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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Mark Halperin in Memo Controversy

Drudge has published an internal memo written by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin. The controversial section:

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.

We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.

Why does something generate scandal when said privately, and not generate scandal when said publicly?

This memo echoes what LAT's Michael Kinsley said last week about the requirement of balance being "often just not justified by reality," and, as Halperin himself points out, builds on what was reported in the Times today. One can make a perfectly reasonable argument that Halperin, et al. are wrong, but why does Halperin get in a "scandal" over it, when others are saying it scandal-free? Is it simply because Drudge splashed it at the top of his website, or is it that it was written privately and can be construed as something meant to be hidden? This is much like how Farnaz Fassihi became a lightningrod for saying privately that Iraq was a mess, while other reporters were publicly saying the same with impunity, or even calling Fassihi's words "an understatement." Why wasn't Walter Rodgers raked over the same coals as Fassihi, and why isn't Kinsley being taken out to the same woodshed as Halperin?