Stop the presses — CNN is taking responsibility for falsely stating that National Review magazine called Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above.”
“I think ideology has now overridden any kind of journalistic ethics at all,” Fox News host Bill O’Reilly told his audience when he learned of the distortion. “And I think that’s the bottom line here.”
An interview with Palin that aired Tuesday on CNN’s The Situation Room touched off the controversy. CNN correspondent Drew Griffin twisted the meaning of a National Review column during a question he posed to Palin about whether her message is reaching the public.
Griffin’s question: “Governor you’ve been mocked in the press. The press had been pretty hard on you, Democrats have been pretty hard on you, but also some conservatives have been pretty hard on you. The National Review had a story saying, ‘I can’t tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above.’”
Palin immediately asked, “Who wrote that?”
Griffin stammered, “T-that was in The National Review. I don’t know who wrote that.”
“Who wrote it?” Palin replied, obviously concerned. “I’d like to talk to that person.”
The CNN question was so out of context that Byron York, National Review’s White House correspondent, was unable to recognize his own writing.
York said when he first heard the exchange, “My first thought was ‘Who at National Review wrote something like that?’”
As York related on O’Reilly’s program, his editor then told him, “I think he was talking about you.”
Ironically, York’s column was largely a critique of media distortions of Palin’s record.
York wrote: “Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above.”
In her defense he then continued, “Palin, the governor of Alaska, has faced more criticism than any vice-presidential candidate since 1988, when Democrats and the press tore into Dan Quayle.
“In fact, Palin may have it even worse than Quayle, since she’s taking flak not only from Democrats and the press but from some conservative opinion leaders as well.”
York’s column went on to extol Palin’s many successes in Alaska, including a much-needed pipeline to deliver natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope, and reform of the state’s ethics laws.
When O’Reilly’s producers pointed out to CNN that the question presented to Palin contorted the column, CNN did not respond immediately, drawing O’Reilly’s ire.
“As far as John McCain is concerned, negative stories have outnumbered positive stories three to one,” York told O’Reilly. “This has been a pretty, pretty amazing season of press coverage. And, you know, perhaps this CNN thing was a mistake, but it fits in a much larger pattern of that behavior.”
The Media Research Center (MRC), the media watchdog group based in Alexandria, Va., posted a story on mediaresearch.org on Wednesday, alerting readers to the erroneous context given to the National Review article.
On Thursday, Griffin appeared on two CNN programs, "Newsroom" and "Situation Room," to confess the error.
Said Griffin, “I never really explained the point of the National Review before she finished answering the question. “In no way did I intend to misquote The National Review.”
Griffin also said, “Unfortunately, my question — I botched it.”
Media Research Center President Brent Bozell responded with a statement Friday accepting CNN’s mea culpa.
“We also take Drew Griffin and CNN at their word — that this mistake was not intended to mislead viewers to think a conservative magazine had trashed Gov. Palin,” he stated. “Conservatives have endured hundreds — even thousands — of examples of the media deliberately distorting our words and positions. In this case, there was not a deliberate attempt.”
“As far as the Media Research Center is concerned,” Bozell added, “this case is closed.”
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