Barney Frank on the ‘Right-Wing Propaganda Machine’

Here’s a classic example of how the conservative media smear machine works. In a video less than four minutes long, Rep. Barney Frank describes how the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund lied about him, how that lie was amplified by the right’s media echo chamber, and how, when he called Fund on the lie, Fund admitted he was wrong, but refused to retract.

The following is a transcript of Frank’s February 3 remarks from the floor of the House of Representatives:

Mr. Speaker, I recently got some first-hand experience with the way in which the right-wing propaganda machine operates. The pattern appears to be to begin with a lie and then have that lie multiply through an echo chamber that repeats it and repeats it. In this case, a man named John Fund, who is an editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal, one of the most right-wing of our publications these days on the editorial page, just told a lie about me in November of last year.

He gave a speech at Restoration Weekend–I donâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t know what they were restoring, but it certainly wasnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t respect for the truth–and he said that: “Democrats were rattled by the November 3 election results. What do liberals do when they lose an election? They change the rules. In January, Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank will propose universal voter registration.” It’ll be “felon re-enfranchisement.” “The feds will tell the states, ‘Take everyone on every list of welfare recipients you have, everyone on every list of unemployed you have.'”

It’s a lie; he made it up. Its not even a misinterpretation, it’s not a quote taken out of context, it is a total myth. There is no such bill. There wasn’t in November. But then the right-wing echo chamber picks it up. The Washington Times, the voice of the Reverend Moon, says, “Schumer and Frank have plans to ram through legislation that will produce universal voter registration,” and they say “It’ll be on the floor of the house in two weeks.” It’s the lie repeated.

Glenn Beck joined in, Rush Limbaugh joined in. This begins with a totally fictional accusation by John Fund with no basis whatsoever. It is then repeated by Glenn Beck, and repeated by the Washington Times and repeated by Rush Limbaugh. None of them having checked what we were talking about. None of them seeing if it was accurate. I was asked by the Situation Room, why I had done that? My response was: “Done what? I didnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t do it.” So I checked in on it, I found that the source of this was Mr. Fund’s totally irresponsible myth in November.

So I wrote to Mr. Fund and I will put this letter in there, and said, “I was puzzled to have you say this, I checked, I now write to tell you that you are entirely wrong in your assertion about me and in the absence of your being able to show any basis in which you made such a statement, to ask you to acknowledge that fact.”

He’s not only a liar, he’s a coward. He wouldn’t do it. My staff member, Mr. [Harry] Gural, asked him, called him up and said, “Well, what was this based on?”

He said, “I made a mistake.”

“Well, have you issued a retraction?” Mr. Gural asked him.

“Oh, yeah,” he said.

“Can we see a copy?” Mr. Gural reasonably asked.

“Oh, I, uh, told a couple of people.”

So here we are. Mr. Fund makes it up. It’s a lie. It’s a myth. There was nothing there and it’s to discredit all Democrats, his right cohorts then echo it and echo it. The next you know, it’s going to be coming on the floor of the House in two weeks and people will hear it and it’s all over the blogs: “This is the Democrats’ disregard for the electoral process.”

And when we call Mr. Fund’s attention to the fact that this was a lie, what does he say? “Whoops.” But he’s not going to tell anybody about it.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the only case of this. And I know this has happened before, but because I was directly involved here, I am in a position to document this.

It begins with a lie from this editorial writer from the Wall Street Journal, it is then a lie repeated by all of his right-wing colleagues and then when he is nailed in the lie, he simply blithely refuses to do anything about it. I hope people will take from this the lesson to be very skeptical when these right-wing propagandists, Limbaugh or Beck or the Washington Times or the Wall Street Journal editorial board, propagate these vicious smears.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.