The Politico Story on Thompson is Wrong (Update: Not Just Wrong. Really, Really Wrong)

| December 19, 2007 | 30 Replies

From Dan Riehl we have this story about an allegedly less-than-stellar campaign stop for Fred Thompson. I say “allegedly” because there’s at least one large portion of the story that did not happen as written. Here’s the bit in question.

Inside [the fire station], Thompson shook a few hands — there were only about 15 people there — and then Chief Dan McKenzie handed Thompson the chief’s fire hat so Thompson could put it on.

Thompson looked at it with a sour expression on his face.

“I’ve got a silly hat rule,” Thompson said.

In point of fact, the “silly” hat was the one Chief McKenzie wore to fires and I am guessing none of the firefighters in attendance considered it particularly silly, but Thompson was not going to put it on. He just stood there holding it and staring at it.

To save the moment, Jeri Thompson took the hat from her husband’s hands and put it on her head.

“You look cute,” Thompson said to her. She did.

Wow. That looks like Thompson is every bit the curmugeonly old man his opponents (and some MSM outlets) are painting him as. It also looks, if the report is true, that Thompson is just a little bit clueless.

Except the account, as written, is wrong. More after the jump.

Note the bits of the story I put in boldface. Now watch this video of the “silly hat” moment (via Jonathan Adler).

Did you see him standing with “a sour expression on his face” and just holding the hat and “staring at it” or did you see what I saw – a guy with a bit of a smile cracking a joke and getting a good amount of laughter for a crowd of “only about 15 people”?

Did you see his wife take the hat from him and put it on herself? If you did, you’re watching a different video than I. He pretty clearly put the hat on his wife’s head. She couldn’t take the hat from him because her hands were full with her own hat, among other things.

I’m wondering if Roger Simon actually saw what he reported at all. If he did, he sure as heck didn’t write what happened. He wrote what he wanted to write, which coincidentally made Fred Thompson look really, really bad.

That’s the worst part of the story. The rest of it reads a whole lot like spin, or maybe just sour grapes, instead of actual news reporting. Perhaps Simon was peeved that Thompson’s people didn’t let him sit on on his meeting with the local newspaper editor. I would think, though, that Simon would have let his professionalism overcome his evident peevishness. At the very least he could have reported what happened instead of sticking his own opinion into the story and calling it news.

UPDATE: On watching the video again, I realized that Simon got Thompson’s quote wrong also. He left out half of it. As the chief is handing him the fire helmet, Thompson clearly says, “I’ve got a silly hat rule, that I’m about to violate”. Then he laughs, several times. He even puts a little pump-fake up there, as if he’s going to put the hat on but stops as his wife comes up and volunteers for hat duty.

I really don’t know what event Simon saw, but it wasn’t the one that’s on that video.

I also want to note here that the Roger Simon who wrote the article is not the Roger Simon from Pajamas Media. He would have gotten the facts right.

Also, I shuffled around a couple links, so the original Politico story is linked along with Dan Riehl’s post.

UPDATE 2: An Instalanche and an Allahlanche! (Note to my hosting service: Throw more coal on the servers, stat!) Thanks also to Bill Quick and Stop the ACLU. While y’all are here, why not read a bit about how the President doesn’t quite hate science as much as we’re told, why Harry Reid’s no fun to kick around anymore, Mike Huckabee’s made-up history, and a little rumination over creating life. Comments and repeat visits are always welcome! Oh, and if you’re hankering to pick up that last little Christmas gift, do me a solid and click the Amazon links here. If you buy, I get a bit of schmundo. Thank you very much.

UPDATE 3: I sent Mr. Simon a comment through his site at The Politico. The text follows:

Mr. Simon,
My name is Jimmie Bise, Jr and I write at a weblog called The Sundries Shack ( I read your story on Fred Thompson’s visit to Waverly, Iowa and, not long thereafter, viewed the video of his visit to the fire house posted by CBS News. I couldn’t help but notice that the video and your account of the fire house visit are at odds with each other. I would like to ask for your comment on the discrepancies. In particular are three major differences.

1) In your article, you said that after Thompson was handed the fire helmet he “…looked at it with a sour expression on his face” and that he “…just stood there holding it and staring at it”. The video, however, shows Thompson smiling and laughing before and after his “silly hat rule” comment.

2) You quoted Thompson as saying, after he was handed the helmet, “I’ve got a silly hat rule”. What Thompson actually said was, “I’ve got a silly hat rule that I’m about to violate”.

3) You reported that Thompson’s wife, Jeri, “”…Thompson took the hat from her husband’s hands and put it on her head”. The video clearly showed that Thompson put the helmet on his wife’s head. It also shows that at least one of her hands was full with, among other things, a pair of gloves and the hat she removed to accommodate the fire helmet.

You reported that there were “about 15″ people at the event. It would seem to me that there would have been ample room for you to get a clear and unobstructed view of the events, considering that many of the 15 people were standing behind Thompson and his wife.

I realize that this may seem pedantic, but I believe that news reporting ought to be, if nothing else, accurate. I welcome any comment you may choose to make. Please know that I plan on quoting your comments on my blog, in a follow-up to my original report on your story and the later video.

Thank you for your time and attention.

I was limited to 2000 words, which limited the questions I could ask and still get in the discrepancies I wanted him to explain. I do hope he contacts me (though I’ve had little luck hearing back from reporters to whom I’ve written). Regardless, I’ll print the results or lack thereof here.

UPDATE 4: There’s some talk about how uncomfortable some of the firefighters behind Thompson looked as the “Hatfuffle” unfolded. I can’t say exactly why that’s so, but based on my experience with emergency service folks, I can say that they don’t much like photo ops. Most of them aren’t very comfortable when there is a lot of press around (and more than one reporter does constitute “lots of press” to these guys, generally). I think that’s it’s a whole lot more likely that they weren’t thrilled with being in the photo than they were nonplussed by anything Thompson did or did not say.

UPDATE 5: Michael at A Secondhand Conjecture contacted me to say that this isn’t the only time that Roger “MSM” Simon has been caught out at making things up. He’s got him dead to rights here and here again.

It seems to me that Roger “Recorder? Notebook? Nah..I’ll just wing it later” Simon attends these events and either curls up in a quiet corner for a nap or raids the snack table while casting the occasional glance over his shoulder just to see if anyone noticed him sticking a couple extra snickerdoodles into his coat pocket. He sure doesn’t seem to like reporting what the rest of the world saw.

I think I’ll give this phenomenon of going to an event and reporting something entirely different from what happened a name of its own. How does SimonVision sound (since Simonizing is already taken)?

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