Media Malpractice: How One Person's Say So Becomes 'Fact'

Ever wonder how political "facts" become facts? How does a story go from a mere unsubstantiated report to universal truth? Often, it happens with a catchy headline in a report that states as "fact" a claim made by one person even though no one else has been seen backing up the claim. Such may be the case with a recent story on actor Gary Sinise becoming "the savior of the GOP."

Peter Hamby of CNN has decided to make Gary Sinise the new golden boy of the Republican Party. It has all the elements of a good tale: A handsome actor, politically astute and well known for being active is suddenly the "new" face of the party to which he belongs, a man about to save the whole darn shootin' match with his star power. It's a political success story sure to gain big headlines... except for the fact that it basically isn't true.

The CNN headline for this tale trumpets that "Actor Gary Sinise floated as possible GOP savior." Now reading that headline, one might think that a chorus of hosannas from disparate circles has spontaneously launched a Draft Sinise effort. One might also wonder if Sinise has been going about town hinting that he's open for a run at one office or another. But, reading Hamby's report should disabuse anyone of the notion that the headline tries to push.

Instead of Sinise being "floated" as a candidate, the story turns out to be that one person put the actor's name on a political candidate dream list of sorts. Actor Sinise has made no efforts to promote his name for office, there is no PAC formed for him, no group of people actually "floating" his name exists. Simply put, no one but this one person has made any real efforts to get Sinise's name linked to aspirations for political office.

So what is the basis of the "floated" name theory? Hamby supplies this:

Nicolle Wallace, a top adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain’s presidential campaign, is adding a few names to the list of Republicans who might lead the GOP out of the wilderness.

Top among them? Actor Gary Sinise.

One person put Sinise's name unbidden on her list and suddenly Sinise is the "savior of the GOP"? This is not "floating" a name. This is the wild speculation of one person and nothing else.

But, here is where the Old Media gets the ball rolling downhill. People see this false headline and start talking to their friends and neighbors. "Say, did you hear Gary Sinise is running for office?" That turns into, "Yeah, Lt. Dan is running against Obama in 2012!"

One can safely assume that somewhere actor Sinise is going to sit down to his morning paper to suddenly find he is the next Ronald Reagan running to take out the socialist Obama regime! The poor man will probably scratch his head and wonder how in the heck this rumor ever started!

Well, if he would ask me, I'd just point him in Peter Hamby's direction and show him CNN's misleading headline. It doesn't have to be true to be a "fact," you see?