Scooping the mainstream media

Todd Manzi
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Posted: Mar 07, 2006 12:05 AM

The Associated Press reached a new level of incompetence, and the "news" industry they serve doesn’t seem to care. If you want political opinion, you’ll find it in Associated Press dispatches. If you want news, you might have to read conservative opinion columns.

On February 22nd, Walter Williams, a Townhall.com columnist, scooped the mainstream media. Williams reported that high school teacher Jay Bennish lectured his geography class stating:

1) "[President Bush’s State of the Union Speech] sounds a lot like the things Adolf Hitler used to say."
2) "Bush is threatening the whole planet."
3) "[The] U.S. wants to keep the world divided."
4) "Who is probably the single most violent nation on earth? The United States of America."
5) "[The U.S. has engaged in] 7,000 terrorist attacks against Cuba."
6) "Capitalism is at odds with humanity, at odds with caring and compassion and at odds with human rights."

Not included in Williams’ column is the fact that Bennish also said:

7) "Don’t the Peruvians and the Iranians and the Chinese have the right to invade America and drop chemical weapons over North Carolina to destroy the tobacco plants…?"

8) "Do you see the dangerous precedent that we have set by illegally invading another country and violating their sovereignty in the name of protecting us against a potential future attack?"

9) "You have to understand something. When Al-Qaeda attacked America on September 11th, in their view, they’re not attacking innocent people. Okay? The CIA has an office in the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is a military target. The White House was a military target. Congress is a military target….So, in the minds of Al-Qaeda, they are not attacking innocent people, they are attacking legitimate targets."

Those nine direct quotations (and there are more) came from a high school geography teacher to his class in one 20-minute period.  On March 2nd, eight days after Williams’ column, The Denver Post covered the story. The Post story carried quotes 6, 1 and 4 listed above. It also linked to a tape of Bennish’s lecture recorded by one of his students.

The same day, Sean Hannity and many other talk radio hosts devoted large portions of their shows to the topic, and they played audio clips of the above quotations.

The next day, March 3rd, the story broke in the mainstream media. The Washington Times carried an original article filed by Valerie Richardson. She used the same quotations from Bennish that the Denver Post used. 

At 2:16 a.m. on March 3rd, the AP issued a dispatch on the Bennish story. Their lead paragraph:

"About 150 high school students walked out of class to protest a decision to put a teacher on leave while they investigate remarks he made about President Bush in class, including that some people compare Bush to Adolf Hitler."

None of the Bennish remarks were in the AP’s dispatch. By then end of the day, a Google news search of Bennish generated 302 hits, 107 of which were pick-ups of the above dispatch.

The AP incompetently reported the story and positioned it about students protesting a decision to put one of their teachers on leave because of comments he made about President Bush. The Washington Times correctly reported the story and positioned it as about what a high school geography teacher said to his class.

The Times also correctly reported the topic of Bennish’s diatribe. This is not about what Bennish said about Bush. It’s about what he said about Bush and what he said about capitalism and what he said about U.S. foreign policy and what he said about the War in Iraq and that he sympathetically portrayed our enemy as simply having a different perspective from ours. 

As Walter Williams said back on February 22nd, this story is about "whether there’s anyone who believes that the teacher’s remarks were appropriate for any classroom setting, much less a high school geography class. It’s clear the students aren’t being taught geography. They’re getting socialist lies and propaganda."

On March 3rd, the online version of The Washington Times had the story right while Washington Post Online posted the feeble AP dispatch. What does Mike Snyder, Morning News Editor of Washington Post Online think about the AP story? He declined to comment, because he did not have time to do the research required to issue an informed opinion.

Research required? Anybody who takes fifteen minutes to read the Denver Post article, the Washington Times article, and the AP dispatch should be able to form an opinion.

How about Bruce Koon, Executive Editor of Knight Ridder Digital? He refused to comment also. How do the editors of the 32 daily newspapers he services feel about having their online additions publish incompetent dispatches from the AP? We may never know, editors run and hide when asked about the accuracy or bias of AP dispatches.

I was only able to find one editor with enough spine to go on the record. William Nangle, Executive Editor of the Northwest Indiana Times, said, "The Associated Press had an obligation to provide more detail in this story."

This is not an isolated incident. Sean Allen, the student who recorded Bennish said on the Sean Hannity show that he has received emails from others who have similar stories about the teachers in their schools. 

The AP and the mainstream media control the news. They set the agenda. They determine what will be a story and what will not be a story. They determine how the story will be spun. Nobody is holding them accountable. The MSM would be all over a teacher who made a disagreeable comment about women, gays, minorities or Democrats. But, geography teachers who attempt to indoctrinate their students toward socialism while deriding capitalism get a pass.