Half Past the Month

March 13, 2019

‘In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ — George Orwell

As some of us become more discerning in the chaos of a fragmenting media, we guard our time by passing over articles in print and on line that are weighted with epithet and calculated narrative. Rather, we are desperate for accurate description, any fact-based information to help us determine what is around the political corner.

Our quarterly journal tries to set an example. We don’t presume to characterize even ourselves. Our mottoes “A Future that Works” and “A Classical Liberal Outfit” are mere tag lines.

That, of course, does not prevent others from characterizing us or even tempting libel — as indeed someone did recently.

Cynthia Nixon, a television actress, labeled our foundation homophobic in a March 2 essay for the Washington Post under the headline “Mike Pence Isn’t ‘Decent.’ He’s Insidious.”

Whoa, pretty strong stuff that.

And unsubstantiated, it turns out. Ms. Nixon based her pejorative in part on a 30-year-old article, a paragraph actually, written here when Mike Pence was the foundation’s president.

Obscure? Certainly, and If given the chance we would have argued that even the most casual reading refutes her assertion. Moreover, the foundation’s mission statement prohibits such a position. The cited article concerned internal inconsistencies in a local newspaper’s ethics policy.

But we live in unforgiving times. There is the dark mood of a Salem witch trial. It is as Fox’s Tucker Carlson said on his show Monday after being pilloried over the weekend by George Soros’s Media Matters for comments made as long as a decade ago:

“There’s really not that much you can do to respond. It’s pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest or taken out of context or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think or would want for the country. None of that matters. Nobody cares. You know the role you’re required to play: You are a sinner, begging the forgiveness of Twitter.”

In the Pence instance, however, a senior editor of the Washington Post stepped up. His newspaper printed the following four days later:

“Correction: This op-ed originally misstated that when Vice President Pence was president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, the group published an article urging businesses not to hire gay people. The referenced article concerned whether gay journalists should be permitted to cover matters related to homosexuality without disclosing their sexual orientation. The inaccurate sentence has been removed. Additionally, the op-ed should have noted that Pence’s spokesmen have disputed reports that he has ever supported conversion therapy and also that he played a leading role in Trump administration efforts to ban transgender people from military service.”

The Post editor had gone to the trouble of reading the source article and doing the right thing for his readership. Such accountability is appreciated.

Yet, we are left with this: How could banks of copy editors, not to mention a culpably silent Indiana GOP, have blithely assumed such a thing were true in the first place — that Pence, a skilled politician, a careful writer, a plain speaker and an arguably “decent” man regardless of motives assigned him three decades later, would have commanded that gays or any group of U.S. citizens be deemed unemployable en masse?

For such a careless if not purposeful misreading we reserve the strongest condemnation. For we are not alone in turning our backs on a toxic media. More subjects of journalistic malpractice are seeking remedy in the justice system. More are rethinking New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan (1964).

Thereby, gradually, ever so gradually, responsible journalism may return. We must trust that it arrives before the George Soroses and Cynthia Nixons of the world do us all in.

— Craig Ladwig


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