When President Bush made his surprise visit to the troops in Baghdad last Thanksgiving, he stood in the serving line and helped serve the soldiers their meals before joining them for Thanksgiving dinner. The trip boosted the President’s popularitiy because of its daring and the fact that it highlighted Bush’s concern for the troops, and their affection for him. This photo of President Bush in the Baghdad dining hall with a Thanksgiving turkey was widely circulated:
Anxious to undercut the Baghdad trip’s impact with the public, liberal journalists began circulating the false story that the bird Bush had been photographed holding was a fake. This claim was endlessly retailed; John Kerry and Michael Moore repeated it, which should have been recognized as proof that it wasn’t true, but so did many more respectable journalists. Other journalists more committed to accuracy, like Tim Blair, patiently corrected these misrepresentations time after time.
On July 4, the New York Times, slow on the uptake as usual, repeated the long-discredited fake turkey meme in an article about political surprises. What’s really interesting, though, was the Times’ acknowledgement of the significance of the myth itself:
There are also the manufactured surprises, like Mr. Bush’s cloak-and-dagger Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, which drew praise even from Democrats. (The public relations bonanza fizzled after the press reported that Mr. Bush had posed with a mouth-watering – but fake – turkey.)
So the Times admits that the press successfully destroyed the public relations value of the President’s Baghdad trip by endlessly repeating the false claim that the turkey was a fake.
This morning, the Times’ Corrections section acknowledged the error:
An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.
What the Times didn’t acknowledge was its motive, and the motive of others in the press, for spreading the seemingly inconsequential lie about the turkey.