Audit Notes: Zombie lies and regular old lies

How misinformation spreads

PolitiFact gives CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo a “false” rating for saying that Obamacare “is turning us into a part-time employment country.”

Now it’s hardy news that Bartiromo got something wrong, but it is interesting to learn how she got it wrong:

We contacted CNBC and they pointed us to a couple of articles on Bartiromo’s behalf. One from Red Alert Politics, a website affiliated with the Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner, gave examples of companies that have said they will shift or might shift to using more part-time help. They said they would do this to avoid the Obamacare rule that firms of 50 or more employees must offer health insurance to anyone working 30 hours or more. The list included White Castle, the hamburger chain, and Trig’s, a Wisconsin supermarket chain. (The rule, which was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, has been delayed by one year.)

Another item was an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. The CEO of a company that owns several fast-food chains, among them Hardee’s, made the claim that the “numbers show” that Obamacare is affecting hiring. The proof? The job numbers that came right after the administration announced in early July a one-year delay of the requirement that all larger employers offer health insurance.

Relying on The Wall Street Journal edit page and Red Alert Politics for facts is a really bad idea. That’s how the zombie lies bounce around the right-wing echo chamber.

— Erik Wemple picks up on another fascinating scoop from David Folkenflik’s new book, “Murdoch’s World”: That Fox News ratfucked Crain’s reporter Matthew Flamm, who was working on a story about CNN beating Fox in a key demographic.

Fox—ostensibly a news organization—planted false information with the reporter, waited for him to run it, then used it to discredit him and his story. Folkenflik:

What the hell had happened? Flamm called the producer at Fox who had given him the errant tip. She was incredulous when he finally reached her. Who are you? she asked him coldly. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Panicked, the reporter sent an email to the Hotmail account from which he had received the original scoop. It bounced back. The account had been shut down. As Flamm and his editors conceded to associates, they should have treated the email as a tip rather than a confirmation. A former Fox News staffer knowledgeable about the incident confirmed to me they had been set up.


VoilĂ  — what was once a story about CNN beating up on Fox News in ratings becomes a story about false information being spread about Fox News. Of the PR operation, Folkenflik tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “They are essentially a political unit appended to something that presents itself publicly as a cable news operation.”

It’s surely a coincidence that Roger Ailes was a Nixon man.

— Remember all the outrage and all the jokes about the lady who got scalded by hot coffee and sued McDonald’s, winning $2.9 million? Yeah, not funny.

Watch the NYT’s Retro Report on how poor reporting by the press was seized by pro-corporate advocates to create a zombie lie that smeared an old woman left with severe burns thanks to McDonald’s repeated, knowing negligence about how its product was unreasonably hot.

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

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,