Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Busted Howes

Got a chuckle out of this one. Looks like Daniel walked it right up to the line (again), and his inference that it must have been Obama administration heavies that caused Ford to pull an ad has drawn the attention of forces bigger than the usual Michigan chattering class - and exposed to the country the Detroit News editorial tricks that we have had to suffer with for years.

It basically goes like this: Identify problem. Insert rotating villains of 1) President Obama, 2) unions, 3) Democrats, or 4) socialist government, or some variation on that theme, as underlying cause of problem. Write editorial column attacking chosen villain. Problem will be magically solved. Lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam.

Howes just happens to be really, really good at it. Where Nolan Finley is completely transparent in his contempt for anyone to the left of, say, Mussolini, Howes can sound very rational at times - until he hits you with something like this:

Apparently some right wing bloggers think they may have found their next big scandal: The White House may have pressured Ford Motor Company to yank a TV ad critical of Obama’s rescue of the auto companies!

That would be quite a story indeed — the latest example of heavy handed White House bullying of the private sector, all in service of its hated auto bailout. Except there’s a small problem: Ford and the White House are both denying the tale, and the original report that is the basis for all the chatter today is not even sourced at all.

The tale got started when a Detroit News columnist reported that Ford had pulled an ad it was airing that featured a Ford customer claiming he decided not to buy a car from Ford’s competitors because they had taken auto-bailout money. “I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw,” the customer says in the ad.

The Detroit News made this allegation: “Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy.” No source was given for this claim.

That's because "the source" was probably some low-level right-wing paranoid stooge (Payne?) that made a joke in the newsroom, and Howes just took it from there. Hey, it's Obama! So it must be bad, right? Make it work.

The White House denies the claim. Ford denies the claim. And watch how Howes manages to weasel out of his claim, because this is classic. They should teach classes on this. It's better than FOX. Better than Rove. This guy is a master.

Odder still: The original Detroit News story doesn’t even allege pressure. Way down in the story an “industry source” is quoted claiming: “There was not any pressure to take down the ad.” The piece then goes on to hint that Ford might have felt some kind of pressure, but doesn’t quote anyone claiming that this was the case.

Make a claim. Take it back. Doubt still resides in the mind of the reader, and rumors start on the internet. Perfect. And how did DNews managing editor Dan Nauss respond to questions on this column?

“We stand by our column,” he told me. “It was based on multiple sources. It’s written by a business columnist who can draw conclusions based on the reporting that they do.”

The story contains no attribution for the central charge of White House calls to Ford. Asked about this, Nauss declined to comment.

Asked to clarify if the column was alleging any White House pressure on Ford (the story hints at it up top but quotes someone later saying there was no pressure), Nauss declined to say. “The story speaks for itself,” he said.

Yes, it certainly does. Howes "draws conclusions" based on his "reporting" all the time - it's just really interesting that his conclusions always point back to the same few villains, no matter what the subject matter.

Thanks goes out to Greg Sargent for noticing. Finally someone understands our pain, and DNews editorial claims will be scrutinized a little closer from now on, at least at the national level.

It's a start.

Update 9/29: And waalaa, just like that, looks like Howes has started a witch hunt here. Watch the Republicans try to whip up a scandal surrounding this charge that wasn't really a charge at all.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee wants Ford Motor Co. to explain why it halted an advertisement that was critical of the government's $85 billion auto industry bailout.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally for "a full and complete explanation of Ford's decision to stop running the advertisement."

You may remember Rep. Issa from his starring role in the "I Was For Green Jobs Before I Was Against Them" episode that aired just recently. Rep. Issa now wants to display his displeasure at supposed administration interference in private business... by insisting that business tell him the decisions behind their advertising strategy. Which some would probably see as interference in a private business, but whatever. IOKIYAR.

"Given the close relationship between American automobile manufacturers, workers and unions and the U.S. government in the wake of a series of loans, grants and stimulus programs, accusations of White House interference in private business matters to support its own political and policy agendas are very serious issues," Issa wrote, adding he is "deeply concerned about undue political pressure exerted by the White House."

See? A conservative columnist said it, so it must be true.

Your taxpayer dollars in action. Thanks Daniel for wasting our time and money.