The Mischievous Dana Milbank

March 8th, 2006 2:24 PM
Syndicated columnist and American Spectator editor in chief R. Emmett Tyrrell describes what Washington Post "columnist" Dana Milbank did, and what the paper's ombudsman did, when Milbank got the facts wrong about a debate at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month. Tyrell chaired a debate between former congressman Bob Barr and former Justice Department official Viet Dihh on the merits and drawbacks of the president's eavesdropping program.

A report on the debate by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post proved to be clearly inaccurate, even mischievously inaccurate. Consequently, as it was a panel I presided over, I wrote a clarifying letter to the editor, sending a copy to the paper's Ombudsman. Mainstream media have created the quaint position of the Ombudsman out of concern for journalistic "ethics." My letter has never been printed, and the Ombudsman's response was another example of the liberal journalists' weirdness.

Here is the unpublished letter: "Dana Milbank's report of the Conservative Political Action Conference's debate on civil liberties, moderated by me, is inaccurate in matters large and small. Large: it is not true that 'the crowd was against' former congressman Bob Barr's libertarian criticism of the Bush Administration's surveillance policies. Both Bob and I considered the audience pretty evenly divided. There exists considerable disagreement among conservatives on this issue, as has been widely reported. Small: I am not 'a conservative publisher' but rather the editor in chief of The American Spectator, a position I have held for nearly 38 years. As such, I have been interviewed by Milbank in the past, and my last name has not one 'r' but two. Milbank botched my middle name as well. The American Spectator's publisher is Al Regnery whose name is easier to spell."

The Ombudsman's odd response was to e-mail me that she was sending the letter to her "national editor to see about correcting your name." Of course, the burden of my complaint was that Milbank was playing sophomorically with the facts of the event and misleading his readers "in matters large and small." That is what mainstream media, and Ombudsmen, in particular, are supposed to be concerned about. Several days later, in the paper's "Corrections" section, here is what was printed: "The Feb. 11 Washington Sketch misspelled the name of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., the editor in chief of the American Spectator."

As I say, there is often something smug and secretive about these journalists. The above "correction" hid the real issue regarding the Milbank report. Even its identification of me was cryptic, evading the initial misidentification of me. Such Byzantine maneuvering goes on all the time in the "mainstream media," which is why they have lost the trust of so many Americans. Once a news organization has lost the public's trust it has very little to offer.