Weasel Words

Check out this story that ran Tuesday on Fox News Channel and appears on FoxNews.com under the heading, “Flag on Georgia Plates Irks Environmentalists.”

Correspondent Jonathan Serrie reports:

For years, Georgia has raised money for wildlife protection by selling custom license plates with wildlife scenes. Sales skyrocketed this year for new tags featuring the bald eagle and the American flag.

But some environmentalists say they do not want to contribute to the state’s wildlife protection fund through a flag-waving symbol that they believe will be seen as being linked to President Bush.

Who are these “some environmentalists”? The only one mentioned in the story is a man described simply as “environmentalist Michael Moody.” Moody tells Serrie, “The tag to me said politics, and the wildlife tag shouldn’t be. It should be above the fray. It should be Republican. It should be Democrat. Everyone should be for the environment, and that tag doesn’t say that.”

Campaign Desk called Serrie and asked him who Michael Moody is. He’s the owner of a kayak store, who apparently describes himself as an environmentalist. Had Serrie talked to any other “environmentalists” who agreed with Moody? No, said Serrie, but he added that Moody had told him there were a few.

Campaign Desk is adding the notorious “some” to its list of Weasel Words to Watch For in campaign-related reporting, along with “may” and “may be” and “could” and “could become.” Stay tuned for more alerts, as soon as we perfect our weasel emoticon.

Zachary Roth

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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.