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NYT: Partisans Adopt Deceit as a Tactic for Reports

By FZ - Posted on 14 March 2011

March 11, 2011- The reporter in disguise has largely faded from mainstream American journalism. But the tactic is alive and well in the hands of passionate partisans.

As their pursuit of the “gotcha” moment has become part of the cost of life in the public eye, one question is how willing politicians will be to advance their agendas on the backs of these muckrakers 2.0.

In just the last month, surreptitiously recorded conversations have embarrassed NPR and Planned Parenthood, organizations long under assault from conservatives, as well as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican and target of the political left for his anti-union stance.

The latest episode came this week, when the conservative provocateur James O’Keefe released a video that included an NPR fund-raiser who makes disparaging remarks about the Tea Party. This led to the resignation of the radio network’s chief executive, Vivian Schiller.

So far, politicians have been quick to celebrate the ends even as they tiptoe around the question of whether the means are appropriate.

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, has limited his comments to calling for an end to federal financing for NPR. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican majority leader, issued a statement saying, “This video clearly highlights the fact that public broadcasting doesn’t need taxpayer funding to thrive.”

Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, also cited the O’Keefe video specifically in talking to The Daily Caller about cutting funding for public broadcasting. “Their arrogance and condescension,” he said, is “just amazing.”

None of the three mentioned Mr. O’Keefe by name.

When asked about Mr. O’Keefe’s tactics, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cantor was circumspect: “Congressman Cantor has been working to find ways to cut spending so that people can go back to work.”

Political strategists express worry that this sort activity has been creeping into campaigns for some time now. But the fact that they can so often have a political benefit leaves many torn.


Mark Crispin Miller
Progressive Democrats of America