October 28, 2003
It's not in the P-I

George Nethercutt, the Republican Congressman who is challenging Patty Murray in the 2004 US Senate race, is alleging that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer deliberately distorted his recent remarks about Iraq.

The P-I reported Oct. 14 that Nethercutt said Iraq's reconstruction was going better than news media portrayed it and that he added, "The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable. ... It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

The story, paraphrasing Nethercutt's next words, said the congressman "added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed."

Nethercutt criticized the P-I for not quoting his remarks fully. He said his full remarks that the paper partly quoted and partly paraphrased were these: "So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm just indicting the news people, but it's, it's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which heaven forbid is awful."

The body of the Oct. 14 story did, in fact, state that "He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed." But its headline read
Nethercutt hails Iraq's recovery
'It is a better ... story than losing a couple of soldiers every day'
An even more egregious distortion appeared in the P-I's editorial of Oct. 16:
Then there was U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt's ham-handed attempt to redirect news coverage and public attention to the war's positive side. "It's a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day," the would-be senator gaffed at a gathering Monday.

The family of Pfc. Kerry Scott of Concrete, who buried their young hero Tuesday, likely would not share Nethercutt's news judgment.

Not only does the editorial contradict Nethercutt's reporting of his own speech, it even contradicts the P-I's initial (understated) reporting of Nethercutt's speech. Is this deliberate distortion or ordinary incompetence? We report, you decide.

UPDATE Yes, as reader "Insufficiently Sensitive" points out in the comments, it probably is deliberate distortion. See today's editorial cartoon

UPDATE 10/29: The P-I concedes in today's editorial that they did distort Nethercutt's remarks. They insist they were right to attack Nethercutt anyway, and call him names "callow" and "shallow", without explaining why. Pathetic.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at October 28, 2003 08:07 AM

Deliberate distortion. And today's edition brings in reinforcements: their political philosopher wannabe Robert Horsey, whose cynical cartoon exaggerating the distortion is a reeking example of bad taste.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on October 28, 2003 08:20 AM

Are you sure the P.I. isn't being run by our friends at the L.A. Times?!?

Posted by: BoiFromTroy on October 28, 2003 09:55 AM

In today's P-I story, reporter Neil Modie says,

"The tempest over Nethercutt's remarks at the UW is similar to a media flap over comments made by Murray, and criticized by Nethercutt, in December. The senator told a Vancouver, Wash. high school class that terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was popular in poor countries because he has helped pay for school, roads and day care centers. . . "

How is "the tempest" over Nethercutt's remarks (a tempest created by the P-I, by the way) in any way "similar to" the Murray story? Other than both stories concerned Iraq, there is no similarity at all. Murray never claimed that her statements in Vancouver were misquoted or distorted by the press. She said what she said. Very different in this case, in which Nethercutt rightly complains that the P-I has done a Maureen Dowd number on him by selectively quoting in him such as way as to grotesquely distort his meaning.

This story and the one to which Nethercutt objected has all the appearance of a transparent attempt by the P-I to insulate Murray from political damage for her, yes, "bizarre" and "uninformed" remarks about the U.S. and Bin Laden in Vancouver. It's an effort by a partisan player, the P-I, to inoculate her on Iraq, where she is highly vulnerable. Modie gives it away above. There was a "media flap" about Murray's remarks in Vancouver, now there's a "tempest" about Nethercutt's (misquoted) remarks in Seattle. So they're even, and Iraq is done as an issue in this campaign.

Posted by: John Archer on October 28, 2003 06:50 PM

The P-I is taking up the mantle of the BBC, in acting not as an agency for gathering and dissemination of news to keep citizens informed, but rather as the disloyal Opposition to the governing party in power.

Their activities along these lines should be regulated exactly the same as campaign contributions for attack ads.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on October 29, 2003 08:37 AM

Nethercutt's full statement is still disgusting.

Posted by: DBG on October 29, 2003 10:55 AM

His full remarks clearly are NOT disgusting. The full quote is pretty clear - he feels that, disappointing and regrettable as our casualties are, the main story should be the good work that our troops are doing. By focusing on the dead while dismissing, denying, or ignoring their good work, the press is spitting on their graves - NOT Nethercutt. And THAT'S disgusting.

Posted by: EA on October 29, 2003 11:17 AM

Why does anyone even read the local trash, I mean the Seattle newspapers? I gave up on them many years ago and I'm none the worse for it.

Posted by: Brent Michael Krupp on October 29, 2003 11:21 AM

It is a shame to see a major regional newspaper go the way of the Los Angeles Times and became a mouthpiece for partisan ends. They certainly may be partisan on their editorial page; but deliberate distortation for political effect is shameless. Recall, this is the same editorial board that cited the constitutional requirement for war as one involving "clear and present danger" Their lack of knowledge of the Constitution is matched only by their lack of journalistic ethics--pathetic!

Posted by: Roger Arango on October 29, 2003 11:26 AM

Why read the P-I?

Reason No. 1: know thine enemy.

Reason No. 2: do as the Shark does, and expose the paper's slimy behavior to merciless scrutiny from outside of their precious know-it-all clique.

Reason No. 3: their funnies are vastly superior to the Times's, assuming that one isn't so dumb as to credit Ted Rall's bile with the name of a cartoon.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on October 29, 2003 11:27 AM

In what way, dbg? Or is it one of those things that can't be explained, if I had adequate sensitivity I'd see it, it just *is*, it's as plain as the nose on my face? Alarmingly, I seem to miss quite a few of those, as many of my liberal friends are too happy to point out lately.

Posted by: Brian Jones on October 29, 2003 11:29 AM

From the PI editorial:

"But that does not change the notion that Nethercutt wants the news media to concentrate on painting Iraq in wonderful pastels."

But Nethercutt didn't say Iraq was wonderful pastels but rather that "the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news."

Does the PI think that the main narrative of WWII should be the uniting of Western powers to destroy fascism, or is that a pastel-tinted illusion that doesn't sufficiently dwell on the millions of people who died to secure that victory?

Posted by: Brian Carnell on October 29, 2003 11:33 AM

So, all of those barking about this misquote have heard audio confirming that what Mr. Nethercutt claims he said is indeed what he said? I have yet to hear confirmation that this isn't just a classic case of the speaker changing his story and pinning blame on the newspaper...

Posted by: Rob on October 29, 2003 11:37 AM

Whether you agree with Nethercutt or not, it's gutless of the PI to intentionally run the stories with such a mangled quote. And to up the ante with the same distortion and a cheap shot a about how a grieving family would feel about it (hey, here's a thought...why don't you ASK them? Because editorial assertions are so damn easy - ask Mo Dowd), is even more gutless.

It must really bug them to get called on this stuff...(note how prickly they got with the cartoon and today's editorial). In the days before blogs would raise attention to it, can you imagine them ever setting the record straight? It's the only part I enjoy.

Posted by: David on October 29, 2003 11:37 AM

Let's grant that the PI's editorial board, and their news writer, and the readers, are entitled to disagree with Nethercutt about the 'real story' of Iraq. The issue isn't what Nethercutt said, it's how the newspaper chose to express that difference. In a straight news story--not an analysis, not an editorial--the paper reported Nethercutt as saying something different than he actually did. A reader could judge for themself if Nethercutt's statement was objectionable--unless the newspaper made the judgment for them by only reporting part of the statement (which it did). When Nethercutt called them on it, they then said his statements were so objectionable as to entitle them to mis-report his words. This is a disgusting standard to adopt.

Posted by: todd lowman on October 29, 2003 11:42 AM

Nice catch. The PI's editorial is a pathetic attempt to gloss over its willful distortion.

Posted by: Bryan on October 29, 2003 11:54 AM


If you read the follow up editorial linked, the PI itself quoted the original statement Nethercutt gave. It clearly is an intentional distortion and Nethercutt is right to call them on it.

Posted by: wizayne on October 29, 2003 12:40 PM

It's a basic fact of life that soldiers are to generals and presidents as nails are to carpenters.

A carpenter uses nails. Hopefully, if he's a good one, he uses the minimum amount necessary to build a good house. Sometimes there are screwups - nails get lost, or get bent. And sometimes, you go through a lot of them to accomplish what looks like a simple job.

The same is true with soldiers. Military leaders at all levels in today's U.S. military undertake missions with two primary goals: (1) accomplish the mission; (2) protect the troops.

Mission accomplishment is the key, but it's a sad reality that soldiers get killed in war.

The mark of good military leadership, and good civilian leadership of the military, is that the leaders take care to ensure that mission accomplishment is achieved, first of all; and then to ensure it is achieved as cheaply as is reasonably possible in terms of human lives (and secondarily the public fisc). War isn't about killing the other guy, or the other guy killing you; it's about achieving a national goal. The resulting death and gore, no matter how awful to look it, is a collateral effect of war (normally, except in wars of attrition) and not the end pursued by war.

If Nethercutt was speaking about tactics, the conversation might be different - there the goal is to close with, and kill the enemy. But Nethercutt was referring to strategy. He wasn't lying or being ghastly; he was speaking an essential, eternal truth. If the PI can't handle that... well, then they can't handle the truth. And one wonders what they are doing in the newspaper business.

Posted by: AL Maviva on October 29, 2003 12:53 PM

And the Seattle PI wonders why it has to sue the Seattle Times just to stay in business... Without the Joint Operating Agreement the PI would go out of business because it doesn't have enough subscriptions to make it without cost sharing with the Times.



Posted by: joehboo on October 29, 2003 12:59 PM

Just for Rob's sake, yes, I've the actual audio of what Nethercutt said, and he's absolutely correct.

In regards to what others have stated, I find it deliciously ironic that the most left wing newspaper in the Seattle area of the "left coast" is the one slowly sinking toward bankruptcy, while the paper that is more moderate (though by no means conservative) is that one that is still making a profit. You'd think the P-I would wise up. But that would mean changing their stripes a bit, and so it's unlikely to happen.

Posted by: cra on October 29, 2003 01:50 PM

It reminds me of when Farrakhan was complaining that the media was misquoting him back in the mid-80's: they were quoting him as saying that Judaism was a "gutter religion", when what he actually said was that it was a "dirty religion", as if it made a difference. Can you imagine the uproar if, in praising airport security, Nethercutt had said that "The story of what we have done in the post-9/11 period ... is remarkable...so the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I'm indicting the news people. It's a bigger and better and more important story than planes crashing into buildings, which, which, heaven forbid, is awful." The final words make what he said even more chilling, like something Nixon might have been caught saying on the Tapes.

Posted by: Steve Smith on October 29, 2003 01:57 PM

Not even close Steve. Soldiers in combat, killed in action, is the same as thousands of non-combatants, killed in terrorist attacks? Give me a break.

Posted by: David on October 29, 2003 02:32 PM

C'mon, Nethercutt said something stupid and the P-I caught him at it. Give me a break.

Posted by: lesjam on October 29, 2003 02:49 PM

Nethercutt didn't say anything stupid. You're reading into it things that aren't there. If you listen to the actual speech, it's quite clear that he wasn't downplaying the loss of soldiers at all. All he was doing is decrying the way the media only tells one side of the story, plain and simple.

Posted by: cra on October 29, 2003 03:18 PM

If Nethercutt was more articulate, the PI couldn't score these cheap points. It is obvious that he meant to say that in the larger picture things are going better than the media is giving credit for. When he said "better story", PI seized on the chance to make it sound like "better lie". Too bad. The howling moonbats don't care about truth or they wouldn't use the elipsis to paint the quote in the worst possible light.

It reminds me of what Scalia recently said to Buckly about proper grammer. If he had written I have no problem with homosexual's lobbying for..." He never could have been misquoted by the lying left, instead he left off the apostraphe, alowing the dishonest side to distort his quote. Only the "true believers" on the left are not willing to accept the quote in the spirit it was said. They are a lost cause anyway.

Posted by: moptop on October 29, 2003 03:22 PM

This is an "LA Times" moment. Perhaps even worse. Hopefully people will see it clearly and Nethercutt will 'Terminate' the reeking, fetid P-I and whoever they endorse at the polls.

Posted by: Sergio on October 29, 2003 05:53 PM

Nethercutt said something stupid and PI caught him at it ... and they changed his statement to something smart?????

Whoa. I didn't know that was allowed!

I think I'll try it. I'll change something stupid that lesjam said and change it to something smart. Instead of what he really said: "C'mon, Nethercutt said something stupid and the P-I caught him at it. Give me a break," I'll change it to:

Prominent Shark Blog poster, lesjam, has issued the following statement for immediate distribution:

I love and support Rep. Nethercutt and will work 24/7 for his campaign. I will also cash in my IRA's and sell the family silver to help him oust that ugly lefty, "Osama Mama Murray" and restore Oregon's senate seat to the conservative values of that great man, Nethercutt.

Now that's a smart statement.

Posted by: erp on October 29, 2003 06:14 PM

Earth to erp:

Nethercutt and Murray are vying for a Senate seat in Washington, not Oregon. I did like the "Osama Mama" handle for Patty Murray, however.

Posted by: jrn on October 29, 2003 07:41 PM

Nethercutt is saying that the main story is Iraqi reconstruction, and the secondary story is American troops dying.

He's wrong in a variety of ways, but perhaps most significantly because the second directly inhibits the first.

The more Americans die (and the more Iraqi police and NGO personnel die), the more steps Americans must take to indulge in force protection and aggressively pursue insurgents. At the least this means the Americans both cut themselves off further from the Iraqi people --- see the "Green Zone" security measures taken to protect Bremer and the CPA --- and do more searches and raids, which alienate Iraqi civs. At the least, this lessens the time the troops could be spending on reconstruction projects, like all those repainted schools.

Morally, he's wrong as well. The deaths of American troops should not be downplayed in order to spotlight the fact that several hundred Iraqi schools have been repainted.

Posted by: Brooklyn Sword Style on October 30, 2003 08:46 AM

Nethercutt's right. The papers want to constantly emphasize deaths and disasters, and ignore the long-range forest for the short-term trees.

A functioning self-governed Iraq will save far more lives that the occupation costs, simply by eliminating the thugs who now strive for supremacy by murdering other Iraqi civilians, and by serving as a model for the citizens of surrounding thugocracies. As the President has stated many times, this will require time and effort - which the papers begrudge for political advantage.

In other words, Nethercutt's acting like a statesman, the P-I like a spiteful gossip columnist. Morally, the paper's deliberate misquote is despicable.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on October 30, 2003 10:25 AM

I'm not sure what you're looking at here. The PI's quotes, while not verbatim, offer EXACTLY the same sentiment of Nethercutt's full remarks. As does the editoral, which says that he wanted to "redirect news coverage and public attention to the war's positive side." How is that a distortion? Read his full quote. That's exactly the point he's trying to make. Then printing his full quote is a distortion? And at no point anywhere do they concede that they misquoted him. They print his full remarks because they have nothing to hide and they illustrate that their quote is accurate. You can parse both Nethercutt's quote and the PI's coverage of it all you want, but in the end they printed what he said. He may regret saying it, but let's not kill the messenger. The outrage here is simply manufactured and there is just flat out no distortion. Too bad the PI used "shallow" and "callow" first. This is a perfect example.

Posted by: NotQuite on October 30, 2003 01:12 PM

The cartoon in the PI was interesting. It looked different when it appeared in syndication

Posted by: Retrogrouch on October 31, 2003 01:31 PM
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