The Associated Press Makes It Up

I’ve long said that the Associated Press is the nation’s worst source of media bias. But this one, frankly, blows me away. It was first noted, I think, by Freepers and followed up on by Swimming Through the Spin, linked to by InstaPundit.
The AP ran this story:

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – President Bush (news – web sites) on Friday wished Bill Clinton (news – web sites) “best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery.”
“He’s is in our thoughts and prayers,” Bush said at a campaign rally.
Bush’s audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them.
Bush offered his wishes while campaigning one day after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. Clinton was hospitalized in New York after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath.
Bush recently praised Clinton when the former president went to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait. He lauded Clinton for his knowledge, compassion and “the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president.”

A number of people who were at the rally and didn’t hear any boos sent angry emails to the AP, which resulted in a rewrite of the story. If you follow the link to the original story, this is what you get. Nothing.
The AP put up a revised version which is exactly the same as the original, except that it omits the two sentences about the crowd booing and Bush “doing nothing to stop them.” No explanation and, as of yet, no apology.
Meanwhile, someone came up with an audio of the President Bush’s speech, which is linked to by Drudge. Listen to it here. The audio is stunning. When the President says that he’s just received word that Clinton had been hospitalized, you can hear the crowd react with sympathy and dismay. When Bush goes on to say that President Clinton is in our thoughts and prayers, and we send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery, the crowd applauds and cheers enthusiastically. No booing. None.
Note that the AP didn’t say “there were scattered boos” (there weren’t) or even “one guy booed.” The AP reported, falsely, that “Bush’s audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed.” That isn’t spin; it’s a flat-out lie. And the AP writer added the malicious embellishment that Bush did nothing to stop the (nonexistent) booing.
Is this the most astonishing example of media bias I can remember? Offhand, yes. It is sheer, malicious fabrication and slander–of President Bush and of Republicans generally–in what purports to be a brief, factual account of Bush’s speech.
What this shows, I guess, is that the establishment media are in a full panic mode over John Kerry’s prospects. Any semblance of professionalism, or even basic honesty, in this instance, is gone.
The AP needs to do some serious soul-searching, and fire, at a minimum, the guy who wrote that story, if it wants to retain even a shred of credibility.
While I was typing this, video footage of the West Allis rally ws played on Fox News, but without any mention of the AP fabrication.
UPDATE: The AP’s lie is spreading rapidly around the globe. Salon says: “Audience boos as Bush offers best wishes for Clinton’s recovery.” WSTM television in New York has a slightly different version of the story, with an AP copyright, which says: “Many in Bush’s audience booed when Clinton’s name was mentioned. The president made no comment on that and continued with his rally speech.” WRIC television in northern Virginia has the same “many booed” story. In Iowa, KWWL television reports that “Many in Bush’s audience booed when Clinton’s name was mentioned. The president made no comment on that and continued with his rally speech.” The same misinformation is being promulgated in Georgia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, California, Tennessee, Indiana, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota, and New York again.
I’ll stop there, but there are many more. Do you suppose that all of these news outlets will offer corrections? What proportion of the people who hear this story will ever find out that it was a complete lie, fabricated, apparently, by a Democrat who works for the AP?
The AP now has a new version, which says, more accurately: “The crowd reacted with applause and with some “ooohs,” apparently surprised by the news that Clinton was ill.”
This, folks, is a scandal. The blogosphere should not rest until the AP is brought to account.
FURTHER UPDATE: Editor & Publisher notes the AP’s about-face:

The Associated Press changed “boos” to “ooohhs” Friday afternoon in reporting on President George Bush’s first statement to supporters on the heart ailment that has befallen former President Bill Clinton.
In a dispatch sent to subscribers in early afternoon, the AP reported that when Bush, at a campaign rally in West Allis, Wisconsin, told the crowd that he wished to send Clinton his “best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery,” the audience “of thousands booed. Bush did nothing to stop them.”
Pretty damning, except that AP soon changed its story, only after the original appeared on many Web sites.
Several Web sites revealed that AP “retracted” the report “citing uncertainties about how to characterize the crowd’s reaction.”
The new version moved on the wire Friday described the same incident this way, after relating Bush’s remarks: “The crowd reacted with applause and with some ‘ooohs,’ apparently surprised by the news that Clinton was ill.”
A Knight Ridder/Tribune (KRT) report put it this way: “Some in Bush’s audience booed when he wished Clinton well….” The AFP wire report declared that after Bush’s statement “thousands of boisterous supporters clapped respectfully.”

Which raises a possibility I hadn’t thought of: perhaps the AP will try to sell the idea that its reporter mistook the crowd’s “oohs” for “boos.” All I can say is, listen to the audio. There is nothing on it that could possibly have been mistaken for booing. On the contrary, as the AFP correctly reorted, the crowd “clapped respectfully”; I would add that many cheered.
The Knight-Ridder correspondent’s claim that “some in Bush’s audience booed” was new to me. A quick Google search indicates that seventeen newspapers around the country, including a number of major ones, have printed a report by Knight-Ridder correspondent Seth Borenstein that includes this statement:

Both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, wished the former president well during campaign appearances. Some in Bush’s audience booed when he wished Clinton well, while those in Kerry’s cheered.

Again, the audio of the Bush rally discloses not a single boo. Borenstein’s formula is trickier, in a way, than the AP’s crude lie, because if Borenstein says he heard someone in the crowd boo, his claim is impossible to disprove. But as a characterization of the Bush audience’s response to the news of Clinton’s hospitalization, it is a contemptible misrepresentation.
I have emailed Mr. Borenstein to ask him to explain the basis for his characterization of the Bush audience’s response. His email address is [email protected] He can be reached here. You might consider doing the same.
HERE’S MORE: Glenn Reynolds notes that the name of the AP reporter who wrote the false report is Tom Hays. His byline has been pulled from the article by the AP, apparently to protect him. Still no retraction or apology from the AP, just a silent change in the article. I haven’t been able to find Tom Hays’ email address. If anyone can come up with it, let me know. Maybe we can open a dialogue with him, sort of like we did with Jim Boyd.
AND THIS: Some news outlets have started correcting the false stories they distributed yesterday. For instance, WCCO, one of the main Twin Cities news stations, revised its story on the West Allis rally. Instead of just silently changing the story like the AP, however, WCCO made it clear that the original story was wrong, with this correction:

NOTE: This is a correction to an incorrect story posted by AP on Friday stating the crowd booed the President when he sent his good wishes. The crowd, in fact, did NOT boo.

Good for WCCO. Now, let’s find Mr. Hays.
ANOTHER THOUGHT ON KNIGHT-RIDDER: Seth Borenstein’s article for Knight-Ridder reported on the crowd reactions at both the Bush rally in West Allis, Wisconsin and the Kerry rally in Newark, Ohio. Further, Borenstein’s piece is datelined Washington. I haven’t tried to figure out the exact times of the two rallies, but it’s extremely unlikely that Borenstein could have been at both of them. Given his dateline, it’s likely he was at neither. So his “reporting” on the West Allis rally was most likely hearsay. Who was Borenstein’s source? Did the AP story come first, and did he rely on it, or did someone else feed him false information about the West Allis rally? And if so, who? I’ll let you know when I hear from Borentein, who can be reached at [email protected]


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