COMMENTS: Updates

Thursday we extended a gentle admonishment (text link) to NBC's Mark Potter for his failure to mention his network's corporate-sibling relationship with the light bulb business. His anchor Brian Williams acknowledged the error on-air in response to a viewer's e-mail. "We sometimes forget who our parents are around here. General Electric, parent company of NBC Universal, makes a lot of things, including LED lights, and we should have said so."

In Tuesday's episode of CBS' Primary Questions, the one on global warming hype, we noted that (text link) a trio of Republican candidates called for energy independence from imported oil: one of those was Mike Huckabee, who used the opaque formulation "oil-free of energy consumption" later clarifying that as being "not dependent upon oil coming from countries who, frankly, are not very friendly to us."

Huckabee's soundbite was transcribed by Heather Moyer on the Clean Energy Watch blog of the Sierra Club environmental lobby, with one error. She skipped the "oil" and quoted Huckabee as wanting to be "free of energy." Her misquote was picked up by Jesse Walker on the libertarian Reason blog without the "not dependent upon oil coming from countries" clarification. Huckabee, as a consequence, was ridiculed in Reason's comments as an anti-scientist who wants to repeal the Laws of Thermodynamics. That ridicule inspired Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Dish blog at The Atlantic to call the line a Huckabee "classic." Sullivan, who runs an anti-clerical propaganda campaign against so-called Christianist control of his Republican Party teased Huckabee as "energy free," relying solely on Reason's decontextualized quote of a misquote.

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist preacher and self-styled "conservationist," did nothing to embody the stereotype of the evangelical enemy of science in his Tuesday answers to Couric's questions. His call for energy independence was indistinguishable from that of Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani. The only thing that made him worthy of the ridicule of Reason or the Daily Dish was the fact that the Sierra Club had misquoted him.

FURTHER UPDATE: surfing around, I have found three other bloggers that rely on the misquote of Huckabee's soundbite to ridicule him. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly calls Huckabee a "village idiot," again linking to the error at the Sierra Club. Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report calls Huckabee's plan "physically impossible" and repeats the misquote even though he links to the original videostream. Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo links to Benen's misquote in order to tease Huckabee for making "Al Gore look like Montgomery Burns."

David Roberts on the environmental blog Gristmill has done the right thing and corrected his initial misquote of Huckabee. Roberts' quibble is with Couric's phrasing of her question, using the "overblown" angle. I disagree. It worked as a device to separate the ten responses on a spectrum and it allowed candidates to address two separate, and important, issues regarding climate change: 1) is the science accurate or exaggerated? 2) which public policy solutions are insufficient, appropriate, excessive?


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