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Fake FEMA press conference no laughing matter
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
By Scott Cavanagh
The national press has had a field day over the past two weeks poking fun at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's fake press conference touting it's own efforts to respond to the California wildfires.
While the prospect of the beleaguered agency going to any lengths to improve it's incredibly tarnished image makes great monologue fodder for Letterman and Leno, it also provides yet another example of the Bush administration's willingness to manipulate both the press and the public with disinformation, propaganda and outright lies.
In honor of The Late Show, here's a Top Ten List of some of the most outlandish examples of the Bushies' habitual pattern of lying to the press and the American people.
#10 The Swiftboating of John Kerry
In August of 2004, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group financed by George W. Bush's biggest Texas campaign donor, began running ads questioning the validity of Democratic nominee John Kerry's Purple Hearts awarded for injuries suffered while captaining a swift boat in Vietnam.
The attackers claimed they served with Kerry and that the Senator lied to receive his awards, but the veterans who accused Kerry were contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen, and by Navy records.
One of the accusers said he was on a boat "a few hundred yards" away during the incident which won Kerry the Bronze Star, but Jim Rassmann, the former Army Lieutenant whom Kerry plucked from the water that day, backs Kerry's account. In an opinion piece in the conservative Wall Street Journal, Rassmann (a Republican himself) wrote that the ad was "launched by people without decency" who are "lying" and "should hang their heads in shame."
#9 Gay porn site model and escort Jeff Gannon poses as reporter
Gannon appeared in the White House press room in 2003, asking the president softball questions that generally ended with attacks on Democrats. When many in the press corps began to question the validity of Gannon's journalistic background and motives, it was discovered that he was really Jeff Guckert -- a mainstay of gay porn and escort sites who went by the name "Bulldog" and had no journalism background. Although the White House denied any special treatment for Gannon, he was given daily passes to White House briefings, where the president -- who referred to him by his first name -- called on him consistently.
#8 Rumsfeld proposes office of disinformation
In a move right out of the playbook of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbles, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld proposed and created something called the Office of Strategic Influence -- a department that's sole purpose was to disseminate disinformation and manipulate public opinion. When the existence of the department was discovered in 2002, Rumsfeld announced that it was in the process of being dissolved.
#7 Bogus story of the death of Pat Tillman
When Tillman, an Army Ranger and NFL star, was killed in action in April 2004, the Pentagon reported that he had died from hostile fire. The White House wasted no time using Tillman's death as a propaganda tool and Tillman himself as a symbol of America's heroic fight against extremists. It was later discovered that Tillman was actually killed by his own troops in a friendly fire incident. Tillman's parents became so frustrated over the conflicting stories about their son's death, they took their case to Capitol Hill, where the last soldier to see Tillman alive told lawmakers that he was warned by superiors not to divulge -- especially to the Tillman family -- that a fellow soldier had killed Tillman.
#6 Bogus story of the capture and rescue of Jessica Lynch
In March 2003, Army Private Jessica Lynch was injured and taken prisoner when her convoy made a wrong turn in enemy territory. After being transferred to an Iraqi hospital, Lynch was eventually rescued and returned to the United States a hero. Her story of fighting until her capture and enduring physical abuse that included rape was so compelling that both a book and TV movie were made about it. The story of Jessica's ordeal became a prime propaganda tool for the Pentagon, which touted the circumstances and heroic nature of her rescue, as well as the brutality of her captors.
Unfortunately, very little of the story was true. As Lynch herself would later testify to in open public hearings, she actually did not fight at all prior to her capture, as she was knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed. Lynch also testified that she received no mistreatment during her time in custody and that her "rescue" actually consisted of concerned Iraqis risking their own lives to turn her over to U.S. forces.
#5 Journalist paid $240,000 to hype "No Child Left Behind"
In 2005, a USA Today feature uncovered the fact that conservative columnist and commentator Armstrong Williams was paid over $240,000 in federal tax money to hype the president's "No Child Left Behind" education program. It is later discovered that fellow conservative pundits Michael McManus and Maggie Gallagher received $10,000 and $21,000 respectively from the Department of Health and Human Services to push Bush's Community Health Marriage Initiative.
#4 Fake White House "video news releases" on network TV
Also in 2005, the Bush administration began distributing what they called "video news releases" to television stations across the country. Packaged as if they were real news stories, the pieces used actors portraying both journalists and citizens. One fake segment about the fall of Baghdad featured actors portraying grateful Iraqis saying things like "Thank you George Bush -- thank you U.S.A." Some of the segments ran in the nation's largest markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit.
#3 Bush administration censors scientific reports
NASA scientist James Hansen accused Bush appointees of censoring global-warming info and limiting press access to top climate experts. George Deutsch, a 24-year-old writer and editor for NASA who had worked for the 2004 Bush re-election campaign, resigned for lying on his resume. Deutsch also made NASA web masters add the word "theory" to every mention of the Big Bang.
#2 Cost of the prescription drug program
In the run-up to passage of the controversial Medicare prescription drug bill, the Bush administration maintained that the cost of the program would be $534 billion over the first ten years. This number seemed extremely low to everyone studying the program, but the Bushies maintained that their cost estimates on the giant drug company windfall were accurate. Within a year of it's passage, administration officials revised their numbers to over 1.2 trillion.
#1 The outing of CIA case officer Valerie Plame
On July 14, 2003, a newspaper column titled "Mission to Niger" by long-time conservative columnist Robert Novak disclosed the name and covert status of Valerie Plame-Wilson, a CIA case officer who worked on Weapons of Mass Destruction issues. Wilson's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, stated in various interviews and writings that his wife's identity was revealed to Novak by members of the Bush administration as retribution for an op-ed he had written for the New York Times questioning the President's claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain nuclear material from the African nation of Niger.
A subsequent Federal Investigation resulted in the indictment and conviction of Scooter Libby, Chief of Staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Immediately following his sentencing, President Bush commuted Libby's sentence, allowing the convicted felon to avoid any jail time.
Scott Cavanagh is president of Midland Avenue Communications and editor/publisher of Bark Back News.
Column copyright 2007 Midland Avenue Communications. Reprints without permission are a violation of Federal Law.