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Talking Points Memo Gives Crash Course in Bad Journalism


Oh, how the serious liberal journalism sites have fallen.

For years, the award-winning Talking Points Memo has been one of the most respected sites in the liberal blogosphere for their well researched investigative journalism. I subscribed to their email newsletter TPM DayBreaker and this morning’s lead story is called The New Spin: The White House Would Be A Step Down For Sarah Palin.


Can’t you already anticipate how ace reporter Benjy Sarlin is going to expose slippery spin point from the vast right wing media conspiracy? Thank goodness Talking Points Memo readers will be on the lookout for disgraceful Republican charlatans who are trying to sell them a bill of goods. Let’s see what the controversy is about, shall we?

Pop quiz: you’re a right-wing commentator looking at a string of polls showing Sarah Palin’s poll numbers sinking to new lows even as the weak field of GOP presidential contenders continues to thin out. But a large chunk of your audience would sooner eat glass than hear Palin’s chances maligned by one of their own. What do you do?

Here’s one answer: claim that Palin is even more powerful outside the White House and that the presidency would be a step down for her.

Okay, this seems substantial! Palin’s poll numbers have been dropping for the last three months and it seems like some dastardly Republicans are disingenuously making some claims to try to salvage some dignity. Boy, that sure seems kind of dishonest. Anybody doing that probably doesn’t have a lot of credibility. I wonder who it could be – oh wait! It’s Andrew Breitbart!

Take conservative media guru Andrew Breitbart, who suggested in GQ this month that Palin would be truly unstoppable if she only didn’t get bogged down by, say, being President.

“I think the presidency is beneath her,” Breitbart told GQ. “There’s more power in being Oprah Winfrey than in being Barack Obama. It would be my goal for Palin to become Oprah and be the ultimate kingmaker for twenty-odd years. Oprah anointed Barack Obama.”

Well, huh. Let’s stop right there for a second.

TPM is telling its readers that Andrew Breitbart’s statements to GQ about Palin becoming Oprah are not, in fact, his legitimate opinions but are instead spin in order to make Palin’s poll drop look better. This is their lead story and it would sure seem to be designed to discredit Breitbart, if it’s true.

But I happen to know firsthand that it’s not true. When Andrew and I first started talking back in November, he told me exactly what he told the GQ interviewer about Palin becoming Oprah and a kingmaker. I heard it with my own ears.

I sent out a quick tweet to Talking Points Memo mentioning this:

TPM Tweet

But really – why take my word for it? After all, I’ve been accused of being a flunky for Breitbart. A serious investigative journalist site like TPM can’t just take my word for it. They are real journalists after all. Right?

Well, not on this story. This first part is just speculation but I doubt that they checked with Breitbart to see if his line about Palin as kingmaker is a new one created in response to her sagging poll numbers. So, they’ve already tarnished their journalistic reputation right there a bit by not at least seeking out a comment.

But that’s not the real problem. Nope, the real issue is that by simply Googling the words “Breitbart Palin president,” they would have found immediately that Breitbart’s statement about Palin as Oprah and kingmaker was not, as they claim, a response to polls, but something that Breitbart has been saying for at least 70 weeks. As in, well over a year. Take a look…


This is the top of Page 1 of the search results. (I added the arrows.) You can see the link to the Breitbart.TV piece from November 18, 2009 that shows Andrew saying exactly the same thing that he said to the GQ reporter. So, this was not a spin technique but Breitbart’s honest opinion that he’s been stating publicly for a long time to any number of people both publicly and privately.

Wow – for a lead story, that’s a pretty huge journalistic fail, Benjy.

But don’t tell that to the TPM readers – about three hours after this provably false and incredibly poorly reported story was first posted, there were close to 200 comments, and from the looks of them, they bought it hook line and sinker. One choice gem…

These clowns will make any excuse whatsoever that their unelectable, polarizing, thoroughly incompetent dream candidate can’t get elected President…so, automatically, the presidency is beneath her.

Yep. You keep believing that, TPM readers. Truth be damned as long as the narrative keeps going.

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