We talked earlier about the Daily Caller‘s massive screw-up yesterday, on an important story about the Environmental Protection Agency. I figured the conservative outlet would grudgingly bury some awkwardly-worded correction and move on. I assumed wrong.
To briefly recap, the Daily Caller reported that the EPA is eyeing new greenhouse gas measures, which would in turn ask American taxpayers “to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.” The piece was quickly embraced by the conservative message machine, with Fox News, National Review, and others trumpeting the story.
The problem, of course, is that the story isn’t true. The EPA, which only has 17,000 employees, is specifically “tailoring” its rule so that it won’t have to hire 230,000 officials. It’s right there in the court filings the Daily Caller relied on to publish its bogus piece.
Instead of backing off its obviously-wrong reporting, though, Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is doubling down.
“The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What’s ‘comically wrong’ is the idea that half of Washington won’t admit it. The EPA’s own court filing speaks volumes,” Martosko said in an email.
“What’s more likely: that the Obama administration’s EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it’s interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer,” he added. “The suggestion that the EPA — this EPA in particular — is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I’ve seen since Nancy Grace’s nipple-slip.”
Look, I realize conservative media outlets like to play fast and loose with the facts. I also realize the right’s version of reality is often, shall we say, malleable.
But this is just ridiculous. Martosko is trying to make an argument based on assumptions and evidence-free predictions, and while I’m sure that’s more fun than journalism and abiding by professional ethics, the question here is plainly empirical. The Daily Caller reported — in black and white, and without qualifiers — that the EPA agency is “asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats.” Either that’s true or it’s not. What’s “well known” or perceived as “likely” is irrelevant. The claim is either accurate or it’s inaccurate.
And in this case, what the Daily Caller reported is plainly wrong.
It happens. Media outlets get things wrong. I’ve been a professional writer for a while and I’ve made plenty of embarrassing mistakes. The responsible thing to do is correct the record and try not to do it again.
The conservative media world, though, just doesn’t seem to care. It explains a great deal about why those who rely on outlets like these seem so woefully uninformed about current events.