The Frost Story

Bloggers portray a different "reality"

The fight over a bill calling for a $35 billion increase in funding for the SCHIP program, (passed by both houses of Congress and vetoed by the president last week), which helps states insure uninsured children in need, has been ugly, but over the past few days, it got a whole lot uglier.

The kickoff to the latest round of partisan bloodletting came after congressional Democrats trotted out twelve-year-old Graeme Frost—whose uninsured family made use of the program after he suffered brain injuries in a car crash—to give the response to the president’s weekly radio address on September 29. Right-wing bloggers went apoplectic over the nakedly political stunt, staking out the Frost’s home, e-mailing and calling the parents, dropping by the father’s place of business, and claiming that the Frosts aren’t poor enough to deserve the state’s help with health insurance.

Scenes like this have become familiar in the blogosphere over the last few years, with the truth often getting lost in the partisan barrage of charge and countercharge. Some of the charges that right-wing bloggers have leveled include that the Frost’s home was worth half a million dollars, that the family pays $20,000 a year, apiece, for two of their children to attend a private school, that the Frost’s neglected to get health insurance even though it’s cheap and easy to do, and that Mr. Frost, as the owner of a business, could insure his family though his business.

Now, there’s something to these charges, but as usual when it comes to blogospheric fury, the full truth doesn’t always match the charges. At issue here is a piece by blogger and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who almost always manages to get herself in the middle of fights like this, and a story that ran in The New York Times this morning. Looking at the two together is an excellent way to compare straight reporting with the ideological bent given every story by bloggers like Malkin. (For the record, I’m not saying the left doesn’t do this—it does, and it’s something CJR is going to be paying particular attention to during the upcoming election season.)

Malkin published her account of the Frost story in her syndicated column today, and in plugging the piece on her blog late last night, neglected to correct the mistakes that by then she knew she had made, thanks to the Times’s reporting. Malkin writes in her column that the Frost’s home is “now worth an estimated $300,000,” and while the father owns his own business, he “chose not to buy health insurance.”

The Times piece either contradicted many of the “facts” in Malkin’s story, or at the very least added relevant context that Malkin left out.

The house, far from being worth half a million, as some bloggers claimed, or even the $300K that Malkin claimed, is actually “now worth about $260,000, according to public records.” While Malkin says that Frost “chose not to buy health insurance,” the Times reports that “the Frosts said they had recently been rejected by three private insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions.”

As for the charges by other bloggers that Frost could get insurance for his family though his business, the Times reports that the business was actually dissolved in 1999. So, that’s the dread MSM’s take. And while many conservative bloggers like Malkin have said that they’re satisfied that the Times’ story is “fair,” it seems that it isn’t fair enough to get them to admit that they’ve been wrong about some key parts of the Frost story.

But then again, blogging means never having to say you’re sorry.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.