A strange thing happened during last week’s debate. One of the candidates actually brought up what could be President Obama’s least covered but most controversial on the record stance ever. The candidate was Newt Gingrich and Obama’s stance was against the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act:
After that moment though something a bit more predictable happened. Ben Smith, formerly of Politico and now the head of Buzzfeed’s political reporting operation, immediately tweeted out a defense of President Obama by lumping him in with a larger group of critics:
Obama opposed a “born alive” bill that, critics said, went well beyond banning infanticide (which is already illegal)….
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) February 23, 2012
Knowing full well that the national version of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which was identical in language to the 2003 Illinois version that Obama killed in committee, passed the House without recorded opposition and the Senate by unanimous consent I wasn’t about to let that defense go unchallenged. So I tweeted back to Smith and called him out on what he was saying. Drew M joined in as well and Smith ended up responding.
Smith first claimed that the federal Born Alive Act and the Illinois version that Obama lead the opposition to were not identical. However, when confronted he said that he “misremembered” and changed his defense of Obama to the claim that, though identical to the national bill, the state bill would have a different impact.
This would not be the last time Smith’s arguments changed through the course of our discussion. The next change would come in his defense of the media’s handling of this story. Or, rather, in whether or not the media covered this story much at all.
During an email exchange, brought on by Smith’s request for a link to the transcript of Obama’s speech against the Born Alive Act on the Illinois Senate floor, Smith took two contradictory positions on how the media covered the stance. At first Smith claimed that “this was pretty intensely reported on in ’08” but later, after a detailed exchange about the media coverage, Smith claimed that Obama hadn’t broken with his party and therefore the story “didn’t get much coverage”.
Thankfully Ben Smith has agreed to let me publish our email exchange so others can see exactly how he rationalizes the utter lack of coverage on this story. I think this exchange is informative not only because Smith contradicts himself and reveals inclined he is to defend the president but also because his thinking is, more than likely, shared by many reporters in the liberal media. I highly doubt an exchange like this with most other reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, or CBS News, where they willing to be as honest as Smith was, would have turned out any different.
I have published the transcripts of our email exchange here. I’d urge you to read the entire back and forth to get the full context of our conversation as well as a full understanding of why this issue and the media’s mishandling of it are so important.