Sarah Palin, Media Critic

The former veep candidate (and journalism major) misleads readers on the WSJ with selective quotes

Aw, shucks.

Sarah Palin is “just a former governor and current housewife from Alaska, but even humble folks like (her) can read the newspaper.”

Reading’s one thing. Comprehending’s another.

Palin makes the unfortunate mistake of slapping back at Wall Street Journal reporter Sudeep Reddy for calling her out for what he called “hyperbole” in a speech Palin made to the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association convention in Phoenix.

She gets it wrong again. It was indeed hyperbole.

I noticed her remarks separately and also called out Palin in Audit Notes this evening for the inflation error. I was amused by the whole Sarah Palin Takes on QE2 thing just on its face, but also noted that she got a couple of facts wrong in her post (including another one about energy independence). She said this, which Reddy also picked up on:

All this pump priming will come at a serious price. And I mean that literally: everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher.

That’s just not the case. As I pointed out yesterday, food prices have risen just 1.4 percent in the last year, which is about as insignificant as it gets. Reddy put it even better:

Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact. The consumer price index’s measure of food and beverages for the first nine months of this year showed average annual inflation of less than 0.6%, the slowest pace on record (since the Labor Department started keeping this measure in 1968). Even if you pick a single snapshot — say, September’s year-over-year increase in prices — that was just 1.4%, far better than the 6% annual increase for food prices recorded in September 2008.

Palin (or whoever’s writing her stuff) tries to pull an “aha!” moment on the ol’ “lamestream media,” but just makes herself look worse.

Mr. Reddy takes aim at this. He writes: “Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact.” Really? That’s odd, because just last Thursday, November 4, I read an article in Mr. Reddy’s own Wall Street Journal titled “Food Sellers Grit Teeth, Raise Prices: Packagers and Supermarkets Pressured to Pass Along Rising Costs, Even as Consumers Pinch Pennies.”

The article noted that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants…Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months.”

What that WSJ article said—which you can in fact discern even from her selective quoting—is that food prices may be beginning to rise. And when I say selective quoting, I mean selective quoting. Note where the ellipsis in her WSJ quote there. That’s from the lede of the story, which says, in full:

An inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants,threatening to end the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades.

So, Palin is hammering the Journal and Reddy for pointing out that she’s flat wrong about grocery prices going up significantly in the past year. What does she do? She quotes a separate Journal story that confirms what Reddy is saying—and cuts out that part with three dots. Nice!

Palin has a journalism degree, so I’m guessing she knows what an ethical no-no it is to misquote somebody like that. It ought to be awfully hard for her to get on her pedestal and condemn the media when she can’t even quote somebody honestly. How about to make it up to Reddy, Palin lets a real reporter like him fly out to Wasilla to interview her for once instead of going to her house folks at Fox News?

Maybe they can talk about the possible wave of food inflation coming our way.

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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: , , ,