is.
  5. That frame sticks. President stands for First Amendment before he doesn’t. They may as well have used the term ‘flip-flop’.

    Only, there’s a little more to the story than what’s been told. Here’s the video from Saturday, not published until 2:28 pm EDT:

    Note the title of the video, too. Now, to be clear, no President would actually endorse a specific project because that’s not their role. The President is the head of state and has absolutely no business endorsing specific projects anywhere. Not even at the location where the World Trade Center towers collapsed. He is, however, sworn to defend the Constitution, and so it’s entirely appropriate for him to have made the remarks he did, and which he restates in the video.

    Politico’s claim of “walked-back” remarks was published at 12:52PM EDT. The video wasn’t published until 2:42PM EDT. In that two hours, Politico controls the story by reporting the President’s remarks as a “walkback”. It changes from “Obama Endorses Mosque” (which he didn’t…) to “Mosque flap swirls around Obama”.

    If any form of responsible reporting had taken place, they would have included the video in their report when it was first published. As it was, Politico restated and amended the President’s remarks to fit their own editorial slant, because really, there’s not too much to report about him reiterating the comments he made the day before, is there?

    As if to lather a bit more irony on a truly idiotic situation, Chuck Todd sent out a tweet earlier saying the following:

    Of course, the White House didn’t lose the narrative at all. Politico and their willing partners in slanty, off-truth journalism did for the pure fun of having a story on a slow, hot August weekend. It’s not new, and it’s certainly not news.

    Update and correction: Glenn Greenwald took exception to my characterization of him as one who latched onto the “walkback” theme. I got it from his tweet here, my reply, and his reply to me. In fact, Greenwald acknowledged that there was no “walkback”. Sort of. He objects to the fact that Obama agrees that they have the right to build a mosque there, but did not specifically endorse the project. He defined courageous as endorsing that specific project. I’m not quite sure where Greenwald had the impression it was ever specifically endorsed, other than this:

    And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan

    The narrative, before and after on Memeorandum:

    BEFORE:

    AFTER:

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  • http://twitter.com/Cody_K Cody_K

    I wish Greenwald had stated this more profoundly and on the record…

    http://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/21189112339

  • KCinDC

    I really think you need to contrast Chuck Todd’s tweet with his earlier one from Saturday morning: “Are folks seriously going to waste the rest of August ‘debating’ the mosque? #shinymetalobjectalert.”

  • http://twitter.com/rfbarnes rfbarnes

    And still we have nothing from the media about Obama referring to all the mosques in various communities that are facing similar protests, for no reason other than the religion. No context at all, and then a full twisting of what was said.

  • vcthree

    The media distorted the entire thing, so that in the end, they could claim to be the only real winner from it. Only they could take what the president said on Friday–a pitch-perfect defense of the First Amendment and right to assemble–and turn it against him. But what troubles me more about it is just how many people, supposedly on the “reality-based” side of the equation, bought the hook.

    So, what was that about Shirley Sherrod and context that these people were yelling about a month ago? Oh, right. The White House should learn that lesson, but we don't. Carry on.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CXOITMLTMCOTTFR377LMT4X4EU cleancut77

    This line leaves no doubt that he supported the mosque being built there:

    “And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan…”

    How many mosques are being built in Lower Manhattan?

  • @cleancut

    Jesus Christ, he supported their CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to build it, not whether or not it would look awesome there. Reading comprehension ftw.

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