Libtalker Ed Schultz and The Nation magazine's John Nichols could soon be receiving a flood of offers to buy swampland in Florida. Perhaps by then they will each be a bit more skeptical.
Both were among numerous liberals who yesterday took hold of a bogus story by the hook and swam for all it was worth. (audio clips after page break)
The piece, titled "Paul Ryan vs. The Stench," was written by Roger Simon at Politico, "The Stench" referring to Ryan's alleged disparaging nickname for Mitt Romney.
Here's Schultz on his radio show yesterday asking Nichols for his opinion on the matter (audio) --
SCHULTZ: The big question, since you're a Wisconsinite -- is Paul Ryan a disloyal son of a gun? (Nichols laughs manically). I mean, what is happening here? Is he protecting his legacy? Is he protecting his future? I mean, I think this is pretty damn dangerous. I mean, because Romney can still win this election. Here you have a guy, if you believe Roger Simon's reporting, he writes (Schultz quotes from Simon's column), "Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally inhibited, uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus saying things like, 'if Stench calls, take a message' and 'tell Stench I'm having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later." What's happening here, John? I mean, is there getting to be a real unrest within the Romney-Ryan ticket?
NICHOLS: There is no question and Roger, who is a great reporter, uh, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore, worked many, many years, covered a lot of campaigns. He has good ties within the Republican establishment, so nobody should doubt the validity of what he's reporting. I'm hearing similar stuff. Uh, one of the interesting problems that you get is, when you nominate a frat boy, you get a frat boy. And the reality is that part of what Mitt Romney liked about Paul Ryan was that Paul Ryan had a style that Romney understood. It was a frat boy style. Unfortunately, there's not always pure loyalty there. Uh, it was more of a stylistic pick than a real connection.
And what we know is, it goes both ways, that it isn't just Paul Ryan and his aides apparently using the term "stench," as in stench of death, to refer to Mitt Romney. There's also the inner circle of Romney referring disparagingly to Ryan as Gilligan, as in "Gilligan's Island," suggesting he's sort of, you know, a doofus kind of character.
Several minutes later, Schultz asks Nichols about the possibility that Simon's column was intended as satire, Nichols coming across as flat-footed in response (audio) --
SCHULTZ: What if Roger Simon's, uh, story is satire?
NICHOLS (laughs nervously): If it's satire, uh, and I think, I have to say, there's some elements of how Roger wrote that story, had a, I was surprised by some of the style in the writing of it. And it, and it, it had a very loose column-like feel to it. Uh, and so, I think you always have to take that in and recognize it, but ...
SCHULTZ (returning to obliviousness): But how is it satire? I mean, we know that Paul Ryan gave a PowerPoint presentation and the campaign didn't like it.
NICHOLS: And we also know that there's real tension there, uh, between the people around Romney and the people around Ryan. What you're going to see, Ed, and I'll guarantee you this, I will guarantee that in the next few days, this story, this discussion, the discussion you and I are having right now, and in a lot of other places, is going to cause both Romney and Ryan to scramble back to better behaviors ...
SCHULTZ: Yeah ...
NICHOLS: ... because this is so destructive to a campaign. So at the end of the day, uh, I think we've seen, we've gotten a little glimpse from the inside. This is the kind of thing that's usually written six months after the election.
It would have behooved Schultz and Nichols to have read Simon's entire column before weighing in. Here's what Simon wrote at the end --
Author's note: Jonathan Swift did not really want Irish people to sell their children for food in 1729; George Orwell did not really want the clocks to strike thirteen in 1984; Paul Ryan, I am sure, calls Mitt Romney something more dignified than "Stench" and Microsoft did not invent PowerPoint as a means to euthanize cattle. At least I am pretty sure Microsoft didn't.
Later in yesterday's radio show, Schultz assigned one of his producer's, James "Holmy" Holm, to investigate while Schultz stubbornly clung to his delusion that Simon's column was a valid story (audio) --
SCHULTZ: Checking in with Holmy now, let's find out what is coming up on "The Ed Show" tonight (on MSNBC). Loyalty -- how do you define loyalty? This is a big story, it's developing over on the right.
HOLM: Yeah, there are some questions about a story that Roger Simon put out in Politico, quoting sources that say that Paul Ryan refers to Mitt Romney as, quote unquote, The Stench. Now we are tracking this down right now and there is no indication that the story is valid, it might be satire, it might be real. We're getting to the bottom of that. We're digging on that one right now.
SCHULTZ: But we do know that he gave a PowerPoint presentation that the Romney camp was not happy with.
HOLM: There are even some question marks about that at this point.
SCHULTZ (reflexively defensive): Well, you know, Roger Simon, uh, read the article! Does it seem like satire to you?
HOLM: It didn't sound like satire.
By last night just before 9, enough people had been suckered by Simon that an editor's note was placed on top of his column -- "Some readers were confused that this Roger Simon column was satire. Please see Roger's note at the end ..."