Kathy Shaidle

What year is it again? Media Matters' selective outrage over… Willie Horton?

Posted on December 3 2009 10:00 am
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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Screenshot from 1988 campaign ad NOT funded or endorsed by the GOP

She’s so fi-ine, there’s no telling where the money went
She’s so fi-ine, there’s no other way to go-oo…

Sorry. Having an ’80s flashback there, thanks to the George Soros Steno Pool, otherwise known as Media Matters.

It’s a shame, really. Just yesterday, Media Matters and I had achieved a rapprochement of sorts, founded upon our shared confusion about MSNBC’s Chris Matthews‘ “enemy camp” boner. Alas, like those Christmas-carol-singing soldiers briefly embracing in No Man’s Land,  we’re back to firing on each other this morning. And who’s to blame? Guess!

“Chris Matthews falsely blames Al Gore for Willie Horton attacks,” Media Matters complains this morning. Here’s what Matthews said on the air last night:

Willie Horton comes to mind.  It was Al Gore that first dug up that little sugar plum, on, on, uh, Mike Dukakis and sort of worked that against him.  And then of course the Republicans really lashed him with that issue back in ’88 and helped George H Walker Bush get elected president.  Is this guy going to be Willie Hortoned, Mike Huckabee?

Here’s Media Matters response:

This did not happen. During the 1988 presidential primaries, Al Gore criticized Dukakis for furloughs generally; he did not mention Horton’s name, his crimes, or his race.

The Media Matters scribe repeats three times that “Gore didn’t even mention Horton,” then slams “conservatives” for spreading the “racist” Willie Horton meme.

Tellingly, Media Matters doesn’t name these “conservatives.”

“Conservatives” such as… 2001 Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, Democratic Party operative Susan Estrich, and those infamous rightwing rags, TIME magazine and the Washington Post:

Gore never mentioned Horton by name — but simply raising the issue, Bradley charged, “introduced him into the lexicon.” That “bothers me a great deal,” Bradley said, because “it proved in the course of the campaign to essentially be a poster child for racial insensitivity.”

Gore was quick to maintain he’d raised the issue responsibly, and got support from Dukakis — but the former governor’s campaign manager, Susan Estrich, wasn’t about to let Gore off the hook.

“I would never accuse Gore of being racist,” she said. “But his reference to furloughs was certainly the first shot of the Willie Horton issue. Everyone understood Willie Horton to be the furlough issue.” And while Gore claims he didn’t know the specifics of Horton’s case, news accounts at the time had his aides distributing fact sheets about Horton right after that 1988 debate.

(…) it was Time magazine that first gave the case nationwide attention — and which first published Horton’s photo.

Political memories to the contrary, the Bush campaign never used a picture of Horton in its commercials. (An independent group did briefly run one such ad.)

As a Washington Post editorial said at the time, Horton was an entirely legitimate issue to raise against a self-proclaimed “card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Oh well.

In other news, today Media Matters is also outraged that, as the talk radio show’s co-host snickered this morning, “Glenn Beck is endorsing a product he actually believes in!” Which is, uh, exactly what FTC rules require.

Try harder, guys. Seriously.

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