Drudge: The Ellipse as a Tool of Deception

Thursday afternoon, the Drudge Report chimed in with a grossly incorrect headline, “Wes Clark Made Case For Iraq War Before Congress; Transcript Revealed” atop an article designed to distort the General’s position.

In excerpting Clark’s testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on September 26, 2002, Drudge entirely misrepresents the candidate’s remarks.

Drudge quotes Clark’s testimony: “‘There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat… Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He’s had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001… He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn’t have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we.’” [ellipses Drudge’s]

Drudge is using the ellipse as a weapon, with malice aforethought.
Clark’s statement that “Saddam Hussein is a threat” came from his opening remarks to the committee. An ellipse then carries the reader more than 11,500 words later into the transcript to a second quotation. Finally, Drudge uses the next ellipse to jump way back to the beginning of Clark’s testimony. The effect is to make Clark’s testimony sound more frantic than it really is and to incorrectly suggest that Clark had endorsed the war.

The deceptive reporting continues with two final excerpts. The first is drawn from a section in which Clark states that the use of force must remain on the table as a threat, but that all diplomatic measures must be taken before military action proceeds. Drudge’s selective excerpt ends with Clark suggesting that the situation with Iraq has “been a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this.”

Drudge would like you to think that Clark’s thoughts on the subject end there. In fact, only moments later, Clark clearly stated, “but time is on our side in the near term and we should use it.”

Then Drudge leads into the final excerpt with the words, “Clark explained,” implying that Clark’s statements in the final excerpt modified his statements in the previous excerpt. Once again, however, Drudge is cavalierly skipping through Clark’s testimony: There are 3,798 words in-between these two statements — enough to fill four pages of Time magazine.

—Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.