Failure to heed Rush Limbaugh's Thursday warning relating to another matter ("If I were you, I would regard every AP story, particularly this year, as nothing more than a propaganda piece for the reelection of Barack Obama") is allowing the Associated Press to perpetuate what I demonstrated on Friday is a totally unsupported falsehood concerning a statement made by presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
What Santorum said was a clearly conditional statement (full context and here): "If you’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future." Here is what the AP's headline writers and the wire service's Will Weissert twisted things on Friday (saved here at host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes):
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Santorum: Might As Well Have Obama Over Romney
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday said Republicans should give President Barack Obama another term if Santorum isn’t the GOP nominee and for a second day compared rival Mitt Romney to an Etch A Sketch toy.
Conservatives and Republicans may not like what Santorum actually said, but that's not the issue at this blog. The issue is whether what AP wrote is correct. The answer is that there's no conceivable way you can stretch what Santorum said into what the AP's Weissert wrote. As I noted on Friday: "the statement is conditional, and that if Romney can demonstrate that he is more than 'a little different,' Santorum's concern is no longer valid."
As expected from a news organization which, as Rush asserted, seems dedicated to the reelection of Barack Obama over virtually everything else, the AP's Kasie Hunt doubled down on Saturday in her report (also saved at host) from Louisiana:
Rick Santorum is looking to Louisiana for a much-needed rebound as Republican voters go to the polls Saturday in the state's GOP primary.
The former Pennsylvania senator is expected to do well in the contest, just a handful of days after a decisive loss to front-runner Mitt Romney in Illinois on Tuesday.
... Santorum spent much of Friday on the defensive, explaining comments he made earlier in the week and insisting he would support the eventual GOP nominee. Still, Santorum says there are similarities between front-runner Romney and Obama that make them indistinguishable on some issues. He caused an intraparty uproar earlier in the week after suggesting he'd prefer a second term for Obama over a Romney presidency.
"Over my dead body would I vote for Barack Obama," Santorum said as he walked back his original comments less than 24 hours before Louisiana polls were set to open.
Santorum never suggested anything of the kind, but Hunt and AP appear to want his non-existent "suggestion" (note how she "cleverly" moved away from "said") and his non-existent "walkback" to become part of Campaign 2012 folklore. Unfortunately, many center-right pundits and outlets, either because they allowed themselves to be deceived without going to the tape or because they can't resist the chance to cynically bash a candidate who isn't their guy, have parroted what the AP has written. They should know better to presumptively believe anything the AP writes, especially about Republicans and conservatives (and in some cases I believe they do know better, but went ahead anyway).
Santorum, with understandable hyperbole considering the circumstances, characterized the AP's smear as "the hatchet job of all time" in an interview with Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Friday.
Whether or not Romney is more than "a little different" from Barack Obama is a matter for debate -- and it's not as if the cause for having the debate doesn't exist. There are more than a few conservatives who have followed Mitt Romney since his gubernatorial term in Massachusetts who have cited at least a dozen current and historical examples (best compilations are here and here) of where the differences between Romney and Obama are from all appearances either small or non-existent. There is one update to an assertion at the second link: RomneyCare currently has abortions with no copay, not the $50 copay cited.
If the candidate can't explain them away or acknowledge and apologize for having made serious mistakes, then the concern about whether or not he is more than "a little different" from Barack Obama will remain a topic subject to debate.
What isn't open to debate is that the Associated Press has brazenly deceived its news users and subscribing outlets, and has shown yet again why it completely deserves to be called the Administration's Press -- or perhaps even better (partial HT to a NewsBusters reader), the Administration's Propagandists.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.