Maddow Heaves NY Times Under the Bus in Ongoing Feud With PolitiFact

Don't hold your breath waiting for any (further) glowing profiles of Rachel Maddow from the Gray Lady. MSNBC's in-house Victorian Gent has upped the ante in her years-long pissing contest with media watchdog PolitiFact, which ran a post critical of Maddow last week at one of its offshoots, PunditFact.

The PunditFact post took Maddow to task for claiming on her June 3 show that the Pentagon "made up" a narrative of Army Private Jessica Lynch as a Ramboesque super-soldier who bravely fought off Iraqi attackers, despite grievous wounds, when her company was ambushed three days after the start of the Iraq war in 2003. (Video after the jump)

Turns out that initial reports about Lynch's vaunted heroism were way off the mark. Contrary to those early stories, and as Lynch has insisted all along, she did not fight back against Iraqi soldiers because her weapon jammed before she could reel off a single shot.

On her show Monday night, Maddow did what she does when challenged -- unleashed a petty barrage while barely containing a facade of forced hilarity. PolitiFact, Maddow claimed, is a "modern plague in the news business," the journalistic equivalent of Prancercise.

"That's what PolitiFact is doing to our country and our news literacy," Maddow claimed. "PolitiFact is to real fact checking what Prancercise is to exercise. You can do it on your own, but don't call it the real word. You can't have the word fact."

Maddow then tried to show how PolitiFact via its PunditFact post was off the mark. For example, Maddow pointed out, the Military Times on April 3, 2003 ran a story about Lynch in which a Navy captain claimed that "we do have very strong indications that Jessica Lynch was not captured very easily. ... Reports are that she fired her (M-16) rifle until she had no more ammunition."

"That information," Maddow said, "straight from a military public affairs official, was not true. It was made up. But it landed in press reports anyway."

Notice the use of "made up" here by Maddow. It would not be the only time she'd say this on Monday.

The New York Times, Maddow then claimed, "also printed a story about Jessica Lynch's rescue that contained made-up information about her supposed heroism, information that was provided to the New York Times by a U.S. Army official."

But the April 2, 2003 Times' story cited by Maddow makes no such mention of any "heroism" from Lynch. This is as close as the story got --

Military officials said shortly after the ambush that Private Lynch's convoy had come under attack from two Iraqi-55 tanks and a company-size unit of foot soldiers believed to be among the fedayeen irregulars, not Iraqi troops, which mounted attacks on advancing allied troops beginning that weekend.

This explains why the only portion of the Times' story specifically cited by Maddow was this -- "An Army official said tonight that Private Lynch had several gunshot wounds." But the fact that Lynch was wounded in the ambush is beyond dispute; the basis for her purported heroism came from Lynch allegedly fighting off Iraqi soldiers until she was captured.

The April 2, 2003 Times story also reported that "it was not clear whether the Special Operations forces had to engage Iraqi combatants to rescue the American soldier." Whether Lynch sustained her wounds in the ambush or rescue remained unclear at that point.

None of this matters to Maddow -- as far as she's concerned, the NY Times blithely "made up" an account of Lynch's "heroism" even though the very story cited by Maddow contains no such reporting.

Is Maddow even dimly aware that the term "made up" has a specific meaning in journalism? Janet Cooke "made up" her Pulitzer Prize-winning account on an 8-year-old heroin junkie named Jimmy -- for which she was fired from the Washington Post and the award returned. Stephen Glass "made up" dozens of stories for The New Republic, a despicable practice repeated several years later by Jayson Blair at the New York Times, both bringing painful and fully warranted embarrassment to their publications.

In her laughable self-righteousness toward PolitiFact, Maddow claims the New York Times manufactured an important detail in its reporting on Lynch -- when in fact it is Maddow who is the fantasist. Look no further for evidence of why MSNBC is the least trusted name in news.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts