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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Associated Press Was Not To Blame, After All

In this post, I posted my letter to the powers-that-be at The Associated Press, and I received this gracious reply from their SVP and Executive Editor, Kathleen Carroll.

I. stand. corrected. And apologize to The Associated Press, gladly so!
Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 8:43 AM
From: Carroll, Kathleen
To: Annie Banno
Cc: Curley, Tom , Osborne, Burl , Espo, David
Subject: RE: Did any of you really observe what came before Sen. Lindsay Graham's big "sound-bite question"?

Dear Ms. Banno

Thank you for taking the time to write. The AP provided a number of stories on the Alito hearings. Perhaps you did not see this one, which concentrates just on the scene that led to the tears you describe.

How fortunate you were to be able to watch a tape of the entire hearing. Many people are not able to do so and we write stories for them, highlighting the important developments. That's a subjective judgment based on what the reporters and editors believe to be important for readers _ not a judgment intended to further a political point of view.

She then pasted the contents of the article by Jan. 12, 2006 article by Laurie Kellman, "Alito's wife cries at confirmation hearing," partially excerpted here:
Martha-Ann Bomgardner left her husband's confirmation hearings in tears, returning not long after. The episode elicited sympathy for her from senators of both parties - and instant finger-pointing.

After sitting behind Samuel Alito for two days of intense questioning at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, she left the room during questioning of her husband by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

And Graham was trying to vouch for him.

Mimicking questions from Democrats, Graham asked Alito: "Are you really a closet bigot?"

The nominee said no.

Graham said, "No sir, you're not."

With that, Alito's wife began to cry. Then she left.

"Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this," said Graham.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah suggested that Alito's wife was upset with the comments of Democrats. "She's sick and tired of the mistreatment of her husband," Hatch said. He also said that she was suffering from a migraine headache.
So it wasn't The Associated Press leaving out the details and being misleading, it was my local paper's reporters and/or editors.

I'm sure glad I wrote The AP and not just my own newspaper.

Googling, I found this article had been carried by many southern, midwestern and western smaller newspapers and TV news programs (interestingly, mostly NBC affiliates), as well as The San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, San Jose Mercury News, San Diego Union Tribune, and even Forbes Magazine and The Guardian Unlimited (UK).

But I could not find if it was carried by The New York Times, Boston Globe, Atlanta-Journal Constitution or The Chicago Tribune.

I replied, thanking her for her thoughtful reply and indicating I'll be making my local paper's editors aware of their responsibility for this selective and partial passing along of news.

I added that the videos I watched were not of entire sessions and were on at 7:15 pm to apx. 7:45 pm, available to most Americans who work a regular dayjob.

Since the lines of communication were open, I commented respectfully that their editors and reporters are not doing as fine a job as she would think at accurately judging what is "important for readers" when their output generally doesn't even come close to the "both-sides-equally-fairly-represented" presentations of the likes of PBS' Lehrer News Hour.

I explained that I'd not be the first nor the one with the most complete link list, but that she would find a few choice examples of my contention here (acknowledging that AP isn't the only one at fault on this list).

UPDATE 1/21/06:
Alert reader Sarah F. tells me that MSNBC's printing of the falsehood is also bad:
"Even though it was a Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who brought Alito's wife to tears by asking her husband if he was 'a closet bigot,' the Democrats got blamed for hectoring the nominee with questions he wasn't going to answer."
The email addies for anyone who wants to complain to MSNBC and Newsweek for their mistake are:,,,

Eleanor Clift,
the Editors of Newsweek,
Letters to the Editor at MSNBC
Is it any wonder that people honestly believe that tripe like this is really true?

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