One Woman’s War on Disinformation
What’s gotten into Soledad O’Brien? Is it CNN’s death rattles? the phase of the moon? existential angst over the prospect of Private Ryan Saving America?
Whatever . . . Soledad’s turned into a flame-throwing, stand your ground and take no prisoners kind of news anchor who is waging a one woman war on lying Republicans. And fat old white guys with bad combovers, career pols and fact-challenged surrogates had better give her a wide berth for awhile.
O’Brien recently made mincemeat of Team Romney senior advisor, Barbara Comstock, who tried to run the official GOP offense play on entitlements, claiming that Obama has raided the Medicare fund to finance “ObamaCare.” When O’Brien fired off a few facts to refute that claim, Comstock was forced to fall back on “death panels” and came off looking, well . . . lame.
The flying monkeys of the Right Blogosphere came clattering to Comstock’s defense on that one making a mighty screech about the fact that O’Brien was:
. . . caught on screen looking at an article from a known left-wing website to assist her when debating Romney campaign senior adviser Barbara Comstock.
While she does not directly cite the blog, she does a read a quote from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.) to Comstock that appears verbatim in the piece during the program.
Wow! they actually made Talking Points Memo sound like kiddie porn.
Close on the heels of that encounter came Romney surrogate heavyweight, John Sununu, spouting the same disinformation about President Obama raiding the Medicare fund.
O’Brien lit Sununu’s fuse when she said that the whole story has been “debunked” by various outfits including the Congressional Budget Office. At that point, an outraged Sununu, who apparently isn’t used to being challenged, scolded:
Soledad, stop this!
All you’re doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there. If you’re going to mouth what comes out of the White House…
Put [an] Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this . . .
Soledad eventually calmed a hissing Sununu but, after sleeping on it, she came back to Wednesday’s Starting Point program, armed with well-sourced facts and persuasively dismantled Sununu’s position, point-by-point. (see video at head of post)
O’Brien cited a Congressional Budget Office report saying:
The CBO says this money — Democrats call it savings, Republicans call it cuts — would be achieved mostly through cutbacks in payments to providers and by changes to payment rates in private Medicare plans.
She also refuted Romney’s claim that Medicare benefits would be reduced under Obama’s health care reform, citing FactCheck.org:
. . . the law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals.
Next up was Tim Pawlenty. Poor old T-Paw came flying in with the same talking point and O’Brien, well-armed with her previous research, made short work of him. Pawlenty went “ad hominem” for his defensive play suggesting that perhaps O’Brien didn’t actually speak and understand English well enough to determine whether the Romney campaign was disseminating false information. Exit Pawlenty . . .
On Friday, the GOP decided to throw O’Brien a curveball, sending Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in to claim that the Romney/Ryan Medicare plans wouldn’t turn the program into a voucher system. Here’s how that went:
I find all of this terribly heartening not because a journalist like Soledad O’Brien is “sticking up for my guy,” but because she is actually being a journalist. Anyone who thinks that John Sununu was right and that Soledad should “put an Obama sticker on her forehead” would be chastened to see the way that she held Emanuel Cleaver’s (D-MO) feet to the fire over Joe Biden’s “chains gaffe”, during the same week that the rest of this was going on.
More than ever, in these times of extreme political and cultural polarization, we need a media that distills nonpartisan truth from the sea of lies and disinformation that we’re adrift on. We don’t need rock stars, spinmeisters, dead guys or political bobbleheads to tell us what to think but we do need reliable information to form our own opinions, to determine a reasonable path forward and to interact sensibly with our leaders. Soledad O’Brien will probably take a lot of heat, from a lot of different directions, for the week she’s put in, but, in my opinion, she should hold her head high because she did her job and did it well and I hope that some of her colleagues were paying attention. Maybe then we can repair our banged-up national discourse . . .