It's a page right out of the Republican playbook: If you say the same thing often enough -- Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, John Kerry would have turned over the defense of the United States to the French, Karl Rove didn't leak Valerie Plame's identity -- it sort of ceases to matter if the thing was true in the first place. Through sheer repetition of the spin, people begin to believe it.
Jeff Gannon knows how to play the game.
When we last mentioned our old friend from Talon News, we were noting that a piece Gannon wrote back in the summer of 2004 -- a piece on which Bob Novak seemed to rely in a column involving the Valerie Plame case this week -- wasn't exactly supported by what you'd call reporting. Gannon wrote in July 2004 that the Kerry campaign had dumped Joseph Wilson over concerns about his supposed mendacity. On what did Gannon base his report? His own supposition, as far as we can tell. Gannon checked out Kerry's Web site, saw that prior references to Wilson weren't there anymore, and concluded on his own that the campaign had "apparently ... jettisoned" Wilson.
We checked in with two staffers from Kerry's campaign, and they said it simply wasn't so -- that the Wilson references were removed from the campaign Web site as part of a larger redesign effort, and that Wilson did, in fact, continue to campaign for Kerry through the fall. And we checked the World Wide Web and found evidence that Wilson was still appearing on Kerry's behalf just weeks before the November election, long after Gannon's piece said he had been dumped. Gannon had claimed that his report was "rock solid." We showed that it wasn't.
Not so fast, Gannon says now. He says his report last summer was "so potent" that we've "taken to the task of rewriting history" in order to refute it. So what's Gannon's evidence that Wilson was, as Gannon puts it, "dumped -- hard" by the Kerry campaign? Well, it's that lots of other conservative commentators engaged in the same sort of supposition Gannon did. "It wasn't just me who took note of Wilson's hard fall from the spotlight he relished," Gannon writes.
But even if repeating a lie could make it true, Gannon's "evidence" on this point wouldn't be particularly persuasive. Gannon cites an item in which the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto notes that the Wilson references are gone from the Kerry site and asks -- asks -- "Is Kerry ditching Wilson?" Gannon cites a transcript of a discussion in which Taranto, again seeming to base his charge solely on the missing references on the Web site, says that Wilson has become a "non-person" in the Kerry campaign. Gannon cites a column by USA Today's Richard Benedetto that says nothing whatsoever about the Kerry campaign dumping Wilson. Gannon cites a Weekly Standard piece published just a day before his piece; it says that Wilson "remains" an advisor to the Kerry campaign. And Gannon cites a Washington Times piece in which Mark Steyn predicted that the Kerry campaign would drop Wilson in the future. (For what it's worth, Steyn also predicted -- incorrectly -- that Wilson would be disinvited from the Salon cruise.) Oh, and Gannon says that the "online community" was "abuzz" with news that the Wilson references were gone from the Kerry Web site.
So where's the evidence that Kerry dumped Wilson? Where's anything other than supposition about the changes to Kerry's Web site? And Jeff, who is the one "rewriting history" now?