Earlier this week on the The View, token conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck spoke up so forcefully that Rosie O’Donnell resorted to playing the “big, fat lesbian” victim card. There are more than a few Republicans who should take a lesson from Hasselbeck.
I have been critical of Elisabeth Hasselbeck in the past for not making a strong enough case for conservatives on the daytime chat show. She signed onto a show that was not overly political in nature and it is understandable that she resisted for some time fully stepping into the role of speaking for conservatives. Well, that is certainly no longer the case. Hasselbeck has recently emerged as a strong conservative voice with not only what appears to be newfound passion, but she now appears to have spent some time educating herself about the issues, using that information to rebut some of the ridiculous claims made by O’Donnell. It wouldn’t kill Republicans to emulate her behavior.
On the Wednesday episode of The View the gloves finally came off and Hasselbeck stood up to O’Donnell for the following statement she made in the form of a rhetorical question on the show last week (transcript by Newsbusters.org:
O’DONNELL: I haven't -- I just want to say something. 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?
HASSELBECK: Who are the terrorists?
O’DONNELL: 655,000 Iraqis -- I'm saying you have to look, we invaded --
HASSELBECK: Wait, who are you calling terrorists now? Americans?
O’DONNELL: I'm saying if you were in Iraq, and the other country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?
This week the topic of O’Donnell’s insinuation that Americans are the terrorists came up again, but turned personal with O’Donnell stating her words had been twisted by those in the media. "Here's how it gets spun in the media. Rosie, big, fat lesbian, loud Rosie attacks innocent, pure Christian Elisabeth. And I'm not going to do it." She did continue the discussion with Hasselbeck, though, trying to change the subject to the personal. Hasselbeck did not let up in pressing O’Donnell to clarify what she meant by the original statement. The exchange became quite heated, continued through what should have been a commercial break, and the video of the exchange was replayed all over television and the internet for the following 24 hours.
It is a shame that it took Hasselbeck to ask O’Donnell to clarify the comment. I have previously written about how ABC has acted irresponsibly in letting O’Donnell spout ridiculous 9/11 conspiracy theories and other misleading and incorrect information to viewers of The View for quite a while now. Unfortunately, many in the media will not point out when untrue statements are made about Republicans. In fact, earlier in the same segment in which the now infamous showdown took place, co-host Joy Behar read a list of reasons President Bush should be impeached, including claiming that he “stole the election in 2000,” “killed the surplus with tax cuts” and “lied to us to get us into war.” It is up to conservatives to set the record straight any opportunity they get and regrettably most of them have been too silent for too long.
Myths are born when an untrue statement is repeated frequently enough, and loudly enough, that many come to believe the statement must be true because they have heard it said over and over again, usually with no refutation. For too long conservatives have allowed statements like Bush “stole the election” and “lied us into war” to be repeated with little if any opposition. When outrageous statements are first made it often seems unnecessary to bother refuting claims that are demonstrably untrue. That was the case with the kooky 9/11 “truther” claims that floated around the internet. The claims that the US government played a role in the 9/11 attacks were treated by most as something only tinfoil hat-wearing Bush haters could possibly believe and most (including me) chose not to dignify them by bothering to respond. Popular Mechanics debunked the various 9/11 conspiracy theories in book form, after all, and to most (again including me) it seemed unnecessary to bother pointing out something so obvious.
The truthers did not stop though. They continued to spread the 9/11 conspiracy theories and even enlisted the support of celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Rosie O’Donnell. What has been the result? Recent polls show that “Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know and 26% are not sure." The lesson we should learn from this is that any inaccurate claim that is made, regardless of how outrageous or seemingly unbelievable, must be vigorously refuted as loudly and frequently as possible, getting all available facts into the public arena so that such unfounded theories are not allowed to take hold in the first place. Conservatives cannot depend on those in the media to do this. Too often reporters simply give public figures a microphone to say anything they please, not offering any fact-checking whatsoever.
Rudy Giuliani gained headlines in the most recent GOP presidential debate for pouncing on and refuting Ron Paul’s claim that America invited the 9/11 attacks by “bombing Iraq for ten years.” These kinds of assertions should be vigorously debated, and when appropriate, discredited lest they gain unmerited credence.
In the foreword to the Popular Mechanics book, Debunking 9/11 Myths – Why conspiracy theories can’t stand up to the facts, John McCain wrote: “We cannot let these tales go unanswered. The 9/11 conspiracy movement exploits the public’s anger and sadness. It shakes Americans’ faith in their government at a time when that faith is already at an all-time low. It traffics in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans...it is imperative to confront them with the facts.”
His words are applicable not only to the 9/11 conspiracies, but to other issues. Many in the anti-war movement are now trying to exploit the public’s anger and sadness over the war by spreading distortions and outright lies. Similar tactics have been successful in the past in exploiting the public’s discontent over the economy and other issues. Enough. It is time Republicans spoke out more forcefully and followed the recent example of Elisabeth Hasselbeck who decided enough was enough.