Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unedited version: Maddow Slams ‘Conservative Media Criticism Website’ Mediaite’s Coverage of Gettysburg Address Scandlet

This is the unedited version of this post, which was published at Mediaite.

As Mediaite's Andrew Kirell reported yesterday, the conservative media spun up its outrage warp drive over President Obama's supposed omission of the words "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, only to later learn that the President had been asked to read a first draft of the speech that did not contain the phrase. It was with some delight, then, that I noted Mediaite fave Rachel Maddow cited our reporting on Tuesday night's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show.

 Rachel began the segment in trademark fashion, building a foundation of context for the story by ticking off several other deranged right-wing outrages from earlier in Barack Obama's presidency. This is one of the reasons people hang in until 9 pm to see TRMS, because even when she's covering a story you've already seen 18 times that day, Rachel Maddow will sweeten the pot with old video clips and history lessons, or in this case, histrionics lessons. She touched on a few perennial favorites, like the evergreen vacation outrage, but missed my personal favorites, the teleprompter story, the trips to Israel kerfuffle, and uppity King Obama's use of a food taster.

 Then, she went around the horn describing how various right-wing media outlets fairly convulsed with outrage over the President's "omission" of the phrase "under God," and Mediaite's writeup appeared onscreen. What a proud moment...(record-scratch noise).

 "The conservative media criticism website Mediaite covered it under the guise of covering the outrage about it," Maddow said.

 Wait, what? By "conservative media criticism website," does she mean a website that constantly criticizes the conservative media? Either interpretation is unfair, since this site has always featured writers with a diverse set of viewpoints, so while you can argue over where the balance tilts at any given time, or take issue with the merits of those varying points of view, we have always been defined by that diversity of views. When we're not a "conservative media criticism website," we're "primarily left-wing," to hear Bill O'Reilly tell it.

 On the issue of the merits, the accusation that Mediaite covered the Gettysburg kerfuffle under the "guise" of covering the outrage about it would be fair if we had suddenly, just for Barack Obama's recitation of the speech, created a whole new category of reporting on outrage just for the occasion. It's actually kind of our wheelhouse. It's only fair to note that, in covering the outrage, Andrew Kirell noted the following:
TheBlaze has reported extensively in the past on the controversy surrounding whether Lincoln actually said the words “under God” in his original speech. Lincoln’s original draft did not include the words “under God” and so, perhaps, Obama was reading from that iteration? We’ll likely soon find out.
If anything, the websites that ran with this story probably should have waited to find out, but they didn't. What we did do was provide that bit of context, and update our story immediately, crediting Media Matters for pointing out that the President was reading from the earliest draft of the Gettysburg Address, which did not include the words "under God," and that he was asked to do so by documentarian Ken Burns.

 It would have been even nicer if we had tracked down that notation on Burns' "Learn the Address" website, but as much as I hate to be the one to point this out (not really; nothing would please me more than to have the wingnut media further clown itself by shrieking about a "coverup"), it probably wasn't there when this ridiculous narrative got rolling. It's not in the Google cache version of the page from November 15, which means it was added some time after that. It also apparently wasn't there when CBS News' Major Garrett, as fastidious a reporter as there is, asked Jay Carney about it at Tuesday's White House briefing, long after we published our piece.

Aside from failing to turn up something that probably wasn't there when he began writing the post, Andrew Kirell got the story right.

 (h/t stand-up comic and Mediaite reader Andy Kindler)

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