Sunday, March 18, 2007

3/16/07: False headline re McCain quote on contraceptives incites torrent of hate comments


On March16, 2007, HuffPost's splash headline consisted of the following:

The implication of this headline (especially when matched with that picture) certainly was shocking:
A presidential candidate who doesn't know whether condoms help stop the spread of HIV? How out of touch and ignorant could McCain be?

Just one little problem: That's not the question he was asked, which inspired his (legitimate) "You've stumped me" reaction.

Clicking on the story led to the
this thread (screen capture obtained on June 18, 2009 --- still bearing the same critical falsehood as it did more than two years ago, but now featuring some weird picture-sizing distortions):

The copy reads:
New York Times:

Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."

Read the whole story: New York Times

Can you detect the error in the front-page and story-page headlines?

The headlines say McCain was asked if condoms help prevent the spread of HIV. But the copy on the story thread shows that he was asked if contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV. To which he answered, "You've stumped me."

The fact is that most "contraceptives" do nothing to help stop the spread of HIV.

Contraceptives include any of a number of things --- including birth-control pills, spermicidal foams and jellies, IUDs, etc., none of which do anything help stop the spread of HIV.
Condoms, which do help to stop the spread of HIV, are also contraceptives. But that is clearly not the question that McCain was asked.

The link to the NY Times' article that HuffPost cites is here. The story they ran, McCain Stumbles on H.I.V. Prevention, reveals that it was actually the (unidentified) reporter interviewing him that did more than "stumble" --- he/she is the one who suffers from grievous misconceptions regarding contraceptives and HIV prevention --- not McCain:
Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Does detecting the above require anything more than basic reading ability and common sense? And a virtue called honesty, to accept the truth? Further, one notes that there's a second error/falsehood in the way HuffPost played this: its editors made it look like it was the NY Times that was asking McCain the question --- yet in the article, it turns out that the NY Times was quoting an unnamed reporter, who is the one who got this whole thing so wrong.

The fact that the NY Times --- which HuffPost used as the "source" for this "story" --- got it wrong is no excuse for what HuffPost did. After all, according to Ms. Huffington, HuffPost uses professional journalists, and plays the news straight, with neither left nor right slant; opinions are relegated to the blogs, which are located below the headlines, on the left side of the page. Yet this story was clearly not played as a blog article.

The fact is that whoever at HuffPost was responsible for posting this story either (a) didn't read the story, or (b) read it, but chose to ignore the obvious fact that it was the interviewer, and the NY Times "journalist," who screwed up.

Instead of reading the story and reporting on it accurately, HuffPost's front page editor applied his/her time to hunting down such an unflattering picture of McCain, to marry to this incendiary, false headline. In fact, if HuffPost were being honest, the story's headline would have been:
"NY Times Smears McCain, Covers For Reporter's Ignorance On Contraceptives, HIV"

But none of this was done --- and shockingly, it actually got worse.

Because at this time, HuffPost was employing a feature, "Spread The News," that enabled readers of its news stories to fast-forward them on to others. And in the case of this thread, the forwarded email would use the same headline and headline-image employed in the HuffPost spin on this story --- as is shown below:

(If we were to be sarcastic at this point, we'd ask, "Is there an Internet equivalent of a condom that helps to prevent the electronic spreading of malicious lies about a presidential candidate?" Who knows --- maybe someone in a position of influence will one day pose this question to HuffPost.)

So what kinds of user comments did this fake allegation incite among HuffPost users (who are fairly notorious for responding to the site's sensational headlines, and not reading the actual stories)?

If you've spent any time here at Huff-Watch, or even on HuffPost, they're pretty much what you'd expect. Below is a sampling: If you'd like to see the rest of the comments posted, just go to the thread. Except... according to the screen capture below, obtained on June 18, 2009, "Comments for this entry are currently under maintenance but will be restored soon."

Why would the comments on a two-year-old thread be "under maintenance"? Whatever the answer, we won't be holding our breaths until HuffPost republishes those comments.

Here are some that were captured at the time (displayed in chronological order; emphasis added):
Run McCain out of town on that stump!Jerk!What poor excuse of a politician and to think this fool thinks he's qualified to be President!!We're currently suffering threw 6 years of this BS I don't think we need another president who's so out of touch with the general population of the United States never mind the rest of the world.McCain you're a clown!**
By: chartoo on March 16, 2007 at 08:07pm

My oh my; how can there be so many damn stupid people in congress. What a complete ass this guy makes of himself.Peace to you and the world.
By: paixa3 on March 16, 2007 at 09:02pm

He's got to be dumber about HIV/AIDS even than Reagan was. That takes some doing.
By: OhioBob on March 16, 2007 at 09:03pm

Does McCain seriously think we would consider him a "serious" candidate after this?First, CFR, then illegal immigration, now condoms...what planet is John on?Do we need age limits on candidates?
By: blurredtruth on March 16, 2007 at 09:06pm

Well, that solves that: McCain is officially a moron. There are teenagers who know that condoms stop the spread of HIV. For McCain to be so uninformed -- or unwilling to give a real opinion so as not to piss off the Bible belters -- is inexcusable.
By: massive on March 16, 2007 at 09:08pm

How could that be? We've known about HIV/AIDS for years, its mechanism has been decoded and we even have vaccines. Little schoolkids know what AIDS is. What's not to know about it?Oh, right. McCain is a Republican. Nevermind.
By: grainger5 on March 16, 2007 at 09:15pm

How many years in Congress? How many briefings? Has he ever read a newspaper? Of course he is pandering to the religious right, but he is also playing with the lives of his constituents. He is unfit to serve.
By: sissymonster on March 16, 2007 at 09:15pm

This article was painful to read. The man is losing his mind.
His wife and advisors really need to set him down and tell him that he's got no chance to be nominated. Get him off the road and out of the race.They can save him alot of embarrassment.
By: deeintexas on March 16, 2007 at 09:19pm

OK, so Mr. Straight-Talk Express can't give a straight answer. Lame.What's wrong, John? Not allowed to have your own opinion? Pitiful.Do you *really* need to go talk to your handlers before having a mind of your own? Pathetic.
By: CapedCrusader on March 16, 2007 at 09:25pm

LOFL"you've stumped me"What a coincidence ... that's what the pedophilia lovin republicans say every time they swap positions with the local GOP children!
The GOP ... way out of their closet ... and well into yours!
By: CarlVVV on March 16, 2007 at 09:34pm

This is really not funny. The guy is a typical far right dipshit. Dangerous people.
Man, this takes the cake. This will look VERY bad for us if the world sees that we put yet another idiot in charge. Think about it. Stupid enough to keep Bush in office two terms and now, another one? Don't do it BJ. Even if it means you having to vote for Hillary....... haha/hohowhat next?
By: ExRepublican on March 16, 2007 at 09:40pm

Perhaps it's dementia, perhaps he thinks it doesn't affect him so, why bother knowing. Whatever the case, MCCAIN is a LOSER.
He DOES NOT represent his state and does not deserve to be commander in chief.
By: queeraz on March 16, 2007 at 10:07pm

If he wasn't a typical lying Republican who supports torture and an illegal war,
I'd feel sorry for him because clearly he is becoming senile. He should know about condoms as all military guys were issued condoms to prevent VD during Vietnam.
By: FoolsontheHill on March 16, 2007 at 10:11pm

The h*ll with being president! Why is McCain still allowed to vote?
By: Michael7843853 on March 16, 2007 at 10:17pm

This comment by McCain is so unresponsible words fail to describe...
.I'm sick of the Republix party's attempt to muddy the waters of science to the point of risking and taking the lives of others. It's just effing infuriating. How the hell can anyone take someone like that seriously? Thankfully he's jumped the shark... no way this guy's gonna be the nominee.
By: Clevelandchick on March 16, 2007 at 10:34pm

Cool. Then bend over, John, and let me plow a load into you bareback.A few months later you'll be wishing you were pro-condom, Bitch.
By: leoninearies on March 16, 2007 at 10:40pm

Oh come on McCain!
Have you lost your fucking mind?
You insult us with your answer, which is,"I can't answer that because I have to check to see wht my handlers tell me my position on this is." Is that the kind of president you would be? At least Bush can tell you what he thinks, even if it doesn't jive with 2/3 of the country. You are a disgrace, sir! Don't come out on your bullshit express bus and expect us to take you seriously with comments like that. What do you take us for? Damn man, have you just lost you mind, or what?
By: whereisJesus on March 16, 2007 at 10:45pm

When I was young I really thought that in order to run and hold office you had to be really, really smart. Damn was I a fool! McCain doesn't know about basic sex, Bush can't open his mouth without someone telling him what lie to tell. If he speaks extemporaneously(say that if you can shrub) he can't even put a simple sentence together. If an alien race comes here after we've made ourselves extinct, I don't think they are going to find as as being very bright.
By: TheHandyman on March 16, 2007 at 11:04pm

Sorry to spring that NEW HIV/AIDS subject on ya grandpa.MOTHERF*CKER!
how many years have we been educating people about HIV?oh Yeah, 25 years, and how many of those G*D DAMN years have you been a Senator..oh yeah ALL OF THEM!
By: underbear1 on March 17, 2007 at 12:01am

Why do all these Republicans need someone to lead them by the hand,is it possible the shrub is the smart one?All the testimony from these old farts sounds like a geriatric Altzeimer daycare center.These are the people running our country,sending our boys to die,starting wars.............
By: bushmocker on March 17, 2007 at 12:16am

Did he really go from being his own man to being a fucking jerk?

By: JoeO on March 17, 2007 at 01:13am

And as HuffPost's crack team of round-the-clock moderators ignored these violations of its Comment Policy and Terms of Service, these kinds of comments were permitted to go on, and on, and on.

One wonders how many such "users" forwarded this false headline on to others --- and how many they forwarded it on to, and so on, and so on, and so on --- and how many Americans actually believed that Sen. McCain was asked whether condoms help prevent the spread of HIV?

Yet as is shown here on Huff-Watch, this wasn't the end of HuffPost's assault on Sen. McCain (and even his wife, Cindy) --- it was just the beginning (here, here, here, elsewhere).

"The Internet Newspaper," indeed.


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