WASHINGTON -- The other day while laying down my thoughts on the 40 years of conservative journalism that I have undergone so painlessly since perpetrating my first published wisecrack in the autumn of 1967, I rang up El Rushbo for his collaboration. That would be Rush Limbaugh for the benighted; for the millions in his daily radio audience, he is El Rushbo. Rush recalled the liberal media monopoly that existed in the late 1960s and that now is sorely pressed by the emergence of talk radio, of various conservative journals and newspapers and by the rise of FOX News Channel. He noted how arrogant the liberal media always have been and mentioned their "lies and deceits."
Hang on, Rush. Whom do you think you are talking about, Dan Rather, the heir to Walter Cronkite's ermine robes? Are you referring to such revered institutions as The New York Times or The New Republic? Have you no respect for CNN, CBS, NBC or The Boston Globe? OK, OK, each of these revered institutions of the liberal orthodoxy has had its embarrassing pratfalls into plagiarism and bogus news stories, but how about us conservatives, El Rushbo?
Actually, in looking back over the past 40 years of conservative journalism, no similar scandals shimmy and strut before my mind's eye. In fact, conservatives have had no Jayson Blairs or Stephen Glasses. And now there is The New Republic's discredited "Baghdad Diarist," one Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who fabricated tales of American military misconduct in the Iraq war and whose fabrications the editors of The New Republic hope will disappear behind the smog of their pious pifflings. Let us call that a hoax heaped upon a hoax.
The fault of conservative journalists is, if you listen to our critics, that we have political opinions of a conservative nature. In fact, journalists of the liberal persuasion (or should I say faith) have informed me over the years that because of my conservative point of view, I cannot really be considered a journalist. Precisely what they mean by that I cannot tell you. Though now, after reviewing the comparative innocence of conservative journalism these past four decades as compared with the scores of blemishes on the mainstream media's record, I guess it could mean that I have not plagiarized or written bogus stories. Since the late 1980s, I have kept a file on the frauds committed by journalists at major media organizations, and it makes for grisly reading.
In fact, in reading over my files on plagiarism and fraud, both by journalists and by scholars, I felt a pang of sadness for some of the perpetrators -- an unusual emotion for me, I admit, but there you have it. I shall not remind readers of the identity of one of my favorite plagiarists, a New York Times writer (a Pulitzer Prize winner) whose report on an alleged plagiarism in Boston contained … yes, you guessed it, plagiarism. And I do not want to identify the famed columnists who have been caught making up stories. They have moved on in life. That Washington Post writer from the early 1980s who copped a Pulitzer for a bogus story -- let us forget his/her name, too.
Yet why not remind readers of Dan Rather's aspersions on President George W. Bush's service in the Texas National Guard? Rather's evidence obviously was faked, yet Rather is still claiming some sort of Higher Accuracy. Or how about the CNN-Time story from the late 1990s claiming on doubtful evidence that U.S. forces used nerve gas in Laos? A president of NBC News resigned after admitting in 1993 that his "Dateline" report of an exploding General Motors truck was a hoax, and four years later a Pulitzer was conferred on him for, of all things, editorial writing. Perhaps some journalist statute of limitations had passed.
The New York Times, however, deserves special mention for the likes of Jayson Blair, who both plagiarized and fabricated a whole string of stories before being fired in 2003 along with two editors. A year earlier, the paper had to fire a New York Times Magazine writer after the magazine published the writer's phony story. And just weeks after Blair's departure, the Times' Rick Bragg, another Pulitzer winner, left after being suspended for using another reporter's work as his own. In the summer of 2003, The Villager, a small newspaper in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan, charged the Times with basing stories for three years on Villager stories and even using the same people The Villager used in their stories.
All of which brings me back to El Rushbo and his observance of the passing liberal monopoly in media. Perhaps as conservatives continue to break the liberal monopoly, the liberals will raise their journalistic standards. Or maybe they will get worse; most of the aforementioned plagiarisms and hoked up stories took place in recent years.