Who Needs Facts?

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I’m often asked why the right doesn’t have a muscular online news presence that mirrors the reporting-intensive, fact-heavy websites that have emerged on the left. The explanation is complicated, but one part of the answer is very simple: Most of the right-wing “news” sites have no interest in being journalists. That’s not what they’re about and that’s not what they see as their primary function, which is advocacy.

You see it in the emails from right-wing media outlets (and others) to Gov. Mark Sanford’s office — while he was still “missing” — offering friendly venues for the governor upon his return and ridiculing the critical coverage from other outlets.

The State newspaper in South Carolina, which obtained the emails from the governor’s office through public records requests, has a new batch out this morning, and they’re especially telling in one respect.Among the emails is one (.pdf) from Eric Erickson, the head honcho at RedState. You may remember Erickson’s RedState posts from that time period because they were so hilariously wrong that I flagged them here.

On the evening of June 22, while Sanford was still “hiking the Appalachian trail,” Erickson emails (.pdf) Sanford’s press secretary:

If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help. … Obviously he’s got more than just the usual suspects trying to make hay out of this and we’re big fans.

The next day, June 23, Erickson wrote at RedState:

First, we need to be clear on the facts — not the media speculation:

— Sanford did tell his staff and family where he was going.

— Because he was traveling without a security detail, it was in his best interests that no one knew he was gone.

— His political enemies — Republicans at that — ginned up the media story.

— When confronted by a pestering media, things went downhill.

— Again though, at all times there was no doubt that Sanford’s staff and family knew where he was.

As we’ll all now know, none of that was true. The very next morning, June 24, a reporter busted Sanford at the Atlanta airport, flying in from Argentina after a week visiting, errr, breaking up with, his mistress (which prompted another memorable Erickson post).

The State asked Erickson to comment on his email exchange, and his response captures his own view of his role and function:

I wasn’t trying to be a reporter. I wanted to curtail the story. Well that didn’t work.

For someone like Erickson, the facts are important only insofar as they are in service to the advocacy. The advocacy can exist, as it did here, independent of the facts — or before the facts are even known.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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