‘Liberal media’ conspiracy theories rarely pan out

During his jobs speech the other day, President Obama made a point about one of the common threads of American history — the belief that “we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.” He pointed to a Republican icon to drive the point home.

“We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union — founder of the Republican Party,” the president said. “But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad, launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.”

PBS, on Thursday night, published the text of the speech, without the phrase “founder of the Republican Party.” And if you’ve read any prominent far-right sites over the last couple of days, you know that this has caused quite a stir. Here, for example, is the image that greeted readers of Fox News’ Fox Nation.

A wide variety of conservatives got pretty worked up over this, alleging two misdeeds: (1) Obama got the history wrong, because Lincoln was not the “founder” of the Republican Party; and (2) PBS engaged in a cover up by publishing the text of the speech without the mistake.

Even for the right, this is all terribly silly.

On the first point, “founder” was probably the wrong word to use, but if the Republican National Committee is willing to identify Lincoln as someone who “helped establish the Republican Party” in 1854, then Obama’s choice of words is hardly worth getting excited about.

On the latter point, there is no media conspiracy. PBS published the text of the speech as it was written, and the line wasn’t part of the prepared text. Its omission wasn’t a cover-up; it’s just that Obama ad-libbed the line. Later, when there was a transcript of the speech as it was delivered, PBS updated the text.

This is what sends conservative bloggers into a tizzy? They’re so desperate to find elusive evidence of a liberal media that they head for the fainting couch because PBS ran a text of a speech as it was written and then updated it when a more accurate version was available?

Indeed, conservatives said PBS “mysteriously” updated the website, as if PBS scrambled when caught by these eagle-eyed conspiracy theorists. In reality, as PBS explained, “The original transcript provided on this page, as was noted, reflected the president’s remarks as prepared for delivery and released by the White House. This transcript has been updated to reflect the remarks as delivered and released by the White House.”

And yet, countless conservatives were genuinely convinced they’d stumbled onto dramatic evidence of a media cover-up.

How very weak. If this is what counts as “evidence” of a liberal media, the right appears to be proving the opposite of their intended point.