Friday, February 5, 2016

Citing Satire as "Reporting," Raw Story Implies Iowa Pro-Hillary Shenanigans

Hillary at the 2015 Iowa Fair / Phil Roeder, CC BY 2.0

Raw Story is the Democrats’ answer to Breitbart.  Anything you see from them needs to be scrutinized carefully and fact-checked thoroughly.  Fail to, and you’ll share, repost, or cite at your own risk.

Case in point: THIS Raw Story piece is the WORST.  The author, in building a case that pro-Hillary shenanigans were afoot in the Iowa caucuses, was incredibly sloppy in his sourcing and analysis.  I’m not sure whether this resulted from his desire to prove his thesis, or the perverse incentives of “writing at the speed of the Internet” resulting in haphazard work, or both.  Just in case it’s primarily due to an unusual series of mistakes – and we’ve all made them – I’ll simply refer to him here as RS Travis.

RS Travis cites an Iowa blog for saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it says.  He also cites a HuffPo satire piece as “reporting,” and paints a couple of fairly even-handed Iowa newspaper editorials as being much more dramatic and sensational than they really were.   All in all, lovely. ;)

Misciting a one-year old source

RS Travis: 

The blog BleedingHeartland has been raising concerns that McGuire, who has been involved in Iowa politics for more than 20 years, is manipulating the state’s Democratic Party to favor Clinton over her challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

Uh, that’s not what she said.  The Bleeding Heartland post he linked to was from one year ago, when McGuire was first elected Chair - the post and all updates are from January 2015: 

No one will be fooled by [McGuire's Presidential Primary] neutrality pledge. The perception will be that the Iowa Democratic Party leadership favors Hillary Clinton for president. There’s a risk that will discourage other potential candidates from competing in Iowa. On the plus side, there aren’t many options for long-shot candidates other than competing in Iowa and New Hampshire. I believe McGuire will not attempt to manipulate the party machinery to benefit Clinton.  [emphasis added]

Crediting satire as “reporting”

So this is the sentence from RS Travis that got me fact-checking in the first place:

Clinton isn’t using her maiden name, Rodham, in this campaign, so McGuire has covered up the “R” with white paint, reported the Huffington Post.

States usually don't take well to folks obscuring their actual license plate number. In fact, they usually prohibit it. So I looked at his "source.”

On closer reading - just starting at the top of the HuffPo piece - it becomes obvious that the HuffPo "report" that RawStory cited is, in fact, satire: 

McGuire also noted that Iowa Democrats, according to this newspaper's poll, feel the number one issue in the state is the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards. McGuire expressed hope that CNN panelists tonight would not be diverted toward "phony issues" like the slow economic recovery over the last seven years or the resurgence of Iran amidst the meltdown in the Middle East.

"Iowa is defamed as the state of evangelicals," Democratic State Chair Andy McGuire conceded. "We are proudly the state of ethanol. And we cherish diversity. Although I am happy as a woman, I will consider hormonal supplements and supplemental sex change surgery if that's what it takes to demonstrate our party's solidarity with transgendered African-Americans."

McGuire, long-time president of Meridian Health plan of Iowa, praised "Obamacare." Asked to comment on gender gap polls showing male Democrats favoring Sanders over Clinton by a wide margin, McGuire answered without hesitation: "If you like your penis, you can keep your penis."

BTW, the HuffPo wannabe satirist appears to be a conservative or libertarian: "He was the strategist to end mandatory busing for Los Angeles schools. He was key in creating the successful campaign for Proposition 209 that ended racial and gender preferences in California government employment, contracting and education."  So that’s just icing on the proverbial JOURNALISM FAIL cake. ;)

RIP, journalistic ethics.  It was nice knowin’ ya. 

RS Travis also misleads readers about the substance of recent Register and Cedar Falls Gazette editorials urging the Party to go ahead and do a public audit, as well as overhaul processes to ensure procedural fairness and protect/bolster the public’s confidence in caucus results.

The Raw Story piece did link to a 2014 Des Moines Register story asserting that the now-Party chair had a license plate reading "HRC 2016" back then. When that reporter asked about the plate, McGuire said that it was a Christmas gift from her kids.  That’s hardly evidence of shenanigans.

Andrea McGuire was a 2008 co-chair for Hillary.  Her personal pro-Hillary leanings are no secret, especially not in Iowa.  But if no one who actually knows her is implying that she’s doing anything shady, folks writing in distant corners probably shouldn’t just assume she’s a corrupt dirty trickster.
I agree with the Des Moines Register and this Cedar Falls Gazette op-ed writer that opening the caucus records to audit is the right thing to do.  But one needn’t assume that the Chair’s reluctance to do so comes from a dark desire to hide pro-Clinton shenanigans.  I suspect that the so-called “secrecy” is stemming from embarrassment about the haphazard nature of both the processes and the record-keeping in some precincts.  Without iron-clad organization, caucuses and their reporting processes can tend toward chaos and mess.

As a wise man once said, there's no need to infer malice where mere incompetence suffices as an explanation.  Lord knows, I’m doing that with RS Travis.

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