Condensed From email

" Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem."
-Woody Allen

As Fast As the Speed of Light 

One of the best confirmations of your article on how pundits get it wrong is something that just happened [November, 2010] where the leading pundits in the US were so anxious to believe a rumor that they not only didn't check their facts but didn't consider the absurdity of the rumor.

According to a rumor, President Obama's trip to the East cost $200-million a day, necessitating an accompanying arsenal of 34 warships and an aircraft carrier --- or one-tenth of the U.S. Navy's total fleet. 

The rumor further stated that the President's delegation would total 3,000 people, necessitating renting 870 five-star rooms in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Instantly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glen Beck and other right-wing pundits repeated elements of this account on their radio shows.

Although the purpose of the trip was both diplomatic and to create jobs in the United States, it was referred to by some pundits as "a $200-million dollar a day Presidential vacation."

When asked in a broadcast where Republicans would cut the budget, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, dodged the question and simply repeated the rumor.

Although most of the pundit errors go unchallenged (and are thus believed by millions of voters), this one was so widely circulated and so wrong that it prompted an unusual attempt to set the record straight by Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.  Morrell went on record as saying,

" I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the president’s trip to Asia. That’s just comical. Nothing close to that is being done."
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary

Only Anderson Cooper of CNN bothered to check the facts.  He found that not only was the original source in India not cited, but no one had bothered to verify these rumored "facts" before repeating them to millions of listeners.

Commenting on this, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times said, "All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people’s first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it."

L.R., Sociology Student - Los Angeles, CA

  • Mark Twain said, A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes, and that was before we had broadcast pundits who can get their message completely around the world at the speed of light. -RW

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