Conservatives Accuse PBS Of ‘Altering’ Jobs Speech Transcript To Cover Up President Obama Gaffe


Conservative blogs like American Thinker and Instapundit are up in arms over PBS’ alleged “alteration” of the transcript to President Obama‘s jobs speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday night. They allege that the PBS website “altered” the transcript to cover up for a gaffe that the President committed during the speech. By the way, President Obama committed a gaffe during the speech, referring to Abraham Lincoln as the “founder” of the Republican Party, rather than as the “Father of the Republican Party.”

If PBS wanted to “cover up” the gaffe, they did a lousy job when they posted the full video of the speech, including the Lincoln remark at the 27:35 mark. A quick review of the President’s “Prepared Remarks” versus his “Remarks As Delivered,” both of which we posted here at Mediaite, reveals that PBS didn’t “alter” anything, they simply ran the prepared remarks, and never added the transcript when it was released several hours later (Instapundit later added an update noting this fact, but didn’t change their headline). They probably should have labeled their transcript “as prepared,” as we did, but their page now contains the remarks “as delivered,” with the following note:

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original transcript provided on this page reflected the president’s remarks as prepared for delivery and released by the White House. This transcript has been updated to reflect the remarks as delivered and released by the White House.

On the subject of the gaffe, it’s true that it has not been reported widely (feel free to email this article to friends and news editors to remedy that), but is it because the media is “covering for” Barack Obama, or because it’s just not that big a deal? Abraham Lincoln is widely known as the “Father of the Republican Party,” which isn’t exactly the same as a “founder” (and Lincoln didn’t actually join the party until two years after its formation), but it’s the kind of mistake that anyone could make. Until today, I was pretty sure the founder was either Ronald Reagan or The Monopoly Guy.

On the other hand, President Obama was sworn in using the Lincoln Bible (the first time, not the second time), so he probably should have gotten this right.

My pal Ed Morrissey does make the case that there’s a double standard at work here, because one reporter pointed out the same mistake when a Republican (Mike Huckabee) made it in 2008. Sorry, but a three-paragraph blog post does not a double standard make. What is interesting is the identity of the reporter who caught Huckabee’s mistake: current White House Press Secretary (and former frequent Media Matters targetJay Carney. Now, that’s funny.

No matter how much conservatives wish for it, gaffes will just never be Obama’s “thing,” so if they want to get a thrill up their legs every time he pulls a minor Ron Burgundy and reads “corpseman” off a teleprompter, or uses the shorthand “57 states” instead of saying “57 states, territories, commonwealths, and other types of votey-places,” or even makes a genuinely funny one like saying he sees fallen heroes in the audience, that’s their business, but it’s just not going to catch on with the no-ax-to-grind crowd. President Obama just isn’t all that good at gaffes.

It’s true that some gaffes by conservatives get more attention than they should. Sarah Palin‘s North Korea/South Korea slip-up comes to mind, but that was more a function of a voracious anti-Palin audience than some media push. Other gaffes, like Michele Bachmann’s frequent mangling of history (placing Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire, or calling slavery-codifiers abolitionists are not “tomato/tomahto” nitpicks) get attention because of their innate humor, and because they illustrate a chasm between waving the flag and knowing something about it.

Conservative gaffes are also often amplified by the gaffers’ tendency to then insist they were right all along. Like him or not, when President Obama commits a gaffe that matters, he acknowledges it sincerely. While his detractors may give him no quarter, ordinary Americans are far more gracious.

There are reasonable criticisms to be made of President Obama, but he’s just not a gaffe machine, and he will never be George W. Bush, as much as conservatives want him to be. If their relative accumulations of gaffes are too hard to keep track of, just remember that one of them pushed the button on Osama bin Laden, and the other did not.

The fact is, gaffes by politicians of every stripe are reported widely, and where they go from there is up to the audience. There’s no gaffe rulebook, and what makes one gaffe catch on might not work for another. Sometimes you get Armageddon, sometimes you get Deep Impact, and sometimes, you get both Steve Prefontaine movies. If there appears to be a gaffe deficit, it’s not a media creation, it’s a reflection of either perception, or reality. People either like conservative gaffes more, or they just make more of them. Either way, don’t shoot the massager.

Update: Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs has a roundup of Republicans (I added links) referring to Lincoln as the “founder” of the GOP that I’ve never even heard of! Does this mean the mainstream media has a right-wing bias? Why did they cover all of these up? Demand answers! While you’re at it, ask why conservatives are now trying so hard to distance themselves from Abraham Lincoln.

I am a Lincoln/Kemp Republican. It’s 150 years ago in Chicago this year that Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican Party, accepted the Republican nomination for President of the United States. — Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)

Immigration was a core belief of a founder of the Republican party, Abraham Lincoln. — Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R)

Though Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party, to liberals and advocates of civil rights Lincoln was in that pantheon along with FDR as one of the heroes of liberalism and American democracy. — James Pierson on National Review

George W. Bush is not a Goldwater Republican — he’s a Lincoln Republican. Like the founder of the Republican party, Bush doesn’t mind spending money on his priorities, and he doesn’t mind doing some of this spending with borrowed money. — Jerry Bowyer, National Review

It is a pleasure for me to address you upon the day when this club and our countrymen of all faiths throughout the land are paying tribute to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. We tonight also pay tribute to him as founder of the Republican Party and the inspirer of its ideals. — President Herbert Hoover (R)

It was — it was, in fact, the founder of our party, Abraham Lincoln, who reminded us that a government that can do everything for us is the government that can take everything from us. — Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) 2008 RNC Speech



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