It’s no secret that news reporters distort facts to sell ads and push agendas, but here is a funny example. I was alerted to this by an odd discrepancy in an interview published by Fox News. The headline for the interview read, “Sen. Hatch: ‘Holy War’ Coming Over ‘Lousy’ Health Care Bill.”
Now the quotation marks in the headline led me to believe that Senator Hatch actually said the words “holy war,” but the only time the term comes up in the interview is in the following passage,
HATCH: From now. If they tried to go ahead with this bill without really allowing enough time for amendments and for chances to try and correct the bill, I think the American people are going to be outraged, and they should be.
VAN SUSTEREN: You used the term “holy war” in describing that, right?
HATCH: We’re talking about a country that is really going to be in real economic jeopardy if this bill goes through this way. And let’s just be honest. Those figures are probably low.
Notice that Senator Hatch simply ignored the reporter’s invitation to provide a quote that includes the words “holy war” in it. It seemed strange to me that the reporter would load a question like that unless there was at least some factual basis for it, so I googled the term “senator hatch ‘holy war.’” Sure enough, other news agencies were reporting the phrase as well—there were over 17,000 results. Most of the articles that cited a source for the quote referenced an article published in the L.A. Times.
The relevant portion of the L.A. Times article read, “‘It’s going to be a holy war,’ Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday evening.” (No citation for when or where this was said.)
Reporters love it when public figures say things like “holy war,” because it can be manipulated in so many different ways. Here are a few:
- “Republicans have vowed to fight the legislation at every turn, saying it represents a dangerous expansion in the role of government that would increase taxes and insurance costs for millions of people. ‘It’s going to be a holy war,’”
- “Republicans plan a ‘holy war’ of delaying tactics.”
- “a preview of how Republicans are likely to conduct themselves during the upcoming health care debate”
- “Senator Hatch described his party’s opposition to the bill by saying ‘Its going to be a holy war.’”
- “The Republican response to Senator Harry Reid’s statement that a vote could come as early as Saturday on the health care bill was to declare war. Not just any kind of war, but the crusade kind of war. ‘It’s going to be a holy war,’ said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).”
- “[Hatch] says the battle over the bill is ‘going to be a holy war.’ Hatch said he plans to make it that by using procedural delays”
- “the Utah senator worries that the Democrats may try and use ‘reconciliation,’ a Senate procedural tool in which a majority party can pass a bill while skirting the threat of a filibuster. ‘Democrats are going to wind up in a tragedy,’ says Hatch. ‘Reconciliation is a complete abuse of the rules. It would become a knock-down holy war.’ In coming weeks, Hatch says, he and his GOP colleagues in the Senate will try to avoid that scenario by ‘floating some ideas’ from ‘six Republican plans that might well be considered.’”
- “Republicans Promise ‘Holy War’ To Delay Health Care Bill”
- “The Utah Republican told the Los Angeles Times that the floor debate is “‘going to be a holy war.’”
- “First we have the incredibly dangerous, and totally to be expected Psalm:109:8 fiasco, brought to us by well known theocrats and Anti-American christofascists. As if this isn’t bad enough, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Mormon-Utah) has declared that there will be a ‘Holy War’ against the Presidents [sic] health care reform agenda. WTF? ‘Holy War’???? Does a Senator, who just happens to be a member of a well known discriminatory religious institution really need to be declaring ‘Holy War’ on our President? A man that, just by coincidence, happens to be an African American?”
So I called Orrin Hatch’s D.C. office to ask if he had really used the phrase, “holy war,” and if so, what he had meant by it. I spoke with Mark Eddington who explained that Senator Hatch may have used the phrase in the halls after a hearing and that he was using the term to describe the expected intensity of the floor debate.
So there you have it, news making at its best. No wonder people are confused!
“When many organs of the press adopt the same line of conduct, their influence in the long run becomes irresistible, and public opinion, perpetually assailed from the same side, eventually yields to the attack. In the United States each separate journal exercises but little authority; but the power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America vol I ch 11 (Henry Reeve trans. 1899) (1835).