Alterman Continues Record of Playing Fast and Loose With the Truth

Eric Alterman’s new book on Why We're Liberals isn’t just plagued with errors, it makes wild charges, like attacking conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, suggesting she was anti-Semitic for cheering on the movie The Passion of the Christ. In a chapter about how conservatives mock the elites, when they themselves are rich and pampered, Alterman wrote about conservatives: "In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti-Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing." From pages 173-74:

In observing the members of the conservative elite denouncing "elitists, it can be difficult to tell your players without the proverbial scorecard. For instance, the radio talk-show host and former conservative cable host Laura Ingraham has written an entire book about the dangers posed by liberal elites, entitled Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the Media Are Subverting America. In it, this daughter of a Connecticut lawyer, and graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, who now lives in an expensive home in Washington D.C., distinguishes between liberal elitists and those whom she terms "true Americans."

She begins her treatise by explaining who these "elite Americans" are and what they think: "They think we’re stupid. They think our patriotism is stupid. They think our churchgoing is stupid. They think having more than two children is stupid. They think where we live – anywhere but near or in a few major cities – is stupid. They think our SUVs are stupid. They think owning a gun is stupid. They think our abiding belief in the goodness of America and its founding principles is stupid."

In Ingraham’s case, as in many others, one detects a strain of anti-Semitism in her insistent elite-bashing. During the flap over Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ – more about which below – Ingraham announced: "I want to see any more that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy." Presumably Ingraham did not mean to imply that this "anti-Christian elite" was mostly made up of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, or Scientologists.

Alterman is doing here what his Media Matters colleague Paul Waldman constantly accuses conservative media critics of doing: reading someone's mind. Conservatives can quickly suggest that Hollywood's elite has a few Scientologists (from Tom Cruise on down) pagan goddess-worshippers (Susan Sarandon), and lots and lots of Christian-bashing comedy writers, like the Comedy Central clique, many of whom are former Christians with no Jewish ancestry.

Oddly enough, on page 175, Alterman turns to bashing John Podhoretz, Michael Ledeen, and Bernard Goldberg, who allegedly "wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a ‘prison bitch.’"

Once again, Alterman is wildly exaggerating. In one sentence in his book Bias, Goldberg suggested Dan Rather ran most of CBS: "If CBS News were a prison instead of a journalistic enterprise, three-quarters of the producers and 100 percent of the vice presidents would be Dan’s bitches."

Not only does the phrase "prison bitch" not appear in the book, Goldberg is referring to CBS News as a "bitch," not Rather. Alterman's inaccuracy doesn't end there, though. His footnote for Ingraham’s quote on the "Passion" is a Reason article by Cathy Young at the time of the movie’s release, which doesn’t quote Ingraham directly:

Few people worry about an outburst of violent anti-Semitism in the United States. But in its own way, the attitude of some champions of "The Passion" is troubling. A few seem positively gleeful about the distress caused by the movie -- and quite in-your-face about it. "I want to see any movie that drives the anti-Christian entertainment elite crazy," conservative commentator Laura Ingraham has been quoted as saying.

That’s a slimy charge by Cathy Young, too, suggesting Ingraham seems gleeful about "distress," as if she wouldn’t mind an "outburst of violent anti-Semitism," something that never happened as fans of The Passion emerged silently from the theaters.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis