How Is Press Responding To Romney’s Quote Fabrication?

Dave Johnson

(See update below.) Last week a Romney campaign ad used a fabricated quote, using doctored audio to make it appear that President Obama said something that he did not say. In Deceptive New Romney Ad Is Key Test For Media I asked if today’s news media is up to the task of letting the public know that the Romney campaign had done this, asking, “Will the public be informed that they are being lied to? And if not, what comes next — “photos” of the President robbing a bank?” Here is a look at how the press is responding.

The Romney campaign is running an ad that actually edits together snippets of words and sentences to make it sound as if President Obama said something he did not say, and then attacks him for saying it. The ad changes this:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

To this (in the short ad running on TV:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. If you’ve got a business you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen”

And this, in the longer ad on the web:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be ‘cause I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Then a person comes on saying, “My father’s hands didn’t build this company? My hands didn’t build this company? … Why are you demonizing us for it.”

This ad actually makes it sound as if President Obama is mocking business leaders, “You think you’re so smart…”

In the past a campaign would not run an ad like this, fearing the fallout from being caught in a deception. This Romney ad demonstrates how much Republicans have come rely on news media complicity — they would not have run this ad if they were not certain that the mass media would give them a pass. This ad contains a flat-out, blatant fabrication intended to deceive the public, and if people had a hint of the truth they would turn on Romney for trying to pass off such blatant lies. The Romney campaign certainly understands this, and is relying on an assumption that our news media won’t call them on it. So far they’re right.

Remember ACORN Reporting

The Romney campaign has plenty of precedent to back up their bet that the media will not call them on heir fabrication.

Remember how the mass media covered the ACORN scam, where the media “reported” on a conservative video that was doctored to make it appear that ACORN employees were assisting a “pimp”, when they did not. The media reported that the director went into ACORN offices wearing a 1970′s Hollywood “pimp costume,” when in fact he was dressed in khaki pants and a blue shirt — and did not report that the videos were doctored. Congress voted to defund ACORN in response to the reporting of this video, and the organization was forced to disband.

Media Response To Fabrication

Just how correct is the Romney campaign in its bet that the media won’t call them out for running an ad with a fabricated quote, editing snippets of words and sentences together to make it sound like the President said something competley different from what he actually said? Let’s take a look at the media response so far:

AP assists Romney: New Romney Ad Attacks Obama Remark,

Mitt Romney is attacking President Barack Obama in a new television ad that seizes on the president’s suggestion that government helps create businesses.

The Republican presidential candidate’s new ad, entitled “These Hands,” features Obama’s remarks from a Virginia campaign stop last week.

Actually it doesn’t feature Obama’s remarks, it features an edited audio that deceives people into thinking that is what Obama said.

Des Moines Register assists Romney: Romney releases new TV ad hitting Obama on small business issue

ABC/Yahoo News provides cover, goes after Obama, after Romney’s fabrication ad appears: A brief history of Obama going negative. Without even mentioning Romney’s quote fabrication this “news” video states that Obama is “not so innocent.” Examples of Obama’s “negative ads” include an ad saying that McCain helped pass policies that ship jobs to China (he did), and ad saying McCain approved of offshore drilling (he did), and quoting McCain (whose VP choice campaigned that Obama was “palling around with terrorists”) saying “Obama ran negative ads.”

Then the video claimed that 89% of Obama ads carry an “anti-Romney message.” The example of an “anti-romney” message was an ad saying that Bain Capital was outsourcing jobs (they were). This is a “negative” ad — Romney fabricating quotes was not mentioned.

A Gaffe Or Quip?

Some are saying that what Obama said was a “gaffe.” I was not a “gaffe” — the President didn’t say it at all. For those basing their reporting on the earlier pre-Romney-ad clipping by FOX, this was part of Obama’s regular campaign “stump speech” where he says pretty much the same thing over and over, day after day. So they all understood what Obama was talking about roads and bridges, and not saying business owners “didn’t build that.” But then the Romney campaign actually changed the words, to fabricate him actually saying that.

Examples of “gaffe”:

FOX: Obama Dogged by Business Gaffe and Voter Bias Against Big Government

CS Monitor: ‘You didn’t build that’: Obama’s business quip is gift to Romney campaign

Just Passing It Along

Here is a letter to the editor in my local paper, not corrected so readers can be informed of the actual meaning:

Obama insults small businesses

Until recently I thought my 32-year career as a successful entrepreneur was something special. But last weekend President Barack Obama told us that entrepreneurship is no big deal. Obama’s message is, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” What a huge insult to every small business owner in America. His pronouncement implies that government is the reason businesses succeed. I believe the exact opposite: I succeeded by taking President John F. Kennedy’s advice, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

So I invented a calculating device for the U.S. military that helped it increase its personnel retention. As a private individual, I undertook all the cost and risk of developing this device, not the government. Sure, the government was my customer, but only because it benefited from my innovation. Mainly I developed commercial products and continued to create jobs for many years.

If news media pass along a fabricated quote like the one in the letter without informing their audience that the quote is fabricated, they are complicit in deceiving the public. It is the same thing as Rush Limbaugh passing something along to his audience and then saying “I didn’t say it, I was just letting you know what others are saying.”

A Few Spot The Deception

A few in the media at least noticed what Romney did.

A segment of MSNBC’s Martin Bashir show touched on it: Can Romney selectively edit his way out of Bain, tax stories?

The Hill’s Karen Finney and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein debate whether a selectively edited President Obama speech can help Mitt Romney change the subject from Bain and taxes.

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, Mitt Romney’s misleading attack ad, “So, in Romney’s ad, “that” refers to “building a business.” In Obama’s remarks, “that” refers to the roads and bridges.”

Paul Krugman, on his blog, mentions columnists who …

…shrug their shoulders over the fact that for several days running the central theme of the Romney campaign has rested on a complete lie. I understand; going on about the dishonesty can get boring. But we should step back often to look at this remarkable spectacle. I really don’t think there’s been anything like this in American political history: a presidential campaign, with a pretty good chance of winning, that is based entirely on cynical lies about what the sitting president has said.

I Smoke Crack In The Oval Office With Castro

A political cartoon ran in a few newspapers, without explaining the context,Mike Luckovich: Missing words (please click through) showing Obama saying, “I no longer smoke. There’s a crack in the Oval Office wall. Things will improve with Castro gone.” and Romney editing that to say, “I smoke crack in the oval office with Castro.”

Stay tuned – revealing photos of the President in bed with Marx, Lenin & Stalin coming next week !

Update

Jake Tapper of ABC/Yahoo, criticized above, steps up in Star of Romney ‘My Hands Didn’t Build This’ Ad Received Millions in Government Loans and Contracts,

The Romney campaign has been making much out of an out-of-context President Obama quote.

… Listen to it for yourself: the remarks in question were roughly 33 minutes and 40 seconds into the speech:
The Romney campaign, has suggested that the president was telling business owners that they didn’t create their own business, taking the “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that” remark out of context.

In a campaign ad, the Romney campaign spliced out the “roads and bridges” the president seemed to be referring to as “that” when he said “you didn’t build that.”

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