AP: Associated Parrots

Eight days left in the race and the Associated Press still can’t bring itself to go further than he said/she said reporting. Covering Vice President Cheney’s speech in Minnesota today, Pete Yost writes:

The vice president zeroed in on Kerry’s remarks over the weekend about a book he wrote a decade ago titled, “The New War,” declaring that the Democrat has been “sort of burnishing his credentials in the counterterrorism area.”

In the book, Kerry “talks about Yasser Arafat as a statesman … I’ve never looked on Yasser Arafat in quite that light,” Cheney told hundreds of supporters. …

The Kerry campaign said Cheney had taken a sentence in the book out of context.

A logical question occurs (to anyone other than an AP reporter, apparently): Did Cheney take the sentence out of context? But Yost never tells us.

In fact, Cheney did. As Salon noted (and Campaign Desk highlighted) when this issue came up earlier in the campaign, it’s clear in the book that Kerry’s meaning was almost exactly the opposite of what Cheney makes it out to be. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encouraged and emboldened by Yasser Arafat’s transformation from outlaw to statesman …

In other words, Kerry is speaking in dismay, criticizing, not celebrating, Arafat’s transformation from outlaw to statesman, because it has “encouraged and emboldened” terrorists.

A reporter practicing more than stenography would provide Kerry’s actual quote so readers could judge for themselves — something the AP time and again fails to do. In fact, an alert reporter would go further — by making Cheney’s obvious intent to deceive the central focus of its coverage of the event.

Alas, Yost does not qualify.

Zachary Roth

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.