David R. Henderson  

Consider the Substance

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In Econlog's sister blog, Online Library of Law & Liberty, Lauren Weiner makes an important distinction. Left wing pundit David Corn has accused Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly of exaggerating in telling about his experience in Argentina during and after the Falklands War. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt went after Corn.

Lauren Weiner writes:

David Corn, coauthor with Daniel Schulman of the Mother Jones article, was questioned at length by the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. In a telephone interview, Hewitt challenged Corn's credibility in two ways, trying to establish a political motive and a personal motive for why he would attack Bill O'Reilly. In lawyerly fashion, Hewitt probed for evidence of what everyone who is familiar with David Corn already knows: that he's on the political Left and disdains O'Reilly's conservative views. Along with suggesting that O'Reilly's scalp was being sought purely as a tit-for-tat for the mainstream (read: liberal) media casualty over at NBC, Hewitt injected the fact that David Corn had been a paid commentator on Fox but was let go. The implication was that he bore a personal grudge against the cable channel.

Ms. Weiner adds:
Sympathize with Hewitt though I often do, and find fault with Corn though I often do, I came away thinking that this interview did not get to the heart of the matter. Whether or not the political and personal motives that Hewitt discerned were there, what if the Mother Jones article nonetheless contained a grain or maybe more than a grain of truth?

She ends the piece beautifully:
When the debate heats up, and the cry is raised, "Consider the source!"--we ought to consider more than the source. We ought to consider the substance.


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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Ray Lopez writes:

Well, not much you can say here. In law, you cross examine both to impeach the witness ('consider the source') as well as find faults with the witness's testimony ('consider the substance'). Here in the Philippines, it's one of the toughest countries to be a journalist in: journalists are routinely assassinated for critical stories (aside from celebrity paparazzi news). A runner-up is Russia. So be thankful you live in the USA if you like free-for-alls.

Mark V Anderson writes:

Thank you David. Far far too often one doubts another one just because they are on opposite teams. I would hope that most of us would be skeptical of both sides, but also not reject reporting out of hand just because it matches a familiar theme.

Of course the particular subject they are talking about is silly anyway. I really don't care if newscasters build their macho credentials through exaggerated daring do; it doesn't affect their credibility of talking about third parties.

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