Monday, March 29, 2010

3/29/10: HuffPost's near-racist smear of RNC Chairman Michael Steele

Disclosure: We at Huff-Watch are not fans of Michael Steele. We are, however, fans of fairness, basic decency, and journalistic accountability. HuffPost today demonstrated, once again, how these values mean nothing to it, even in a charged racial context.

Summary: What we have here is a case in which HuffPost created a clearly deceptive, racially inflammatory headline, the premise for which it failed to fact-check. Further, when HuffPost discovered the premise was untrue, it left the headline up, knowingly misleading tens of thousands of visitors to its site. When non-leftists perpetrate such an act, it's called "racism." Should it be called anything else when leftists do it?

3/31 Update: We will be re-labeling this article "HuffPost's racist smear of RNC Chairman Michael Steele," soon, to reflect the facts contained in the updates.

This story will have special relevance to conservatives, Republicans, and honest Democrats, who were horrified several years ago by liberals' accusations of "racism" against the producer of the TV commercial against Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., that featured a white woman suggestively saying, "Call me, Harold..." Liberal pundits, and even some Republicans, claimed that it was "racist" because by showing a white woman in close proximity to a black man, in such an implicitly seductive context, it was tantamount to playing on classic racist fears and outrages.

Here's Chris ("tingle up my leg") Matthews, bloviating over how "racist" he alleges the ad was:

Here is a video from "People for the American Way" (an ultra-left advocacy organization), bloviating just as hard.

Well today, HuffPost did essentially the same thing --- but in this case, went one step further: by constructing the headline for a "news" story based on a lack of evidence, and maintained it that way even
after it discovered the facts contradicted the implication in the headline.

Here's what HuffPost's front page looked like all afternoon. Note the time stamp at the bottom right: 6:25pm.

What can we glean, just from this headline, subhead, and the pictures HuffPost chose to run with it?

Let's start with the pictures. Just glancing at them, it appears that the photos show a split-frame: on the left side, Michael Steele pointing at "something" he likes. On the right side are two white women in a bondage-domination situation. Suggestively, Steele is pointing at these women.

When taken in the context of the headline "STEELE AND LEATHER," and the subhead, "Republicans spent thousands on 'bondage-themed' club [...]" HuffPost is clearly implying that Michael Steele was in attendance at such a club. At a minimum, it implied that Steele approved such an expenditure.

Now, before we even read the story, let's take a look at the story page to which the headline (now) linked --- and note in the second frame that it was posted at 3:37pm:

But actually, this story --- and the front page headline --- were based on another story on HuffPost, published at 10:09 this morning, as shown below --- and updated at 2:51pm:

And what did the update consist of?

Well, the original story alleged that Michael Steele himself incurred the charges at this "bondage-themed" restaurant, while raising funds for the RNC, as reported earlier by The Daily Caller. Excerpt:
Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

So, was Michael Steele ever at this nightclub?

Did he
ever incur any charges there that were billed to the RNC?

The answer to both of these questions is: no.

Apparently, HuffPost's 2:51 pm "update" was due to the RNC's flat denial of the allegation:

So at the end of the day (literally), what do we have?
  • We have another instance in HuffPost's long history of generating false/misleading headlines, in order to smear conservative individuals and organizations.

  • We have another instance in which HuffPost did not do even basic fact-checking to ensure that the over-the-top inflammatory story it was pinning on Michael Steele was accurate.

  • We have another instance in which HuffPost constructed an implicitly racist headline (barely a week ago, it posted a picture of a black man beneath the caption, "The Laziest People Ever").

  • We have another instance in which even after realizing that the essential allegation that the picture and headline suggested was phony (as if that's something new at HuffPost), it failed or refused to correct it for at least the next four hours. And as HuffPost gets 9.5 million visitors per month, this means that during these afternoon hours, tens of thousands of Americans were led to believe that Michael Steele had something, anything to do with white women in BDSM poses/activities, and that he billed it to the RNC --- even after HuffPost knew it was not true.

  • We have another instance in which HuffPost has demonstrated beyond any possible doubt that in a competition between itself and the Tea Party as to which incites more hatred and misconceptions, which creates a more racially inflammatory environment, HuffPost is 1,000 times more guilty of these things than the Tea Party.

  • We have another body of proof that all of HuffPost's claims of being a "nonpartisan," professional "news" organization, that seeks to "debunk the left-right way of thinking," and to "ferret out the truth, consequences be damned" is a gigantic load of horseshit.

And as expected, this
story incited comments containing the expected hatred from the radical leftists that HuffPost attracts, which it went on to review, approve and decide to publish.

Are you outraged by HuffPost's hypocrisy and double-standards? Do you want to make your voice known to its management? Here's how.

3/28/10: HuffPost: "Many" Tea Party activists are "on the dole." Really, HuffPost? Of course not. User hate-fest erupts (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

3/24/10: HuffPost triples-down on false smears against Tea Party; user hate-fest erupts (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

3/20/10: HuffPost smears Tea Party again, on false charge of racism; user hate-fest erupts (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

3/7/10: HuffPost smears Tea Party again: This time as racist and anti-immigrant; users unleash hate (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")

11/17/09: "Peace" activists physically assault peaceful Tea Partiers; how did HuffPost play it?


UPDATE 1, 9:15pm: HuffPost leaves same picture up as its splash headline

Apparently in HuffPost's "journalistic" value-system, this racially-inflammatory, deceptive headline is the most important "news" story at the moment.

We know this because the exact same story was still posted as HuffPost's splash headline as of 9:15pm (see timestamp at bottom right):

If you keep going, HuffPost, we're going to strongly consider renaming this article from "near-racist" to "blatantly racist" smear of Cantor. (Update: Given Update 2, below, we've now made that call.)


UPDATE 2, Mar. 30: An example of HuffPost's willful ignorance of leftist politicians' corruption, and exorbitant spending of donors' money on luxuries

As we noted in here,
2/4/10: HuffPost falsely alleges GOP demands Wall St. "Pay us for our services!!!" User hate erupts (HuffPost: "Approved!!!"), while it was excoriating Republicans based on another one of its smear campaigns, HuffPost willfully ignored this story, posted earlier at several of the top blogs that reveal actual news:
HotAir/Politico: Dem Senators Retreat To South Beach With 108 Lobbyists
There has been talk about the Democrats moving to co-opt the country’s populist mood. But it is just talk:

The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s “winter retreat” at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort doesn’t include the price tag for attendance, but the maximum contribution to the committee, typical for such events, is $30,000. There, to participate in “informal conversations” and other meetings Saturday, were senators including DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez; Michigan’s Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; freshmen Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska; and even left-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Across the table was a who’s who of 108 senior Washington lobbyists, including the top lobbying officials for many of the industries Democrats regularly attack: Represented were the American Bankers Association, the tobaco company Altria, the oil company Marathon, the Edison Electric Institute, which has battled climate regulation, several drug manufacturers, the defense contractor Lockheed, and most of the large independent lobbying firms: Ogilvy, BGR, Quinn Gillespie, Heather Podesta, and Tony Podesta.

The retreat’s guest list is a marked contrast to Menendez’s recent rhetoric, which has echoed the White House denunciation of “special interests” and “fat cats.”

Yet when HuffPost discovered that the facts concerning its smear against Michael Steele, it left its racially-inflammatory splash headline up for at least another six hours.
Reminded of this clash in HuffPost's approach to headline-writing --- depending on the race of the political figure involved --- we're now prepared to call this an example of its racism (not "near-racism," as in this article's headline).
Further, we'd argue that HuffPost's racist double-standards closely parallels its endemic anti-Semitism (see report here).

Also see:
Archive of false/misleading HuffPost headlines


UPDATE 3, Mar. 31: HuffPost triples-down on its racially inflammatory smear against Michael Steele

There is now zero chance for any aspect of this smear to be attributed to a mere oversight or error.

On the morning of March 31, when one clicked on the top news story, concerning President Obama's announcement to open up coastal areas to oil exploration, here is the story page they were brought to:

(Nice to know that GE is supporting this subversive "journalism," isn't it?)

Note that the right arrow points to a headline, the #1 under "Most Popular At Huffington Post":
Voyeur West Hollywood: Michael Steele Spent GOP Funds At Club, Lavish Hotels [UPDATE]

And where does that link lead? Directly back to the original story, debunked above:

It is for this reason --- this continuing assault on Michael Steele, in such racially inflammatory terms, even long after HuffPost was clearly aware that its assault on him was based on a lie --- that we at Huff-Watch are now prepared to relabel this article as "HuffPost's racist smear of RNC Chairman Michael Steele."

And are you ready for a bit of irony? The very HuffPost "reporter" who discovered and posted the truth about his original story, and the smear against Steele --- Jason Linkins --- lashed out at another "Internet newspaper" just a few months ago for... (wait for it)... inept editing and journalistic standards.

Here is Linkins' screed against World Net Daily, published by HuffPost (emphasis added):
In short, the facts Corsi obtained torpedo the premise of his piece, which, I remind you, is that the "shooter advised [the] Obama transition." Were this being written for a responsible journalistic entity, some creature called an "editor" would have stepped in and said, "Hey, Jerome, you realize that by your own findings, you article is complete horseshit, right?" But this is World Net Daily, written by and for complete charlatans.

Pot calling the kettle black, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


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