Facts are stupid things, again

How hard can it be to get the story straight on Abramoff?

Published January 26, 2006 6:38PM (EST)

Campaign finance records show that while Jack Abramoff's associates and Indian tribes he represented gave money to both Democrats and Republicans, Abramoff himself made contributions solely to Republican candidates and campaign committees.

How hard is this to understand?

For some members of the mainstream media, it's apparently so complicated that they can't possibly be expected to get it right. After the much-discussed dust-up over Deborah Howell's false characterization, you'd think that the message would be starting to sink in: Abramoff himself didn't give anything to Democrats. But there was Katie Couric this morning, diving into the hole just as Howell tries to dig out.

Think Progress has the video, but here's the short version. In an interview with Howard Dean, Couric proclaimed that Democrats "took money from Mr. Abramoff." When Dean said that wasn't so, Couric began to lecture him: "Let me just tell you ... According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Abramoff and his associates gave $3 million to Republicans and $1.5 million to Democrats, including Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid."

It's that tricky little "and" that gets them every time. Abramoff didn't give money to Democrats. Abramoff's associates did. So saying that "Abramoff and his associates" gave money to Democrats is like saying that "Germany and Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." It's half right, which is another way of saying that it's half wrong.

Dean tried to push back, but Couric said that NBC would have to dig a little deeper to get at the truth. "Well," she said, "well obviously have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers at a later date." You do that, Katie. We'll be waiting.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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