The Left has been making quite a bit of conspiratorial hay over the following paragraph Eric Lipton wrote at the New York Times on February 21 (“Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute”) about the alleged degree of involvement Koch family members have allegedly had in the Wisconsin public-sector union showdown:
Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday.
Notice something missing? How about quotation marks? Their absence is not an accident.
“Mr. Phillips” is Tim Phillips, President of Americans For Prosperity. Tim Phillips claims never to have said what Eric Lipton claims he “said” or anything close to it. (At least one leftist outlet dutifully added quote marks around “had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown” despite the original’s lack thereof.)
In response, John Hinderaker at Powerline e-mailed Mr. Lipton in search of a resolution. His e-mail read, in part:
I was struck by the fact that the most controversial statement you attributed to him was not a quote: “Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday.”
As you probably are aware, Mr. Phillips denies making any such statement to you. Since you didn’t put the statement in quotes, it apparently was not exactly what Phillips said. So my question is, what record do you have of the interview with Mr. Phillips? Did you record it? Did you take notes? If so, would you be willing to share your notes or recording with me? As you may know, the statement you attributed to Mr. Phillips has attracted a good deal of attention, and it would be worthwhile, I think, to determine what record you have of what he actually said.
Four days later, Lipton responded to Hinderaker. Readers should go Hinderaker’s Monday post at Powerline to read Lipton’s entire pathetic response. To me, the most telling point about it is that the word “Koch” never appears therein.
Here is Lipton’s rancid wrap, as relayed by Hinderaker:
What I wrote about what Mr. Phillips accurately reflects our conversation. Moreover, these blog posts on the Americans For Prosperity in Wisconsin’s Web site, buttress the remarks he made to me.
I hope this answers your questions.
… while Lipton assures us that his characterization was accurate, he is able to quote in support only these statements from his notes:
“We encouraged this effort at pension reform. This is one critical budgetary way to do it,” Mr. Phillips said. “We thought it was important to do.”
We can assume that the words Lipton quoted are the best he has in his notes, the sentences that he relies on to justify his claim that AFP “worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown.” You be the judge: is “We encouraged this effort at pension reform. This is one critical budgetary way to do it. We thought it was important to do” the same as: AFP “worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown?” I don’t think so.
I think Lipton stands convicted of exactly the conduct Phillips suggested. He wanted to write a story about how an organization supported by the Koch brothers was secretly fomenting a “showdown” with Wisconsin’s unions. Phillips wouldn’t tell him that because it wasn’t true, but Lipton wrote the story that way anyway, because without it he had nothing newsworthy.
Eric Lipton and the New York Times owe Tim Phillips, Americans For Prosperity and Charles and David Koch an apology, and they owe their readers a correction.
Don’t expect either. Functioning as a leftist propagandist pretending to be an objective news reporters means never having to say you’re sorry. And there’s a mythical meme about a vast right-wing conspiracy that must be maintained at all costs.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.