Maddow Corrects Bogus Claim, Parrots Another

MSNBC resident Victorian gent Rachel Maddow must have felt so dutiful for correcting an inaccurate statement by one of her guests.

Which made it all the more amusing that Maddow during the same show perpetuated a hoary media myth created two decades ago. (video after page break)

On Maddow's show Thursday night, Salon.com news editor Steve Kornacki described a photo making the rounds of Mitt Romney on an airport tarmac allegedly getting a shoeshine --

KORNACKI: ... for instance, there's a picture making the rounds today, you know, the shoeshine on the tarmac. I don't know if you saw this one. (Maddow shakes her head) He was, I don't know where this came from but he's sitting in front of an airplane and I think it might be a corporate jet and he's wearing his suit and he's getting a shoeshine and he's got a big smile on his face.

MADDOW: He's not shining his own shoes, somebody else is ....

KORNACKI: No, he is getting a shoeshine!

MADDOW: Ah!

KORNACKI: And we put this on, we put this on Salon earlier today, I'm not sure we're it originated (The Onion, Photoshop Funnies, wherever ...) but, you know, look, it never looks good for a politician to be getting a shoeshine, you know, on a tarmac, but it looks terrible when it's Mitt Romney and this is your image and this is your background. And it looks even worse when it's the year 2012 and the economy's in such a bad place and the Democrats are going to be going after your party for being the one that sort of favors the people that get shoeshines on tarmacs!

Close but no cigar, as Monica said to Bill. Later in the show, Maddow was forced to correct Kornacki on this, but as to be expected of an upright Victorian gent, she refrained from mentioning Kornacki's name --

Um, in discussing Mr. Romney's potential image problem (photo of Romney on tarmac shown) as a patrician figure, a man of privilege, we did not show this picture but our guest described this picture which has been circulating heavily on the Internet today. He described it as showing Mr. Romney sitting on a tarmac appearing to get his shoes, shoes shined. Uh, I had not seen this picture before our guest mentioned it but apparently it has been everywhere today.

The thing is, this is important to note, this is not a picture of Mitt Romney getting his shoes shined. The scene, which was photographed at an airport in San Diego in 2008, shows Mr. Romney actually being wanded as part of getting cleared by security. Now, he is outdoors, he is on a tarmac and the wider shot shows that he does appear to be sitting in front of what appears to be a private jet, which is not how most people get security-screened, but still, it is a picture of him getting security-screened, not a picture of him having his shoes shined.

Shoeshine, security screen, whatever. A variation of Dan Rather trumpeting those false but accurate records on George W. Bush's service in the National Guard.

First they came after corporate jets, now it's shoeshines, at least for the well-heeled. Do liberals ever think it through before they demonize? Bad enough the only tangible result of their assault on corporate jets was, predictably enough, layoffs at a company that build these aircraft. To the extent this photo of Romney endures in the public domain, thanks to liberals keeping it on life support, can there by any doubt it will mean less money for those hardly affluent, hardworking souls providing shoeshines at airports, train stations and bus depots across the nation?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't shoeshines for people like Romney provide a direct transfer of wealth between the one and 99 percent? Alas, this occurs without government intervention, but liberals like Maddow and Kornacki would prefer that it not occur at all, thereby perpetuating the income inequality they otherwise claim to hate.

Or is it simple a matter of shoeshines looking inherently bad? In other words, go ahead and get one, especially with a job interview or big date looming, but don't get photographed while you're at it. In a world where every cell phone is a camera and shoeshine stands invariably situated in public places, this would be all but impossible. Whatever -- those people now paid to provide shoeshines can receive jobless benefits and food stamps instead, which as any liberal is quick to point out are unrivaled for their stimulative effect on the economy, far more than honest labor in the private sector.

This wasn't so much a correction from Maddow as it was an ideological echo. And earlier in the show, Maddow perpetuated one of the most threadbare liberal myths around, that of the elder Bush allegedly never having seen a supermarket scanner until he was running for re-election in 1992 --

MADDOW: The perception of George Herbert Walker Bush as patrician and cold and out of touch was partly stuff that he did, like flunking that question in that debate. But it was partly also who he was and how who he was showed up on the campaign trail.

VOICEOVER FROM 1992 CAMPAIGN DOCUMENTARY "FEED": The president also got a chance to see a supermarket checkout scanner in action. Kinda seemed as though he had never really seen one of those before and the president said that he was amazed.

MADDOW (parroting voiceover): The president said he was amazed! To this day, don't you wonder if any member of the Bush family has ever bought groceries for him- or herself?  Like, do they all try to do that now so they don't get trapped in the same way he did?

Only someone living through an actual or ideologically-induced coma could not be aware this fraudulent meme was discredited long ago. As NewsBuster Clay Waters wrote in June 2009 after the New York Times made a similar attempt to revive the Bush-scanner legend, "even the left-leaning myth-busters at Snopes.com debunked the incident as a gross exaggeration." Waters proceeded to quote Snopes.com on the incident --

Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times (who wrote first story in 1992 campaign citing Bush's encounter with the scanner as indicative of Bush as out of touch) hadn't even been present at the grocers' convention (where Bush was shown the scanner). He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, Gregg McDonald of the Houston Chronicle, who merely wrote that Bush had a "look of wonder" on his face and didn't find the event significant to mention in his own story.  Moreover, Bush had good reason to express wonder: He wasn't being shown then-standard scanner technology, but a new type of scanner that could weigh groceries and read mangled and torn bar codes.

Maddow reminds me of the desperately ambitious aspiring news anchor Suzanne Stone played by Nicole Kidman in the 1995 flick "To Die For." "What's the point of doing anything worthwhile," Stone asks, "if nobody's watching"? Why risk doing anything that can be distorted beyond recognition, Maddow warns, when everybody's watching? As always, style trumps substance at MSNBC.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts